Reilly injury forces Minnesota to adjust

Head coach Don Lucia said forward Connor Reilly will be out “indefinitely.”

Sophomore forward Connor Reilly smiles with teammate Ryan Collins after scoring a goal during the Gopher Mens Hockey game against St. Cloud State University on Saturday evening at the Mariucci Arena.

Liam James Doyle

Sophomore forward Connor Reilly smiles with teammate Ryan Collins after scoring a goal during the Gopher Men’s Hockey game against St. Cloud State University on Saturday evening at the Mariucci Arena.

Ben Gotz

The Gophers may have to get their season back on track without their leading goal scorer.

Redshirt sophomore Connor Reilly is out indefinitely, according to head coach Don Lucia, after an injury he sustained last weekend against Wisconsin.

Reilly, who recovered from two knee surgeries before taking the ice for the Gophers, was finally making a big impact on the team with 11 goals.

“It’s a tough break for Connor,” Lucia said. “He was just starting to get back to the player he was before all these injuries. It could have been worse, but we’ll know more in a few weeks to see how the healing process goes and if he’ll need surgery or not.”

The injury occurred Saturday night in Madison when Badgers redshirt freshman Corbin McGuire appeared to hit Reilly knee-to-knee. Reilly was taken to the locker room, never to return.

“It’s hard. He’s been having a great year,” senior forward Travis Boyd said. “When he went down, we kind of saw that it was another knee issue, and you know he’s been through a lot with his knees and everything. It was tough to see.”

The Big Ten gave McGuire a one-game suspension for the hit on Reilly, after serving a five-minute major penalty during the game.

Reilly’s absence created a problem almost immediately for the Gophers because he was on their first power-play unit.

“He’s a guy who can put the puck in the back of the net,” senior forward Seth Ambroz said. “It’s a big blow, [because] you know, he’s a great shooter, especially on the power play.”

Reilly’s absence will force the Gophers to reshuffle their power-play units and their line combinations yet again, after a strong offensive weekend against the Badgers.

“Obviously it affects the lines, it affects the power play,” Lucia said. “We didn’t use him to kill penalties, so we’ll keep moving our lines around to see what we think is going to be the best fit because it’s not like he’s going to be gone just this one weekend.”

Lucia said the team is looking at a number of lineup possibilities in the future due to Reilly’s absence, including moving a defenseman to forward.

He also said nothing is official, however, and the team is also considering only playing with 11 forwards during games and dressing seven defensemen.

“It’s something you kind of have in your back pocket if you want to do it,” Lucia said. “Bottom line, you’d like to have your best 18 skaters on the rink.”

In Madison, several Gophers players who had been on cold streaks managed to break through and score.

 That included Ambroz and sophomore forwards Taylor Cammarata, Hudson Fasching and Vinni Lettieri.

“Some guys scored goals that needed to score,” Lucia said. “Connor was our leading goal scorer. We don’t have him. We may not have him the rest of the year. We don’t know. Hopefully he will be back before the end, but at this time, we don’t know, so other people have to step up.”