Minnesota’s first line clicks

Sophomore forward Kyle Rau plays against Minnesota State on Friday at the Mariucci Arena.

Image by Daily File Photo, Ichigo Takikawa

Sophomore forward Kyle Rau plays against Minnesota State on Friday at the Mariucci Arena.

by Megan Ryan

As the Gophers men’s hockey team’s regular season nears a close, there aren’t a lot of firsts left to be accomplished.

Yet Minnesota scratched another first off its list in Friday’s 5-1 win over Penn State. It was the first time this season that all three first-line forwards scored a goal in the same game.

While it may seem surprising for a first-line hat trick to come so late in the season, head coach Don Lucia said scoring depth has been a hallmark of his team all season.

“We don’t know on a given night who’s going to do the scoring for us,” he said. “And that can be good and bad.”

Lucia said his first line — comprised of junior forwards Sam Warning and Kyle Rau and freshman forward Hudson Fasching — has been big, even if it’s not scoring the majority of the team’s goals.

That trio has played together nearly the entire season, which has helped the three build chemistry on the ice.

“I could pretty much close my eyes and tell you where Fasching or Warning is on the ice at any given time,” Rau said.

The line displayed that awareness Friday night, when Fasching flicked a perfect back pass to Rau for a goal.

Those types of plays have earned Fasching the respect of his linemates, Rau said.

Rau and Warning roomed together in the dorms freshman year and live together in a house this year. Still, Warning said it wasn’t difficult to integrate an underclassman into their partnership.

“He hasn’t played like a freshman,” Warning said. “I think he fit in perfectly with us.”

Fasching said last month that he is just happy to be in his position and said it was “fantastic playing with those guys.”

While Lucia said his team is most successful when multiple lines step up and score, the first-liners know they have a responsibility to produce.

“You need to execute every single week,” Warning said.

Rau said he welcomes the pressure to perform and actually prefers it as opposed to not having expectations placed on him.

And while the trio has the burden of carrying the team at times, all three want to help the Gophers win, rather than notch goals for their personal tally.

“We’re happy for whoever scores,” Rau said, “because any time one of us scores, it makes the other two guys look good.”