Senden makes strides even as Gophers scramble to find footing

by David La

Sidelined for eight games by an injured knee, Minnesota’s Stuart Senden pined for the opportunity to join his teammates.
The senior forward returned to action Nov. 24 against Michigan State, netting the first goal of the evening in a 3-2 Spartan win.
Senden is leading the Gophers with two goals over the last four games, and hopes teammates will now join him with tallies of their own.
“It’s a positive for me, but it’s not a good thing if I’m scoring half the goals with two goals in four games,” Senden said.
Senden’s return to the lineup has been marred by the Minnesota’s current four-game skid. But riding out a losing streak is nothing new to Senden. During his Gophers career, Senden has endured four streaks of four or more losses, including a school record nine-game slump as a freshman.
“It’s adversity that we have to fight through,” Senden said. “We can do what we want to do, we’ve proved that this year. We have the talent in our locker room.”
Stuart’s resiliency stems from a career smattered with injuries. In his freshman season, Senden missed seven games with a shoulder injury. As a sophomore, a high ankle sprain kept Senden out of seven more contests.
The 6-foot, 197-pound Senden responded by building himself into “one of the pound-for-pound strongest players on the team,” said coach Don Lucia.
“We need to get more production out of him,” Lucia said. “He’s a guy that’s capable of doing more offensively than he’s shown so far in his career.”
Despite marginal career numbers of 33 points in 66 games played, Senden has shown the ability to get to the net when it matters most.
Senden bagged two game-winning goals last season, including an overtime tally against Colorado College in the WCHA playoffs — sending Minnesota to the Final Five.
Though he personally extended the Gophers playoff run last March, Senden understands his role as a complementary player — and a leader.
“No matter what, seniors have to be leaders,” Senden said. “Lately I’ve been playing with (Erik) Westrum, but not too long ago I was a third or fourth line player.
“When you’re in that situation you have to worry about five-on-five play. You have to play even or better. You can’t be a negative player out there.”
Senden addressed the team on Tuesday, focusing on the need for a more positive mental approach to stop the losing streak.
And Senden knows he has much to offer on the subject of perseverance.
“I was part of the longest losing streak ever and look where we are now,” Senden said. “We’re not on top right now, but we can be there.”
Minnesota hosts Quinnipiac this weekend, the top team in the MAAC conference and a program fighting for respectability. Senden sees slumping Minnesota in the same situation, and hopes his teammates will follow suit.
“Look at where we’ve been the last four games,” Senden said. “We want to send a message to our fans, our crowd, ourselves and our coaches. It’s got to start sometime, why not this weekend?”

David La Vaque covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]