Pitlick shaping up to have productive freshman season

The rookie has been playing with top scorers Justin Kloos and Tyler Sheehy.

Gophers forward Rem Pitlick skates into the Michigan zone on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 at Mariucci Arena.

Carter Jones, Daily File Photo

Gophers forward Rem Pitlick skates into the Michigan zone on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 at Mariucci Arena.

Drew Cove

In a fiercely competitive battle of in-state teams, there’s no better stage for one of Minnesota’s most promising young forwards to show his potential.

Gophers forward Rem Pitlick is one of just a few freshman who gets playing time regularly.

He came to the team with a lot of promise, which is translating well to the collegiate level with the Gophers — and something he hopes to continue this weekend in the the North Star College Cup tournament.

“I’m a freshman, but I understand what it means,” Pitlick said. “[The participants are] a bunch of Minnesota teams, and I think anybody — it doesn’t really matter if you’re a senior or a freshman — I think you want to show who’s the best in Minnesota, so obviously it means something to each individual guy on our team.”

No. 6 Minnesota (14-6-2) will start the weekend against No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth (15-5-4) Friday.

“We want him shooting,” said head coach Don Lucia. “He had a couple of good chances last weekend [at Wisconsin].”

Pitlick put on an offensive clinic in the United States Hockey League in the 2015-16 season and led the league in points with 89 points in 56 games.

The next highest only reached 66 points, giving Pitlick a 23-point cushion for the scoring title.

This season, the Plymouth, Minnesota native has three goals in 20 games with 11 assists and has passed the puck quite a bit.

“I still think that’s an area I need to work on,” Pitlick said. “Whether it’s getting open more or just really focusing on shooting the puck more … It’s definitely an area of focus, and it’s still a work in progress, but I’m sure I’ll get there.”

Pitlick is heeding his coach’s advice and starting to work more shots into his game. He had four shots in Saturday’s loss to Wisconsin, good for a second-best tie on the team.

The forward became more comfortable with the college game all season, which could be in part due to the pedigree of his linemates.

Pitlick has skated on a line with forwards Justin Kloos and Tyler Sheehy for most of the season. The trio is Minnesota’s most potent offensive line.

“[Pitlick] complements me and Sheehy really well because he can get in the play and disrupt it,” Kloos said. “He’s going to score a lot of goals in college … whether that starts this weekend or in a couple of weeks.”

The line has 29 of the 83 goals for Minnesota this season, and 44 of the team’s 144 assists.

The freshman is playing with two of the top-50 scorers in the nation, who serve as examples of how to score in the college game.

“I think we’re a group of players that have a lot of hockey sense,” Pitlick said. “I think we understand the game … We’re all likeminded players, and it’s just a matter of keeping things going, and hopefully I can add a little bit more [of a] scoring touch to the line.”