Hauser out 3 weeks

by Josh Linehan

As the Minnesota men’s hockey team has improved throughout the year, players likened the team’s growing confidence to a virus spreading through the locker room.
In the end, it may be a virus that ends the team’s postseason hopes.
Wednesday afternoon the Gophers announced starting goaltender Adam Hauser has mononucleosis and will sit out at least the next three weeks.
Hauser first noticed symptoms of the illness last Friday before Minnesota’s game at Michigan Tech. The sophomore had a slight fever but opted to take some aspirin and play.
But after being evaluated by Minnesota general physician Dr. Richard Feist early Wednesday, Hauser was diagnosed with mono and ordered to sit out the next three weeks.
With normal backup Pete Samargia still recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, Minnesota will start walk-on Erik Young this weekend against Wisconsin, the unanimous number one team in the nation.
Hauser has been an iron man between the pipes for Minnesota, starting 68 of the past 69 Gophers games. But he’ll have to watch from the stands Friday.
“I lobbied to keep myself in the lineup a little bit, but it didn’t work,” Hauser said Wednesday. “It’s tough, because I pride myself on playing. It’s the first thing that has really kept me out of the lineup.”
The news was a stunner for Minnesota coach Don Lucia, who has coaxed his team into fifth place, barely clinging to the last home ice spot in the WCHA playoffs.
“I started to laugh a little. I mean what can you do? Erik Young gets to make his first college start against the number one team in the nation. Only in America,” Lucia said.
Or perhaps more fittingly, only in the WCHA, where Minnesota will face Wisconsin and St. Cloud, two of the best teams in the country, while battling for postseason position.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, is within one point of clinching the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA regular season champions. Badgers coach Jeff Sauer was surprised to hear Hauser will miss the series, but said the Gophers-Badgers series was much bigger than any one player.
“I know Adam’s been the key guy there, and he’s played especially well lately,” Sauer said. “That obviously changes things somewhat, but it won’t change what we do. We’re coming up to beat the Gophers, regardless.”
Lucia had similar words about his squad, stressing that Minnesota wasn’t changing a thing despite the loss of both its top netminders.
“There’s no way we’re going to mail Wisconsin four points. I know our kids will battle,” Lucia said.
The loss of Hauser doesn’t change Minnesota’s strategy much because the Gophers knew all along they would have to tighten up defensively against the high-flying Badgers.
Wisconsin is lead by Hobey Baker Award hopeful and WHCA leading scorer Steve Reinprecht. He skates on a line with freshman sensation Dany Heatley, who was named the NHL’s top-ranked prospect earlier in the season.
“The guys will have to come out and skate hard no matter what,” Hauser said. “It wouldn’t matter if we suited up Robb Stauber, we’d still have to play good defense to beat Wisconsin.”
Still, the loss of Hauser will have a mental and physical effect on the Gophers’ performance this weekend.
“There’s no way to hide how important he is to us. He covers up so many of our mistakes,” senior captain Nate Miller said.
Hauser’s ability is something all the Gophers can agree on.
“Adam’s been our most consistent player all year. It will certainly hurt not having him back there,” defenseman Dylan Mills said.
Young will be backed up by sophomore walk-on Ryan Westrum, brother of junior forward Erik Westrum. Ryan Westrum began the season assisting in videotaping of Minnesota’s games.
As for Hauser, he will rest in an attempt to come back in time to play at some point in the postseason.
Trainer Bob Broxterman said Hauser will try to remain in shape should he be medically cleared to play yet this season.
“We’ll try to retain his level of fitness without wearing him out. That’s the most important thing. He’ll walk in the weight room, look at the weights, and walk out.”
As for the timing of the diagnosis, it couldn’t be worse for a Minnesota team needing points near the end of the season.
“It could’ve been the Mariucci Classic (held in December),” Hauser said, “but it wasn’t. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Josh Linehan covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]