Barriball likely out for season

A road series with No. 18 just became a little tougher.

sthk1102-bm

sthk1102-bm

Max Sanders

After starting the season 0-3-1, the Gophers menâÄôs hockey team seemed to be headed in the right direction with last weekendâÄôs sweep of Alaska-Anchorage. Now they will likely have to go the remainder of the season without one of their key players, forward Jay Barriball . After becoming the 78th player in Minnesota history to eclipse 100 career points with a three-point weekend against Alaska-Anchorage, the senior was injured in practice Tuesday during what head coach Don Lucia called a âÄúroutine drill.âÄù During the drill, Barriball collided with another player and made knee-on-knee contact. Barriball was set to have an MRI late Tuesday, and while the results are not yet known, Lucia did not seem optimistic when talking about the injury. âÄúHe does have surgery scheduled for Friday if they confirm what they think it is, and if that happens then it most likely would be season-ending, and he would take a medical red-shirt and come back next year,âÄù Lucia said. If Barriball is forced to undergo surgery, Lucia said the recovery process is normally four to five months for BarriballâÄôs type of knee injury. While not ruling out a possible return in March, Lucia was quick to acknowledge that the loss of the senior will hurt in the immediate future. âÄúThereâÄôs no question itâÄôs a blow,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúWhen you look at what you project to be one of your top players and one of your top offensive players, it leaves a big void.âÄù Since Barriball was injured just six games into the season, he still keeps one year of eligibility if he chooses to return to the Gophers next season. The second major injury to the Gophers squad in the past week with freshman defender Nick Leddy already down for six weeks, fellow senior Tony Lucia knows regardless of who replaces Barriball in the lineup, his absence will still be felt on and off the ice. âÄúYou canâÄôt replace Jay Barriball, no matter what,âÄù Tony Lucia said. âÄúCharacter-wise and just [as a] team locker room guy, youâÄôre going to miss him a lot because he brings an X-factor you canâÄôt replace.âÄù Don Lucia had a chance to speak with Barriball after he sustained the injury, and the senior was said to be noticeably upset. âÄúHeâÄôs down as you can imagine,âÄù Don Lucia said. âÄúYouâÄôre a senior, and you want to have a great senior year. The injury, which prevents you from playing this year, but then you got to go through the rehab, thatâÄôs the hard part; itâÄôs disappointing for any guy.âÄù As to who would replace Barriball in the lineup, Lucia pointed to junior Jacob Cepis as an eventual candidate, although Cepis has missed the entire season with an injury and is not expected to return until at least mid-way through the season. Don Lucia did not mention any one specific player who would fill in for Barriball on the first line, but he said it would have to be a team effort to replace the senior, at least until Cepis returns to the lineup. âÄúSomebody else is going to get an opportunity for more ice-time, theyâÄôre going to get an opportunity to play with Jordan [Schroeder], theyâÄôre going to get an opportunity to play on the power play and some of these players have to step up for us to be successful,âÄù Don Lucia said. Schroeder, a sophomore, knows that while the loss of Barriball is a blow, the team will have to recover and move on quickly as they head to Madison Friday to face No. 18 Wisconsin. âÄúWeâÄôll miss him, but that happens in hockey and in any sport,âÄù Schroeder said. âÄúWe have to move forward and think positive from here on out.âÄù The Gophers will face a Badgers team that is coming off a sweep of its own. Wisconsin soundly defeated New Hampshire 4-1 and 6-1 to improve to 3-2-1 heading into this weekendâÄôs showdown. Leading the way for the Badgers is defenseman Brendan Smith . With nine points on seven assists and two goals, the junior is the nationâÄôs top-scoring defenseman. Don Lucia knows a key to this weekendâÄôs series is not allowing Smith to add to that impressive point total. âÄúHeâÄôs got a tremendous shot,âÄù Don Lucia said. âÄúHeâÄôs really grown as a player. I think thatâÄôs one of the real strengths Wisconsin has; their [defensive] core is going to be as good as anybodyâÄôs in the country.âÄù Knocked out of the U.S. College Hockey Online top 20 after getting swept by Denver, Minnesota knows this weekend will provide an opportunity to climb back into the rankings at the hands of one of its biggest rivals. âÄúAnytime Minnesota comes into Wisconsin, itâÄôs a different kind of game. ItâÄôs a big rivalry, the border battle,âÄù Schroeder said. âÄúTheyâÄôll be gunning for us; weâÄôre going to be gunning for them.âÄù The two-game series will follow the usual Friday and Saturday format, with both games beginning at 7:07 p.m.