The Gophers' hockey team opens its season on Friday against UMass. Can you sense the buzx in the Cities? You can't?
Give this team a chance. It could be an exciting team to watch. Lots of speed, skill. Nice mix of determined players.
For now, the Gophers are probably the fourth biggest sports story in the metro, behind the Vikings/Randy Moss, the Twins/Yankees, the Wild opening the season, and maybe Gophers football self-destructing.
But I went over to the Gophers weekly media day on Wednesday anyway to listen and learn as much as I could about the team and to watch practice for a while. Besides me and Minnesota Daily reporter Austin Cumblad, there was not any other media there except for FSN folks who will broadcast the UMass games this weekend.
The lines for Wednesday's practice were pretty much the same as those on Sunday when the Gophers pummeled British Columbia 6-0.
Here's a rundown:
Maroon line, or first line: Mike Hoeffel-Erik Haula-Jay Barriball. Power forward with shifty center and a quick sniper. Could be effective threesome. As for a nickname, What about the beginning (freshman Haula) and the end (Hoeffel and Barriball are both seniors). Or maybe the Finn with seasoning. Haula, a Wild draftee, is from Pori, Finland, and has two seasoned veterans on his wings.
Gold line, or second line: Jacob Cepis-Nick Bjugstad-Jake Hansen. Hansen scored two goals on Sunday and moves up from third line. My nickname for this line is The Three steps.
Cepis is 5-8 maybe, Hansen 6-2 and Bjugstad 6-4, 6-5. Put them in a row, and draw a line over their heads and you get steps or a staircase. Dramatic difference in height.
The black line, or third line: Patrick White-Nico Sacchetti-Zach Budish and Nate Condon. .... Budish played on second line Sunday, Condon on fourth line. Now it looks Budish could either move down or Condon up for Friday.
Sunday's fourth line wore grey in practice: Tom Serratore-Taylor Matson-Nick Larson. ... The new member here is Serratore, who had a goal, hit two posts and knocked a few players over on Sunday. He was listed as an extra player on Sunday but got in quite a bit.
The green line had Jared Larson and Max Gardiner, both centers, and Joey Miller. Only Gardiner played Sunday.
The D-pairs I noticed in practice were Aaron Ness and Seth Helgeson, Nate Schmidt and Jake Parenteau, and Kevin Wehrs with Ness at times.
D-men wear white practice jerseys. Didn't catch who Cade Fairchild was skating with. On Sunday, he was with Justin Holl and Wehrs was with Mark Alt.