After a weekend sweep of Bemidji State University, the Gophers men’s hockey team is off to a nice start at 4-0-0 on the season. What they couldn’t expect, were all the teams that started the season in front of them in the national polls, losing at least a game after two weekends.
With slow starts for some of the best teams in the nation, Minnesota was awarded the top spot in both the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine men’s polls on Monday. The Gophers opened the year No. 5 in the nation by both review committees but following an early exit from last season’s NCAA Hockey Tournament, the Maroon and Gold are somewhat of a surprise on top of the polls.
Combine that with the loss of a host of talented players and having to replace them with a young crop of unproven freshman, head coach Don Lucia was dealt a tough hand. Even through adversity, his cards have given him the chip lead after just four games.
While being the No. 1 team in the country is something that fans of the Gophers have come to expect for arguably the most publicized college hockey program in the country, doing it on a yearly basis is harder than it seems.
Credit Lucia and the coaching staff for coming in with an early season game plan and putting trust into some fresh faces. Highly touted recruits like Taylor Cammarata, Hudson Fasching, and Justin Kloos have been instant scoring threats at forward for the team on their top two lines.
The trio makes up three of the top five scorers for the Maroon and Gold with Kyle Rau and Sam Warning holding down the fourth and first spot respectively. With six freshman forwards, the calculated risk is paying off.
The schedule does not fare well for the Gophers over the coming weeks with a home series against No. 5 Boston College this weekend and then two games against No. 2 Notre Dame in South Bend the following week. We should know a lot more about the makeup of this team and just how good they are, by the time they open Big Ten Conference play for the first time against rival Wisconsin the weekend of Thanksgiving.
It’s pretty cool to be the No. 1 team in the country, just ask the Minnesota women’s hockey team. Head coach Brad Frost’s club has now been the No. 1 team in the nation for 83 straight weeks.
In hockey, the great equalizer has always been goaltending. Amanda Leveille and Adam Wilcox are two sophomore netminders that are going to be leaned on to carry their respective teams. Wilcox was impressive in his first year as a true freshman and Leveille is six starts into her first full season as the starter and hasn’t looked phased playing in front of the fans at Ridder Arena.
Say what you want about losing top players for whatever reason, the old adage of “they don’t rebuild, they reload” is an honest statement being made in Dinkytown right now.