Gophers look to solidify lines for series in Duluth

Josh Linehan

With two practices left before this weekend’s series with Minnesota-Duluth, Gophers coach Don Lucia is still unsure who will make the trip.
Though the coach is notorious for changing line assignments, he has several factors to consider when selecting his traveling roster for this trip.
Sophomore forward Pat O’Leary has been medically cleared to play after sitting out last weekend with a back injury he sustained in Grand Forks, ND.
O’Leary could take freshman forward Dan Welch’s roster spot. Welch will sit out at Friday night’s tilt for butt-ending Minnesota State defenseman Andy Fermoyle. If Welch makes the trip, the Gophers will be without an extra skater.
With Lucia expecting a physical series on Duluth’s small ice surface, the coach is considering leaving Welch at home in favor of an extra defenseman.
“The biggest debate is on defense,” Lucia said. “If we only take six and someone goes down, it makes it tough. If we go seven, ‘D’ Welch won’t make the trip.”
Lucia is hamstrung by the rule which only allows 21 skaters in a team’s traveling party. With the obvious need of two goaltenders, four lines of three forwards and three sets of two defensemen, a team is only allowed one extra skater.
“I think you’ll see that addressed in the league meetings this spring, and the traveling party increased to 22,” Lucia said.
Lucia has also been at work on the recruiting stump, flying to Omaha to scout a junior game Tuesday. Assistant coach John Hill ran practice in Lucia’s absence.

One on one
WCHA offensive and defensive players of the week will square off in this weekend’s premier matchup at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
North Dakota right wing Lee Goren was named the league’s offensive player of the week in recognition of his six-point effort last weekend at Michigan Tech.
The senior Winnipeg, Manitoba, native led the Sioux with a hat trick Friday night. He followed with a one goal, two assist effort on Saturday.
Goren helped North Dakota climb into a first-place tie with idle Wisconsin.
If Goren is to dent twine this weekend, however, he will have to beat St. Cloud goalie Scott Meyer, the WCHA’s defensive player of the week.
Meyer kept Duluth off the scoreboard for over 115 minutes last weekend, allowing only one goal with 4:35 to play in the final game. Duluth finally tallied with the help of a 6-on-3 power play.
Meyer has spearheaded the Huskies’ stellar play of late, leading the team to an 11-1-1 mark over their last 13 games.
The junior from White Bear Lake now leads the league with a 1.92 goals-against average and with a .931 save percentage.

Can of worms
According to published reports in Madison, Wisc., Badgers defenseman Dustin Kuk will miss Friday night’s game at Michigan Tech.
Kuk was suspended for a cross-check against the Huskies during their meeting in October. The suspension comes in the wake of Minnesota forward Erik Westrum’s extra-game suspension for kicking Denver defenseman Erik Adams last month.

Josh Linehan covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]