Rem Pitlick proving to be an offensive spark on special teams

Pitlick led the Gophers with 31 points last year.

Jack Warrick

It’s an old cliché that when players become upperclassmen, something changes in the way they play, act or lead.

For Rem Pitlick, who has led on the stat sheet the past two seasons with 68 total points in two seasons and seven games, he’s just going to keep on doing what he’s been doing.

“I guess I don’t know the word, but whatever comes with it, obviously like people say the younger guys are looking at you and stuff, I don’t really think that changes much for me, personally. I just try to lead by example. I’m not much of a ‘rah rah’ guy,” Pitlick said.

Pitlick is tied in points this season with sophomore defenseman Clayton Phillips with five points through the first seven games. Pitlick tallied the game tying goal in Minnesota’s victory over Wisconsin Friday — a 3-2 victory for the first win in Big Ten play. It was a power play goal, and Pitlick has had a knack this year for producing in special teams situations.

“Obviously he brings a spark to the table, with his speed and his shot and his hands. I think a lot of guys counter off his speed,” said defenseman Tyler Nanne. “He does a really good job leading from the up front.”

All of Pitlick’s points have been scored either on the power play or the penalty kill. He has four points on the power play and one on the penalty kill.

“One, he’s going back to center for the first time, so he’s playing a 200-foot game and he’s playing against other team’s top players,” said head coach Bob Motzko. “Rem wants to be part of the offense. When we’ve talked I’ve told him those are two worlds: being a top center playing top minutes against other team’s top players, and then that offense. Once those two worlds find each other, he’ll be a special player.”

Pitlick had success in his first two years with the program, but in the halfway point of his career with Minnesota, Don Lucia resigned and Motzko and his staff came into the picture.

“They’re still getting to know us, we’re still getting to know them. Obviously there’s differences but it’s been a nice fresh breath of air,” Pitlick said.

Freshmen and underclassmen have made their impact felt early on in the season, as there was at least one freshman on the top three forward lines in last week’s series finale. Phillips, a sophomore defensemen, ties Pitlick for points this season with five assists. Phillips only skated for the second half of last season after leaving the juniors for Division-I hockey.

“I think Sammy Walker’s playing well too. He’s really fast, and he brings a lot of skill,” Pitlick said. “I think, obviously, they’re coming along, and it’s an exciting group for us.”

The Gophers have dropped four out of the last five games, but the series in Madison, Pitlick said, showed promise for better play moving forward.

“It was good to get our first Big Ten win, obviously it’s a fun building to play in, the Gophers versus the Badgers,” Pitlick said. “So I think we learned that we can play with any team. I think we knew that from the beginning. We have a lot of talent on this roster, and we’re just going to keep looking forward to getting better every day, and I think the results will take care of themselves.”

Pitlick and the Gophers will start a six-game home stretch on Friday. They will play St. Lawrence at 3M Arena at Mariucci in a two-game series Friday and Saturday.