U hockey breaks the ice

by Tim Nichols

Put the little plastic goals back on the street. The cars have passed by, the offseason is over.
Game on.
The 1998-99 Minnesota men’s hockey team opens the season in the 2nd annual Team Cheerios Icebreaker Cup. In the mini-tournament format, the Gophers will play St. Lawrence at 7:05 p.m., preceded by preseason No. 1 Boston College and No. 4 Ohio State at 4 p.m.
Minnesota will look to play aggressive hockey when it takes the ice against St. Lawrence, and judging by the intensity level in practice this week, that shouldn’t be a problem. During a power play drill Thursday, Gophers teammates Reggie Berg and Ryan Trebil had themselves a little rumble.
“Three altercations have happened here this week,” coach Doug Woog said. “Some of the guys have to answer some of the lipjacking they give. If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.”
That kind of fiery attitude will be needed if Minnesota plays last year’s NCAA finalist, Boston College, or the team the Eagles defeated to get to the championship game, Ohio State.
But the Gophers must first face St. Lawrence, which finished 10th in Eastern College Athletic Conference play last season with a 9-20-4 record. The Saints might be hurting for goal production with the departure of All-ECAC selection Paul DiFrancesco. Only one player who scored more than 10 goals last season will return.
Boston College comes into the game picked to win the Hockey East conference and is ranked No. 1 in the latest U.S. College Hockey Online poll. Even with the loss of Marty Reasoner — the nation’s leading scorer in 1997 — to the National Hockey League, the Eagles still have many weapons in their arsenal.
“There are four forwards who have had an exceptional camp, three of them on one line — Blake Bellefeuille centering, Jeff Farkas on his left and Mike Lephart on his right,” Boston College coach Jerry York said.
The Bellefeuille, Farkas, and Lephart line racked up 105 points last season, including 45 goals.
“Brian Gionta will be our fourth forward,” York said. “They’re all capable of breaking a game open.”
Brian Gionta was the Hockey East rookie of the year last year and broke the Boston College record for goals by a freshman with 30.
Boston College is a storied program, entering its 78th season of collegiate hockey. Coach York seems excited that these two long-time hockey programs might have the opportunity to meet now and play later on.
“We hope our series with Minnesota extends a long time,” York said. “It’s good for B.C. and it’s good for Minnesota. It’s two clubs that have a long tradition of hockey.”
The Gophers play two games at Boston College this year and the Eagles will play two games here next year.
Ohio State comes to town after reaching the NCAA semifinals in their first ever tournament appearance. The Buckeyes are led by junior Hugo Boisvert and his team high 58 points last season. Ohio State, however, has never defeated Minnesota, they are 0-for-6 all-time against the Gophers.
Minnesota will be led by the front line of seniors Reggie Berg and Wyatt Smith, along with junior winger Nate Miller. The prospective second line consists of junior Dave Spehar, sophomore Eric Westrum and senior Mike Anderson.
Spehar summed up the attitude of the Gophers coming into this weekend.
“We are here to uphold tradition and play,” Spehar said. “We have that hunger this year.”
NOTE: The losers of the two games will play a consolation game on Saturday at 5:05 p.m., the winners will play for the Icebreaker Cup at 8:05 p.m.
Hauser to start Friday
At Thursday’s practice, Woog named 18-year-old freshman Adam Hauser as the starting goaltender for Friday night’s game against St. Lawrence.
Coach Woog said he’s been very impressed with Hauser’s skills and spirit.
“He’s an emotional guy, and he’ll show some frustrations when someone scores on him,” Woog said. “He does have a high energy level, a high intensity level. He’s got some good characteristics to become a solid goaltender here for a long time.”
Hauser played with the U.S. Developmental squad in Ann Arbor, Mich., last year and is excited to be given the call to start and offer what he can.
“Hopefully (I can bring in) a little competitiveness. The guys want to win now; they got that bad taste in their mouth and hopefully I can help them play a little better now,” Hauser said. “I’m new; maybe they don’t trust me — that’s fine. Then I’m going to work that much harder to gain that trust.”