Bruins’ Lehr commits to play with the Gophers

Austin goalie Nick Lehr pokes the puck away from the net during the first period against Aberdeen Friday night at Riverside Arena. -- Herald File Photo

Austin goalie Nick Lehr pokes the puck away from the net during the first period against Aberdeen Friday night at Riverside Arena. — Herald File Photo

Austin Bruins goalie Nick Lehr grew up watching the Minnesota Gophers play hockey. Now he’s going to join them.

Lehr made his verbal commitment to play men’s hockey at the University of Minnesota Wednesday and he couldn’t be much happier with his decision.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Lehr, who is from Roseville, Minn. “I grew up ten minutes from the University of Minnesota and I used to go to games and watch them.”

Lehr is in his third year with the Austin Bruins and he’s improved every season. His first season he was a back-up and he finished 9-8-1 with a 2.68 Goals Against Average and a save percentage of 91.8, his second year he went 25-8-5 with a 2.39 GAA and a save percentage of 91.4 and this year he’s 27-12 with a 1.93 GAA and a save percentage of 93.1.

Five of Lehr’s eight career NAHL shutouts have been this season.

Austin Bruins head coach Chris Tok said Lehr has earned his chance to play goalie with the Gophers.

“For Nick it’s awesome. He spent three years chasing his dream,” Tok said. “That’s what this league is about, getting another kick at the can.

Lehr has been a big reason that the Bruins have had a successful season this year, despite playing with a lot of first year players.

“He’s been very instrumental this season,” Tok said. “He’s been keeping our team in games. Nick’s been the backbone from day one.”

Lehr learned to be patient from the first day he arrived in Austin. He didn’t begin his career as the team’s starter, but he made sure he worked hard enough to get that chance.

Now Lehr is in the net just about every time the Bruins need a big win.

“It’s been a long process. Coach Tok and the staff have done a lot for me here,” Lehr said. “They’re always pushing me and the job is never just given to you here.”

Lehr had a couple of other schools interested in him, but he said Minnesota was the his best choice. He’s going to spend of the rest of this season trying to stay consistent so he can help the Bruins, who are currently in first place in the NAHL Central Division, make a playoff run.

Lehr never worried about finding a school to play hockey at, but he’s sure glad he finally found one.

“After three years it’s a relief,” Lehr said of his commitment. “I had always just played with the hope of something happening. Finally it happened. I’d like to thank my family, friends and coaches that have helped me along the way.”

The Gophers are 21-4-5 overall this season and they are 10-2-2 in the Big Ten.

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