Minnesota’s competition this weekend will feature a program it’s never played before and a team that features one of its own recruits.
Minnesota (3-1-0, 1-1-0 WCHA) will play the USA Under-18 team Friday night in an exhibition game at Mariucci Arena. It will play Canisius College on a Sunday matinee at home.
The Under-18 team features Gophers recruit Hudson Fasching. A Burnsville, Minn., native, Fasching is one of four Minnesotans on the team.
“The U.S. team, they’ve got some real high-end talent,” head coach Don Lucia said. “They’ve played their college teams very strong so far this year, outshooting most of them.
Lucia said because of injuries, he expects other local Minnesota players on the Gophers to see some ice time this weekend.
Minnesota opened its season with an exhibition game with Lethbridge and series against Michigan State and Michigan Tech. Sophomore Seth Ambroz said having an exhibition game after playing real games would be a little different, but the team should handle it fine.
“It is kind of weird. … I don’t really know what to expect, exactly,” Ambroz said. “We’ve got to go out there and play and prepare the way we normally do.”
Canisius plays in the Atlantic Hockey Conference, a conference against which the Gophers are 9-2-1 all-time. Minnesotans Ryan Bohrer, Ben Danford and Keegan Asmundson are on Canisius’ roster.
“They’ll be a good test for us,” Lucia said. “We talked about at the beginning of the year how important is it to do well in nonconference.”
The Gophers are coming off of a weekend in which Michigan Tech handed them their first loss of the season. The Huskies beat the struggling Gophers 5-3 last Friday. Minnesota rebounded Saturday behind a two-goal effort from Ambroz to win 3-2.
“One thing that I think we didn’t do that the coaches told us to do was not take [Michigan Tech] lightly,” Ben Marshall said. “We did take them lightly, and that came and bit us.”
Junior goalie Michael Shibrowski was pulled Friday in favor of Adam Wilcox, who then started Saturday. Lucia said he would use the same rotation this weekend but hinted that his dual-goaltending practice might end soon.
“They’ve both played well here. Obviously Wilcox outplayed Mike last weekend,” Lucia said. “We’ll wait and evaluate how they do this weekend.”
Saturday’s win was Lucia’s 600th of his career, and he said “quite a few” former players contacted him throughout the week.
“I joked around that not many coaches had to run the first half of practice, take off their skates, drive the Zamboni, get your skates back on and run the second half of practice,” Lucia said, referring to his early coaching days. “But you know what? Those are the things that kind of make it all worthwhile.”
Lucia said he would hold multiple players out from competition either Friday, Sunday or both games this weekend.
Freshman Brady Skjei will not play this weekend with an undisclosed injury. However, Lucia said “he should be fine by the time we start practicing early next week.”
Kyle Rau and Mark Alt will also sit out at least Friday’s game. Rau is nursing an ankle injury, and Lucia described Alt’s condition as “dinged up.”
Lucia said the injuries would give an opportunity to players who have been scratched in recent games to prove they belong in the team’s regular rotation.
Alumni, NHL players to play charity game
Minnesota will host Military Appreciation Night during Friday’s game against the Under-18 team.
The Gophers partnered with the Defending The Blue Line organization to give tickets to military members and their families. There will also be a silent auction and autograph sessions.
The event will continue Sunday with a charity game that will feature Gophers alumni and professional players.