During a weekend when Minnesota lost two forwards and a defenseman, the team bus fittingly limped home from Grand Forks.
Inclement weather and treacherous roads kept the bus from arriving in Minneapolis until 5:30 Sunday morning.
Monday’s practice took a cue from the bus trip; a step slow, but steady.
“I think the spirit is good,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “But we’re tired and we’re sore.”
The Gophers (7-1-2) are half way through a brutal November schedule, and faring rather well.
A sweep of Wisconsin gave Minnesota four standings points, and securing a tie at North Dakota provided one more, keeping Minnesota in second place in the conference.
But the price Minnesota paid for a 2-1-1 record against the defending WCHA and NCAA champions, respectively, is measured in manpower.
“It’ll be interesting to see how much is left in our tank after playing Wisconsin and North Dakota back-to-back,” Lucia said.
For a team depending on depth to make the difference, the list of battered and bruised players is long and significant.
Sophomore defenseman Matt DeMarchi (knee) took the ice donning a Red Cross jersey. Sophomore wing Nick Anthony skated off his concussion and center Erik Westrum worked through a leg bruise.
Three other players didn’t even suit up for a skate Lucia described as a “flush the legs out type of practice, no contact whatsoever.”
The Gophers play sixth-ranked St. Cloud State in a home-at-home series this weekend. Minnesota went 0-4-1 against the Huskies a year ago, including a season-ending loss in the WCHA tournament.
St. Cloud State coach Craig Dahl listed defenseman Brian Gaffaney (groin pull) and forward Nate DiCasmirro (ankle sprain) as questionable for the Gophers series.
Lucia revamped his line chart on Saturday against the Fighting Sioux, moving center Johnny Pohl to wing, and trying freshman defenseman Paul Martin at wing.
“We’re going to continue to look at the lineups as we go along,” Lucia said. “Hopefully we can get healthy soon and get some continuity.”
The other defenseman named Martin, freshman Joey, lost his redshirt status after competing Saturday against North Dakota. The 6-foot-3, 203-pound Martin impressed Lucia with his physical play.
Gophers third nationally
After a loss and a tie against North Dakota, Minnesota dropped to third in the United States College Hockey Online poll Monday, behind Boston College and new No. 1 Michigan State.
The Gophers — who received seven first place votes — face the Spartans at home in two weeks.
David La Vaque covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627- 4070 x3245.