Just two weeks in, Minnesota may already have its line situation straight

Last weekend, 10 different Gophers forwards registered points.

by Chris Lempesis

Coming off a loss to Alaska-Fairbanks in its regular season opener, the line chart for Minnesota’s men’s hockey team had a different look for game two of the series.

The seventh-ranked Gophers have kept the line chart very similar in the three games since then and the team is undefeated in those contests, going 2-0-1.

“(We kept the lines the same) just to see if we can develop some continuity,” coach Don Lucia said.

Minnesota certainly had that balance in last weekend’s sweep over Minnesota State-Mankato. All four lines rolled out by the Gophers contributed offensively, both in points and quality scoring chances.

Minnesota had 13 forwards see the ice in the series, with 10 of them denting the scoring column with either points or assists.

Senior forward Andy Sertich said he was surprised by the fact that all four line combinations have gelled this quickly.

“Usually we’re changing lines up a lot during the start of the season,” Sertich said. “But I think we’ve found something pretty good right here.”

The line Sertich has been on for the most part this season – which also consists of senior

Gino Guyer and sophomore Kris Chucko – has been the top point-producing line for the Gophers this season (four goals, seven assists for 11 points).

Lucia said he wasn’t pleased with any one group in particular; he was more pleased with the overall balance.

But he also said that, despite the balanced scoring and early strong showings, the groupings are far from set in stone at this early juncture.

“It’s always subject to change,” he said. “Obviously when (forward) Danny Irmen (out 3-4 more weeks with a broken finger) comes back in the lineup, that’s gonna move some people around.”

Sertich said that, while he understands positives can come out of juggling lines around, he prefers to find a place on a line early on and stick with it.

“I think you gain confidence in your linemates by doing that,” he said. “Also, it gives you an opportunity to try different things during games and during practice instead of being switched up a lot.”

Sophomore forward Mike Howe said he didn’t particularly feel one way or the other as far as staying on a line or continuing to move around.

Some might think setting lines would be an easy task when you have a team as talented as the Gophers. Such is not the case, according to Lucia; well, at least early on.

“You’re still learning what people can or can’t do and getting a feel for the personnel,” he said. “As far as the returning guys that made a step or the new guys, you know, what do they bring to the table?

“Everyday we learn a little bit more about what the young guys can do.”

And as long as Minnesota continues to learn more about its talent – and put it in the right combinations – more success might not be too far behind.