Sheehy shines against Michigan State after ‘snake-bitten’ start

Senior forward Tyler Sheehy is the active point leader on the team with 115 total points in 115 games.

Senior Tyler Sheehy skates with the puck on Saturday, Nov. 17 at Mariucci Arena.

Tony Saunders

Senior Tyler Sheehy skates with the puck on Saturday, Nov. 17 at Mariucci Arena.

Jack Warrick

Tyler Sheehy described himself as a little “snake bit” through the first part of the season. The second-year captain notched just three points in the first nine games of the season.

“I think for me it was one of those things where [I was] maybe a little bit snake bit early on, and I hit a couple posts and put a couple off the goalie’s neck,” Sheehy said.

But last weekend, Sheehy scored four goals — two in each game — to let the senior captain get back to his ‘lead-by-example’ ways. The four goals earned him the Big Ten Conference’s first star, as he led the nation with his four-goal performance in the Gophers’ two-game series against Michigan State last weekend. Minnesota split the series 1-1.

“I felt like some goals were coming, and this weekend — thank God — I was able to put some past them, and kind of get the weight off my shoulders,” Sheehy said.

If the weight has been on any skater’s shoulders this season, it has to be Sheehy. Sheehy held the title of captain last season in former head coach Don Lucia’s last season with the team. The Gophers narrowly missed the NCAA tournament at the end of the season for the second time in three years.

Now, Sheehy’s ‘lead-by-example’ style has brought him into the role of captain in his final season with the team, this time under head coach Bob Motzko and a new staff surrounding him. The Gophers are 4-6-1 through the first 11 games of the season. It is the worst start since 2015, when Minnesota started 4-7.

“[Sheehy] was in the zone and it was fun to see,” Motzko said about Sheehy’s weekend performance. “I talked to Don this morning, he said that’s what he, two years ago, then he went through some injuries, that’s what he looked like.”

Sheehy is the top-scoring active skater with the Gophers. He has 115 points in 115 games played. He led Minnesota in the 2016-17 season with 53 points — 20 goals and 33 assists. He slumped in production last season as he dealt with injuries, tallying 25 total points as a junior.

His linemate, junior forward Rem Pitlick, described him as less of a vocal leader and more of one who leads by the way he plays and acts.

“I think Tyler’s just a ‘lead-by-example’ type of guy. He obviously will step in and say stuff, but I think he’s more just a hard worker, tries to do the right things and, like I said, lead by example,” Pitlick said.

Minnesota will close out it’s six-game home stand this weekend in a two-game series against Ohio State (9-4-1) at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Friday and Saturday. The Gophers split the last two series, and have yet to get a sweep of a weekend series this season.

“We think we’ve got some things identified and we’ve got to work through it as a group right now,” Motzko said. “We need to shut out all noise right now and we gotta be all in together to pull ourselves through this.”