Gophers’ senior class looks back ahead of final regular season games

The team has only three seniors: Joey Marooney, Ryan Zuhlsdorf and captain Tyler Nanne.

Gophers Defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf collides with an Ohio State player at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. The Gophers ended the night with a 6-3 victory over Ohio State. 

Liam Armstrong

Gophers Defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf collides with an Ohio State player at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. The Gophers ended the night with a 6-3 victory over Ohio State. 

Julianna Landis

As the Gophers men’s hockey team prepares for its final home series of the regular season, the senior class is looking back on their final season. 

The senior class is small compared to the large number of underclassmen, with just three players: Joey Marooney, Ryan Zuhlsdorf and captain Tyler Nanne. The three seniors are extremely close and take their roles as leaders seriously, especially with how many young players they have looking up to them. 

Joey Marooney, forward, Chaska

While he hasn’t seen as much ice time through his career as the other two seniors have, Marooney is playing the most he’s ever been in his final season, and he’s someone Gophers head coach Bob Motzko will be relying on as a crucial part of the team’s depth as they make their run in the postseason. 

“We need him coming down the stretch, and we keep telling him that. He’s tough, hard-nosed. He just gets after it,” Motzko said.

Marooney said that he and the other two seniors were very close and that they’ve worked to impart the importance of hard work to their young teammates.

“Just coming to practice ready every day, I think actions speak louder than words. Having that preparation day in, day out really teaches the young guys you can’t really take this for granted, and you never know when your last day is coming to be, so just treat every moment like it’s your last,” Marooney said. 

Marooney has played in 34 games in his Gophers career, including a career-high 16 this season. He has four career assists. 

Tyler Nanne, defenseman, Edina

As the program’s first third-generation player, Nanne has a deep respect for the heritage of Minnesota’s program and feels honored to be a captain, especially given the obstacles he overcame to get there. Nanne originally committed to Ohio State in 2015 but wasn’t medically cleared to play because of concerns related to myocarditis, a heart condition that Nanne was diagnosed with the summer before. 

“You look at the list of captains that have represented the ‘M’ here, it’s a blessing to be on the wall with them and, most importantly, to represent a great group of guys. I’ll do everything I can to lead this group to victory … and to be a good role model,” he said.  

His favorite memory with the team, he said, was scoring his first goal and looking up to see his family in the stands. He remembers that it felt even more special considering how much time he had to take off from being on the ice. 

Nanne has 12 goals and 23 assists for 35 points in his 103 career games. He’s blocked 57 shots this season. 

Ryan Zuhlsdorf, defenseman, Edina

For Zuhlsdorf, it’s most important to make the rest of the moments count and not take anything for granted. He feels increasingly bittersweet as the season comes closer to an end. He thinks about it every day. 

“I try not to think about it a lot, but you have to realize your time is coming to an end and … you just think about cherishing the moments and staying in the present and not worrying so much about your future,” he said.

It’s clear to see just how passionate the players are about their team. Zuhlsdorf’s favorite moments with the Gophers were not good plays or goals he scored, but the feeling of being able to pull off a sweep for the home crowd. He choked up when talking about it.

“Those couple times that we sweep here at home, it’s just, it’s amazing that feeling of getting around in the circle and saluting the fans, everyone’s smiling, everyone’s having a great time,” he said. “You look around and you see all the tradition and pride that Minnesota has … being able to represent that well is a good feeling.” 

Zuhlsdorf has three goals and 25 assists for 28 points in his career. Zuhlsdorf has played in 140 games and has a plus/minus of +16. 

As they leave their young teammates behind, all three want to see the team thrive and further the legacy and culture they’ve fostered this year. And, of course, to get some new championship banners hanging from the rafters.