After all that, Gophers finally healthy again

After all that, Gophers finally healthy again

Austin Cumblad

Don Lucia was due for some good news. For weeks, a steady stream of players suffered illness after injury after illness, to the point that the mere sight of team trainer Jeff Winslow terrified the GophersâÄô head coach. Winslow âÄúis the Grim Reaper,âÄù Lucia said Monday on his weekly radio show, a phrase he used again Wednesday when he spoke with the media. âÄúEvery time he comes in, itâÄôs more bad news.âÄù It started in practice with a puck that cracked a bone in junior Nick LarsonâÄôs right foot. That was Oct. 18, two days after Minnesota was swept by Nebraska Omaha. The following weekend, freshman Nick Bjugstad was diagnosed with mononucleosis between games in the St. Cloud State series. Then came LuciaâÄôs nightmare week leading up to WisconsinâÄôs visit to Mariucci Arena. Monday, sophomore winger Zach Budish crashed his mo-ped on 15th Avenue Southeast; he will undergo season-ending knee surgery Nov. 22. Wednesday, Jake Parenteau became the second freshman in as many weeks to contract mono. Friday, senior Patrick White got the flu. Against the Badgers, the Gophers had a lone extra skater available and limped âÄî literally as much as figuratively âÄî out of the weekend with a loss and a tie. But during MinnesotaâÄôs subsequent week off, something remarkable happened, something Lucia might have doubted was possible: His team got healthy. Barring major setbacks, every skater with the exception of Budish will be available to play when the No. 19 Gophers (5-4-1 overall, 3-4-1 WCHA) travel to Michigan Tech (3-4-2, 1-4-1) for their second road series of the season. âÄúThe week off couldnâÄôt have come at a better time for us,âÄù Lucia said. Of course, not everything will click back into place immediately. âÄúTheyâÄôve got to get their timing back,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúTheyâÄôve been a little bit better every day, but âĦ itâÄôs been awhile.âÄù Especially for Larson and Bjugstad. Respectively off skates for four and three maddening weeks, theyâÄôre happy âÄî if a little winded âÄî to be back. Larson has an extra layer of protection for his right foot, a rigid plastic piece that covers his laces. âÄúI feel a little sore, a little tired, a little out of shape,âÄù he said after two days of practice. âÄúBut getting back out there feels nice after being out for so long.âÄù The same goes for Bjugstad. He said heâÄôs never missed extended time with an injury or sickness. âÄúI felt pretty good these past couple days [of practice],âÄù Bjugstad said, âÄúso I think IâÄôll be able to get back into it. It might take a couple of shifts to get used to the pace again.âÄù Bjugstad has been practicing at right wing on the second line, next to fellow freshman Nate Condon and senior Jacob Cepis. ThatâÄôs where Budish played before his mo-ped crash. White practiced in that spot the week before the Wisconsin series, then caught the flu. Wait, was that a black cat? And who broke that mirror?