Chucko makes return from shoulder injury

Sophomore forward Kris Chucko practiced for the first time since January on Monday.

Chris Lempesis

Minnesota’s men’s hockey sophomore forward Kris Chucko admitted he was a little winded, but ultimately, feeling good.

That’s because Chucko returned to practice Monday after missing this weekend’s Michigan Tech series with a separated shoulder. Chucko suffered the injury Jan. 28 in the Gophers’ 3-1 win at Wisconsin.

Chucko was able to shoot the puck and practiced on a line with fellow sophomore forwards Evan Kaufmann and Tom Pohl in Monday’s practice, which lasted about an hour.

“I haven’t skated for two weeks,” Chucko said. “But, I was pretty happy with the way I felt and I was able to shoot the puck. I mean, it’s a little sore here and there. I haven’t been in contact yet, but so far it feels good.”

As for when he will resume hitting, Chucko ” who wore a jersey with a white cross, meaning he was not to be hit at all in any drills ” said he might wait until later in the week.

He also said that if everything stays as it is now, he’ll be “good to go” for this weekend’s series against Denver. In 28 games this season, Chucko has four goals and nine assists for 13 points.

Minnesota’s other injured player, junior forward Danny Irmen, did not practice Monday.

Chucko said he didn’t know anything specific about Irmen’s status but that he thinks Irmen is coming along well.

“I’m sure he’s ahead of schedule,” Chucko said. “He’s in pretty good shape. He’s a pretty tough kid. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s back anytime soon.”

Gophers stay at No. 1, drop in WCHA

A three-point performance at Michigan Tech last weekend was enough to keep Minnesota at the top of the latest USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, released Monday.

The Gophers’ (19-6-5, 14-5-3 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) showing in Houghton, Mich., was not enough to keep them at the top of the WCHA, however.

That spot now belongs to Minnesota’s opponent this weekend, Denver.

The two-time defending national champion Pioneers overtook the Gophers by one point, at 32-31, in the standings as a result of their home sweep over Minnesota State.

Minnesota also dipped to second behind Wisconsin in the new PairWise rankings, released Monday. The Gophers had been tied with the Badgers for the top spot last week. The PairWise rankings are used to determine the seedings for the 16-team NCAA Tournament.

How can he be winless?

Freshman Michigan Tech goaltender Rob Nolan turned in a strong showing Saturday night, stopping 48 of 50 Minnesota shots. In fact, it was so good, Gophers senior forward and team captain Gino Guyer used the word fabulous to describe it.

Nolan was also strong Friday in relieving fellow freshman Michael-Lee Teslak, stopping 23 of 24 shots.

Strong performances like these beg the question, How can this guy still not have any wins?

Nolan had a mark of 0-9-1 coming into the weekend.

“There’s been games, especially early on, that he played very well in nets,” Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell said, “that, as a team, I don’t think we were real sharp.”

Nolan still doesn’t have any wins coming out of the weekend, but his efforts did earn him WCHA Rookie of the Week honors on Monday.