Tough Meyer makes strides with Gophers

Sarah Mitchell

Minnesota left winger Doug Meyer proudly rolled up his sleeve to show off his lion tattoo. Unlike the one in “The Wizard of Oz,” the hockey player’s lion is fierce-looking and gray in color.
“It stands for a bunch of different things,” Meyer said. “A pack of lions come in pride. A lion stands for courage. King of the jungle, stuff like that.”
It’s a fitting mark. In his sophomore season, Meyer is beginning to take on that feline persona.
Gophers assistant coach Mike Guentzel — the only current Minnesota coach still around from Meyer’s recruitment — said the second season is a telling year. By its end, the staff will know if Meyer is a flop or not.
As the Gophers prepare for Alaska-Anchorage on Friday, it seems like Meyer is just starting to make his impact.
“His confidence is coming more and more. Sometimes you jump into this thing and you’re a little bit timid about what you can and can’t do,” Guentzel said. “I think Doug’s gaining more and more ability to make plays based on his confidence growing.”
Besides confidence, Meyer has also matured.
“One of the things I saw here last year was an extremely competitive kid who sometimes got a little over-frustrated,” Guentzel said. “I’ve never seen a guy hit himself in the head with his stick any harder than Doug hits himself.
“I haven’t seen as much of that this year. When you come to the box, your shift is over. You can’t take your last shift out on your next shift.”
With his temper in check, Meyer has the potential to be a hunter on the ice. Standing 6-feet-2 and 200 pounds, the only player on the roster with a shaved head is one of the more physically dominant Gophers.
Guentzel said Meyer’s size was one of the attractions when he was recruited by the Gophers while playing with the U.S. National Team in Michigan.
“That year, that class, we tried to identify players that had good size and good strength,” Guentzel said. “We thought he could skate. He had some skill, but it was his size and strength.”
Meyer’s size compliments his style of play, a style Guentzel described as “gritty play.” The sophomore is a bruiser on the ice, going more for the opponent than the puck.
It wasn’t always that way. There was a time when Meyer — who was highly recruited by Colorado College — was on the other end of the beating stick.
“In high school, I was getting tossed around because I wasn’t strong enough. I was kind of skinny,” Meyer said. “Now, I probably won’t be the big goal-scorer. But I just try to do my job, which is take the body, let the other guys come and take the puck, forecheck hard and go to the net hard. I just try to be more physical than a finesse player.”
And by looking at his numbers and watching Meyer play, it’s clear he is more of a defender stuck in an offensive position. Through 12 games his season, Meyer has only two points from two assists.
But because of the other contributions Meyer makes, two points is acceptable.
“We’re still looking for him to settle in as somebody who’s able to bring something to the table,” Guentzel said. “Now whether it’s physical play, speed, strength along the rail, ability to shoot a puck, he hasn’t quite arrived in maybe the areas that you hope he’s going to. So we’re just trying to make him feel at home by playing.”
Maybe that will only come with time.

Sarah Mitchell covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]