Gophers men’s hockey has holes to fill but freshman class has the team ‘giddy’

The 2021-22 Gophers men’s hockey team gained the Big Ten regular-season championship, rallied to beat the reigning nationwide champions in time beyond regulation and earned the program’s first NCAA Frozen Four berth in eight years whereas seeing middle Ben Meyers develop into a Hobey Baker Award finalist.

Despite these accomplishments, coach Bob Motzko’s group was left unfulfilled on that April Thursday in Boston when a first-period lead towards Minnesota State Mankato evaporated in a 5-1 loss in the nationwide semifinals.

Seeking their first nationwide championship since 2003, the Gophers will embark on a retooling season. Gone are Meyers and his team-high 41 factors, together with stalwarts like Sammy Walker and Blake McLaughlin, plus Chaz Lucius, a first-round draft decide who signed with Winnipeg, and Tristan Broz, a second-round decide by Pittsburgh who transferred to Denver.

“I see some acquainted faces out on that ice and a complete pile of recent guys,” stated coach Bob Motzko, whose team started apply Monday in preparation for the Oct. 1-2 season-opening collection towards Division I newcomer Lindenwood (Mo .). “We can skate, the guys are working their tails off, there’s nice camaraderie and nice spirit inside that group, and we’re excited to get going.”

The acquainted faces embrace a pair of Olympians, junior defenseman and captain Brock Faber and sophomore ahead Matthew Knies. Faber anchors a deep blue line that additionally contains draft picks Jackson LaCombe, Ryan Johnson and Mike Koster, whereas Justen Close, final 12 months’s midseason savior in purpose, is again for his senior season.

The Gophers have 11 recent faces on their roster, and it is a group filled with high-end expertise. Leading the method is middle Logan Cooley, the No. 3 total decide on this summer season’s NHL draft by the Arizona Coyotes. Right winger Jimmy Snuggerud, son of former Gophers standout Dave Snuggerud, was the No. 23 total decide by St. Louis. Washington took defenseman Ryan Chesley in the second spherical, and Tampa Bay grabbed ahead Connor Kurth in the sixth.

“When you might have a big freshman class, it simply brings this giddy little power in the [locker] room,” Motzko stated. “We’ve received to mix it collectively, and that is the enjoyable a part of teaching. … We’ve received to change some nice offense. We’ve received guys who can do it; I simply do not know if they will do it straight away. They’ll get there.”

LaCombe believes the newcomers could have a brief studying curve.

“They’re an important group of younger guys, so for us it is simply educating just a few issues for them straight away,” he stated. “They’re going to regulate very well. We’re excited to get it going with them.”

A fast maturation course of would assist for the Gophers, who’ve a home-and-home collection with defending NCAA runner-up Minnesota State Mankato on Oct. 7 and eight, then play host to bitter rival North Dakota on Oct. 21-22.

“Button up, huh? Right off the bat,” Motzko stated. “Mankato’s been a nemesis for us. They’ve ended our season two years in a row.”

Motzko’s hope is that the Gophers season ends in April with two Frozen Four wins in Tampa, Fla.

“We need to win that final sport of the 12 months, and we’ll maintain poking,” he stated. “… We’re knocking on the door. And if we maintain knocking on the door, it is gonna occur. We’ve received to return and construct it once more.”

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