Oh brother, where art thou?

After waiting years to play on the same team, brothers Grant and Ryan Potulny got their chance this year - for eight games.

Lou Raguse

His season was to be a dream come true for the Potulny brothers.

Freshman Ryan Potulny came to Minnesota to join his older brother, Grant, who helped lead the Gophers to the last two national men’s hockey championships. Fans envisioned the younger Potulny at the point on the power play, finding the elder Potulny near the net for a game-winning goal on the way to the Gophers’ third straight national title.

But those dreams came to an abrupt end Friday when Ryan underwent surgery to repair a torn lateral collateral ligament. He is expected to miss at least four months.

Now, Grant is playing for the two of them.

“First thing’s first, it’s a huge blow for our team,” Grant said. “Not only was he leading our team in assists, but as a freshman you really start catching your stride. I think he really would have taken off.”

Before this season, the brothers had never played competitive hockey together. While playing in the United States Hockey League in Lincoln, Neb., Ryan watched his brother play on two NCAA championship teams. They both looked forward to this season for years – the opportunity to play together, to win together.

The opportunity taken away just eight games into the season hurts the brothers, especially Grant.

“If I shut down and not produce, I think that would hurt him more,” he said. “He wants to see me do well, so I’ll try to play for both of us this year.”

Ryan’s injury, which is uncommon, occurred Nov. 7 during the Gophers’ game against North Dakota. He was holding the puck against the wall with six minutes left in the third period. He said his foot was planted and his knee opened up and caused the injury.

Ryan did not initially think the injury was serious, and he played on it the next night. A magnetic resonance imaging scan performed that Monday confirmed that surgery was needed.

“The pain wasn’t unbearable, and in a series like (North Dakota), you obviously want to play through a little pain,” he said.

University officials said Monday that the surgery went well, but the four-month window until he slips back into his skates remains.

The silver lining for the freshman is that because he has not played in more than 20 percent of the Gophers’ season games, he is eligible for a medical redshirt and four additional years of eligibility.

But come playoff time, if Ryan feels healthy and the Gophers are in a position to use him, he could return if he wishes.

“We’re not thinking about that right now,” Ryan said.

Coach Don Lucia has dealt with injuries to top players Keith Ballard and Chris Harrington already this season.

But Ryan’s injury and its severity were disappointing to coaches especially because of the development the forward was making.

“He was really coming along and certainly was going to have a big impact on our team this year,” Lucia said. “Everybody’s going to have to pick up the slack a little bit and give somebody else an opportunity.”

After Ryan’s last game, he led Minnesota with five assists. Now, the early season injury mirrors last season when Grant went down with a fractured ankle. Fortunately, Grant’s injury only forced him to miss 22 games. In the 23 games he did play, Grant scored 23 points.

“That’s the worst thing I can imagine, to take a guy’s hockey season away from him,” assistant captain Troy Riddle said. “But Ryan’s a tough kid. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, and he’ll come out of it, just like his brother.”

In the meantime, Ryan is looking forward to doing things with the team and still getting the most out of his first season with the Gophers. He has plenty of time to make his impact at Minnesota.

“It’s tough luck, but I’m still a part of the team,” Ryan said. “I’ll still be able to learn from Grant. I’m the team’s number one fan now.”