Minnesota nets six in exhibition game against Alberta

Freshman Casey Mittelstadt led the team with four points in the victory

Freshman forward Casey Mittelstadt reaches to score the first goal of his career as a Gopher for a 6-2 exhibition win over Alberta on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

Max Ostenso

Freshman forward Casey Mittelstadt reaches to score the first goal of his career as a Gopher for a 6-2 exhibition win over Alberta on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

Drew Cove

When you’re picked eighth overall in the NHL draft, the expectations can be high.

Freshman Casey Mittelstadt was that eighth overall pick, and in only his second shift for the Gophers, he scored the game’s opening goal, then tallied three assists Sunday in a 6-2 exhibition victory against the University of Alberta.

“He’s got those hands,” said head coach Don Lucia. “You can’t teach that, that’s for sure. … He can make those plays in tight, and that’s why he’s a special player.”

It didn’t take long for the Eden Prairie, Minnesota native to make his mark with the Gophers. He scored on his second shift, just under six minutes into the game.

Of the Gophers’ six goals, Mittelstadt factored into four, scoring the first and assisting three in the third period.

He got the primary assist on the game-winning goal by senior Leon Bristedt on the power play. 

Mittelstadt circled behind the net and Bristedt was able to find the puck and send it behind the Alberta goaltender for the eventual clinching goal.

“[He]’s a really skilled player,” said junior Brent Gates, Jr. “What people don’t see is that he works really hard, and he’s obviously gifted, but he puts in the extra work after practice and he wants to be the best player he can be.”

On top of that goal, Minnesota’s freshman Scott Reedy scored just less than four minutes later to give the Gophers a two-goal lead. They never looked back from there, adding on two more goals in the third period, one from Gates, his second of the game, and one from junior Tommy Novak.

This exhibition game marked the first game Novak had played since Jan. 14, the last game of Minnesota’s home series against Michigan where he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

“It’s definitely a good feeling to get back out there after missing half a year,” Novak said. “I felt really good. I think I was getting more comfortable throughout the game.”

While the Gophers won by a wide margin, this game was some of the first action the team had together as a unit.

Minnesota has only had two official practices, one on Saturday and one before the game Sunday.

The team has six freshmen on the roster, and the lines were flexible with most of the roster suited up.

Minnesota saw action from new sophomore goaltender Mat Robson in the third period.

Robson is the Gophers’ only player to hail from Canada since 2006. 

He is ineligible to play until the beginning of December, Lucia said.

While almost all of the eligible forwards suited up Sunday, one name was absent from the bench: sophomore Luke Notermann.

“He’s injured,” Lucia said. “We’re hoping he’ll be back playing, at least skating, but it looks like, as of now, it looks like he’ll miss the year.”

Notermann and goaltender Nick Lehr were the only names missing from Minnesota on the ice, besides transfer senior Connor Hurley who has to sit out the season due to NCAA transfer rules.

While this game was exhibition, Minnesota does start the season officially next weekend in Duluth, Minnesota for the Ice Breaker Tournament.

The Gophers will start the tournament by playing rival UMD in the first game.

“We’ve got to manage the puck,” Lucia said. “You can’t shorten the rink, there’s a lot of good players, [they] played for a national title a year ago.”