He recorded 311 …

Michael Rand

He recorded 311 points in his high school career, a Minnesota record.
He notched hat tricks in five of his last six high school state tournament games. In the other game, he scored twice.
He’s the ninth consecutive Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award winner to play for the Gophers.
After skating in just three official Minnesota practices, he’s already one of the most popular players on the team.
Former Duluth East standout Dave Spehar can throw his high school statistics out the window. They are merely numbers now.
He cannot, however, escape this reality: Whether he likes it or not, he is the focal point of Minnesota’s most important freshman class in years — a class that is expected to pick up some of the slack left by 10 departed seniors. People don’t expect the world from the 5-foot-9 winger immediately, but they expect it soon.
For Spehar, there are no hopes, wishes, or even expectations.
Quite simply, there are demands.
Every season, it seems like the Gophers have a big-name newcomer on their roster. Last year it was Erik Rasmussen. Two years ago it was Mike Crowley. Four years back it was a guy named Brian Bonin.
Now it’s Spehar’s turn. Armed with a team-first attitude and a knack for finding the net, he should be all right. Just give him some time, coach Doug Woog says.
“We think he’s going to help us, but we’re not counting on him to be `the man,'” Woog said. “You have to put it in reality. Brian Bonin became a Hobey Baker winner and an All-American, but he had about 10 or 11 goals as a freshman.”
Will fans hear that message?
“They have to hear it,” Woog said.
When talking about players like Spehar, Woog has a delicate, two-fold mission: Trying to convey that the kid has promise without promising too much right away.
Woog has kept his end of the bargain. The rest is up to Spehar, and, so far, he’s holding up fine.
“You just have to shut the pressure out and go out and play your game and hope it works out,” Spehar said. “It’s an honor that people think of me in that way. I just want to put on the jersey and skate hard.”
He’s been doing that for three days on the Mariucci Arena ice. The only difference is that he won’t cost the Gophers a WCHA title if he misses the upper corner in a 2-on-1 practice drill.
He is, however, getting acquainted with the new ice sheet and his new teammates. A building he was in awe of at the beginning is now becoming familiar.
Before he knows it, he’ll be in Crowley’s position: Two years removed from being a newcomer, but hardly a forgotten man. The expectations are still present, but, as a junior, they’re self-imposed.
When asked about his freshman season, Crowley said his attitude was similar to the one Spehar is employing now.
“I just wanted to make the lineup and go from there,” Crowley said.
As Crowley said that, teammate Dan Hendrickson had disbelief written across his face.
“You just want to make the lineup this year?” Hendrickson questioned.
“No, no, I was talking about freshman year,” Crowley said to his stunned teammate.
Two years ago he just wanted to play. Last season he was a Hobey Baker finalist. How quickly things change.
Two years from now, Spehar will be a team leader. He will score goals. He will probably even draw comparisons to past Minnesota greats.
But for now, he’s just going to put on his jersey and skate hard. He’s going to be a team player. He’s going to contribute.
“Anytime you come into a program like this, people expect a lot of you from day one,” Crowley said. “It’s obviously going to take some time, but he’ll be a great player.