Injuries mount for hard-luck Gophers

Aaron Kirscht

If you’re looking for a fun way to get a Gophers men’s hockey player to demonstrate his checking technique, mention that he’s the one of the few players to avoid the injury bug.
Then turn, face the wall and brace yourself.
Athletes — especially those on the eerily fragile hockey team — don’t like talking about injuries, afraid the jinx might befall them. And the way the season has gone for the Gophers, they might have a point.
Minnesota forward Reggie Berg, in the running for the conference scoring title, backed away from a reporter who mentioned the dreaded “I” word after Saturday’s 4-2 win, which he closed out with a radar-controlled empty-net goal.
“I don’t even want to answer that question,” Berg said. “Two months ago, I said I’ve never seen anything like it, and it’s only gotten worse as the season’s gone along.”
That trend continued this weekend. In earning a sweep over Alaska-Anchorage, the Gophers won the war of attrition, but they lost a couple of key battles along the way.
One occurred late in the first period on Friday, when freshman Stuart Senden — playing on the top line for the first time this season — got in a shoving match with Seawolves forward Jeff Edwards.
Edwards scored a quick takedown, throwing Senden to the ice. But Senden hit the ice awkwardly, dislocating his shoulder and forcing him out for the rest of the season.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Woog said. “(Senden’s) been playing so well, getting better and better. Losing that strength and speed in our lineup is going to cost us down the line.”
Senden’s injury is just another in a long list of hacks, whacks, chops and checks that have sidelined Gophers players throughout the season. During practice on Wednesday, freshman Aaron Miskovich was struck in the left eye area by a puck and suffered three orbital fractures. He’ll have surgery this week and will sit out the Colorado College series.
Sophomore defenseman Ben Clymer went down in the first series of the year with a shoulder injury and won’t return. Forward Cory Miller returned recently after missing most of the season with a knee injury. Senior Ryan Kraft missed seven games with a broken hand. Captain Casey Hankinson has sat out several games with a variety of maladies, including a hip pointer and a broken thumb. Junior Mike Anderson turned his knee earlier this month and isn’t expected back before the St. Cloud State series in two weeks.
And that’s only a partial list. The losses of front-line players to the pros, graduation and tough luck have been too much for Minnesota to overcome.
“We’ve had every injury except for below the knee,” Woog said. “Actually, we have lace-bite now, too, so we’re actually down to everything but below the ankle.”
That doesn’t leave much room for error, and the situation becomes even more pressing with the trip to high-altitude Colorado Springs coming up this weekend. The Gophers won’t just be short a few players, but they’ll be short of breath as well; fewer players equals longer shifts.
“If we would have won our own games earlier,” Woog said, “we wouldn’t be in the situation we are now. I’m more concerned with our health than with someone helping us out down the line.”
In order to keep their slim hopes for a home playoff series alive, Minnesota must win out the remaining schedule — and hope for a little help from a number of teams.
“Enough is enough, don’t you think?” Woog asked. “It’s like, Uncle.'”