Gophers take on Calgary in exhibition

Tonight’s game will give a large group of freshmen its first taste of college hockey.

by Mike Mullen

Gino Guyer is no prima donna.

The highest-returning scorer from last year’s Gophers hockey team, Guyer said he is fine with the idea of being linemates with freshmen in tonight’s 7:07 p.m. exhibition contest with the Calgary Dinos at Mariucci Arena.

It’s probably because Guyer has been in their shoes.

“When I was a freshman, I played on a line with two upperclassmen – so they had to deal with me,” Guyer said, laughing. “I actually think it’s good (for the freshmen), because when we’re on the bench between shifts you can give them advice and help them feel more comfortable.”

Whether Guyer will be on the ice with a freshman – or two – is anybody’s guess. Coach Don Lucia has been making changes to his lineup on a daily basis, searching for the right combination to use during the season.

“That’s fine with me, because that’s what we’ve done since I’ve been here,” Guyer said. “We’re trying to find good chemistry between players, so that coming down the stretch we know which guys will play well together.”

Calgary, which plays in the Canada West Universities Athletic Association, poses a unique challenge to the Gophers. Lucia said Calgary will field a team of mostly former junior hockey players, with its five-year rule of eligibility meaning that some players could be as old as 26 years old.

This makes for a sharp contrast to the Gophers, who plan to dress eight freshmen for the game.

Lucia said past experience led him to invite the Dinos to Mariucci Arena.

“We played a few exhibitions against them or teams in that league when I coached at Colorado College,” Lucia said of his days with the Tigers in the mid-’90s. “They were close games with a good style of play. They’re going to make for an interesting opponent.”

Goaltender Kellen Briggs said that because most of Calgary’s squad will have played junior hockey, the level of competition should be on par with the WCHA.

“It’s going to be a fast and physical game,” Briggs said. “It’ll be intense. This is going to be a good chance to see where everybody’s at.”

Guyer said that under different circumstances, the Gophers might not be able to motivate themselves for a nonconference exhibition.

“It’d be different if this were in the middle of the season,” Guyer said. “But because we haven’t played a game yet, we’re going to treat this like the real thing and bring the same emotion. I think right now these guys want to win anytime they step on the ice.”

As of Wednesday before practice, Lucia had not given specific advice to the team or individuals.

“Not yet,” he said. “I just want them to play hockey.”