University of Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox claims he can solve a Rubik's Cube puzzle in "about a minute."
Yeah, right, said laughing Gophers goaltenders coach Justin Johnson. "Maybe if he was doing just one side."
No, really, Wilcox said, "It's just kind of learning patterns. You have to take it step by step."
And that is exactly how Wilcox has turned himself into one of the nation's top freshman goalies and one of the Lightning's most interesting and promising prospects.
Drafted 178th overall in 2011, the South St. Paul, Minn., native decided to play for Minnesota rather than stay in juniors, a stepping-stone approach to his career he believes is the best way to prepare for subsequent levels.
"I like to take each step of the process to make sure I'm ready to play," Wilcox said. "Get a good base, good experience, get the confidence at each level and keep building."
So far the plan is paying off.
Wilcox, 20, is 10-2-3 in 16 games for No. 3 Minnesota with 944 minutes, 23 seconds of ice time that is fifth in Division I. His 1.78 goals-against average is eighth — and third among freshmen — and he has two shutouts.
"Tremendous athletic ability," Johnson said. "Even when he misreads a play, he's able to react back to the puck."
"And he makes big saves, timely saves," Lightning goaltenders coach Frantz Jean said. "That's the X factor everybody is looking for."
At 6 feet, 186 pounds, Wilcox is not big, especially for the size-obsessed NHL. But Jean said he compensates with "really good" foot movement and positioning.
And a "tremendous glove," Johnson said.
Wilcox, though, was quick to note the contributions of his teammates.
"Our forwards are stacked, and we have the best (defense)," he said. "That gave me a lot of confidence coming in, knowing that even if I did give up one or two (goals), they have my back for the rest of the game."
But let's get back to this Rubik's Cube thing.
A friend showed Wilcox the puzzle in ninth grade, the goalie said, and after about three hours he had it licked.
Wilcox's mother, Christy, isn't surprised.
"He's a perfectionist and likes everything in order, so it fits him he'd take a Rubik's Cube and put it in order," she said. "I don't think I've ever cleaned his room or organized his room. I never had to worry about that.
"Even when he was younger, he always had his toys in one area and dinosaurs in one area. He was a really organized kid."
Wilcox said there is an argument that learning to solve Rubik's Cube helps him on the ice.
"With doing that, you see ahead to the next move you have to make," he said. "I can kind of see what's going to happen ahead. I can see a guy coming in, if it's going to be to the back door. I can make the move before it happens."
"The same with school and stuff," Wilcox added about majoring in sports management. "I like looking ahead and planning."
Step by step.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.