Hockey boundaries are drawn hard in Minnesota.
If you are from the northern part of the state, say, Grand Rapids, like Lowell Devils coach Kurt Kleinendorst, you might look at someone like Jeff Frazee
, from the Burnsville/Edina areas near the Twin Cities, and think he was a little soft.
"We always felt like the city boys are cake-eaters," Kleinendorst said. "He knows he is. It's just the way it is."
Frazee's reply? Well, he doesn't have much to say about that. When you are a rookie goalie trying to make a name for yourself, it's best not to chirp back at your coach. He's just going out and showing his backbone with his play, which is probably what Kleinendorst had in mind all along.
"I have never really experienced life in northern Minnesota," Frazee said diplomatically. "Back when he was growing up, that (the characterization of city players) was a stigma."
The two cultures have intersected in Lowell this season, to the benefit of both coach and player. Kleinendorst has given Frazee the opportunity to escape the onerous expectations of their home state. Frazee has responded with one of the toughest fill-in jobs facing any player in the AHL this season.
Frazee has gone 16-8-2 for the Devils, is second among rookie goalies with a 2.38 goals-against and is second among all goalies with a .931 save percentage. That effort earned him a spot on the PlanetUSA squad for the AHL All-Star Classic.
"In my opinion, he's been the real deal for us," Kleinendorst said. "This is the streakiest team I've ever experienced. He's been my most consistent performer."
And he's doing it sooner than expected. Frazee spent the past three seasons at his hometown school, the University of Minnesota, dreaming of joining the long line of great Golden Gophers. His play was good, but never rose to the level where he dominated. Frazee skated in 12 games as a freshman, 20 as a sophomore and 14 as a junior. He had the chance to compete for more time as a senior, but didn't feel like he'd reach his full potential hanging around his backyard.Author: Lindsay Kramer | NHL.com Correspondent