U's captain Barriball thankful for being able to play hockey again
- Blog Post by: Roman Augustoviz
- November 26, 2010 - 3:04 PM
Gophers captain Jay Barriball said playing Michigan State and Michigan this weekend is kind of cool with all the talk of a Big Ten Conference for hockey maybe being around the corner.
"It happens only once a year. It is a fun series," he said. "Everybody involved enjoys it."
The Gophers have had great success against Michigan State, going 4-0-5 against the Spartans in the past nine College Hockey Showcases. Michigan has beaten the Gophers soundly the past three showcases.
"The last time we beat Michigan was my freshman year," said Barriball, a fifth-year senior. "I don't know what it is. Obviously, Michigan is a real good team every year and so is Michigan State. They are always really good games. I don't know if it is a coincidence, but Michigan has had out number the last few years."
Barriball said he would be in favor of a Big Ten Conference in hockey. "There are a lot of good teams in the Big Ten," he said. "And then with Penn State getting a hockey program, it could be real good for hockey and could be real cool. I am not going to be a part of that, which kind of stinks."
Barriball, who missed all but five games last season after knee surgery, leads the Gophers in scoring with nine goals and six assists for 15 points in 12 games.
On Thanksgiving weekend, Barriball said he is thankful for: "Everything. I am thankful for a lot, especially how my knee healed. And just that I am back playing hockey again. Last year I was not able to play hockey and it was real tough.
"Something I am real thankful for is family, friends and having my knee heal well and being back to 100 percent and being able to play again."
BJUGSTAD SCORES FIRST GOAL
Freshman Nick Bjugstad said he was feeling a lot better going into the Michigan Tech series last weekend.
He had his second assist in the Gophers' 6-4 victory against the Huskies on Friday and scored his first goal, an empty-netter, when Minnesota beat Tech 4-1 on Saturday. Hoeffel had seven shots in the series and was a plus-3.
Bjugstad had been out of the lineup since the first game of the St. Cloud State series on Oct. 22. The next day he was diagnosed with mono. He started practicing with the team again Nov. 15.
"I was really tired," he said, referring to the time he was first diagnosed, "and for a week there I just couldn't get out of bed. I recovered pretty fast and I am ready to go. Obviously being out three weeks you are a little out of shape. I felt pretty good these past three days, so I will be able to get back into it. It might take a couple of shifts to get back used to the pace."
Bjugstad said he had never been injured or sick for that length of time before. "I got to watch [Gophers' games]," he said. "That was good to watch [the Colorado College series] from TV. You just get a different view from it."
After he got stronger, Bjugstad watched the Wisconsin series from the stands with his family.
When he returned, coach Don Lucia moved him to right wing on the second line. There he replaced another big player, Zach Budish, who had season-ending knee surgery.
"Obviously, the centers have been doing really well. I've never played much wing in my life," Bjugstad said. "Center you've got to play down low with the defensemen and all over the rink. It will be a different experience for me playing wing."
Budish was injured in a fall on his moped. Bjugstad drives one, too, but probably will put it away for the winter.
On Tuesday, instead of the usual 16-20 mopeds in front of Mariucci Arena during Gophers' practice there were six. Now, not all of them are necessarily driven by Gophers but the majority seem to be.
Junior forward Nick Larson also was back in the lineup for the Gophers against Michigan Tech.
"It is kind of tough to catch a foot in the puck like that and be down for longer than I thought I would be," said Larson, who was out because of a cracked bone in his right foot. "Should be no problem from here on out."
Larson said he agrees with his coach, Lucia, that the team is stronger when everyone is healthy and it has more depth. "Everybody has to have different roles on the team," he said. "I bring that penalty kill, third line, fourth line grinder play," Larson said. "Bringing me back and bringing Whitey [Patrick White] back and some of those guys will help that out."
White, a senior forward, was out for eight or nine days with the flu.
Larson said he got hurt while he was in front of the net during a drill in practice. "From the point, one of the D took a shot and it caught me in the foot, right on top of the foot there," he said. "I have been hit in the foot plenty of times before with shots. But this one right away felt different."
He said he is now wearing a new plastic guard that goes on the top of his skates. "Me and a couple of the defensemen are wearing them," Larson said.
D-men, of course, block the most shots in games.
"[My foot] is going to take a couple weeks before it is fully healed," Larson said. "It feels a lot better than it was a couple weeks ago."
He was hurt Oct. 18, the Monday after the Gophers got swept by Nebraska Omaha.
Larson said Michigan Tech is one of his favorite places to play. "It is kind of a smaller hotel, a smaller rink and smaller facilities," he said, "but all the boys enjoy it."
THE DON SAYS
On sophomore defenseman Seth Helgeson: "Seth has made a nice step from last year. He has gone from playing on a third set [of defensemen] to really being one of our guys we are asking to shut down other people's best players.
"We are not looking for Seth to score. That is not his forte. We need Seth to defend. We need Seth to be physical. And we have seen a physical presence from him as well this year."
On freshman defenseman Mark Alt: "He has made good strides. You can see the adjustment period. We have four kids that came directly out of high school. It is an adjustment period for those guys and it is not going to happen overnight. What you hope for is, the trend is up.
"He really struggled the Friday Wisconsin game. It was probably the worst game he had in a month. But then he rebounded with a real strong game on Saturday.
"He needs to get more confidence. His gap -- when you are not sure sometimes you give ground. When you are experienced and confident you get up, you take away that time and space. And he is struggling with sometimes giving up too much ground. And then he has to wait for people rather than getting up in people's faces and then is is easier to defend.
"And again that is the experience. And there is only one way he is going to bet better at that and that is to keep playing."
Lucia said Alt will be on the Gophers' power play in time, but not as a freshman: "He has got a good shot. He has a heavy shot. Probably next year we will be looking at him to play in some of those situations. But right now we want him to concentrate on just defending. We want him to concentrate on being a good penalty killer and learning how to play from the red line back."
Don Lucia and several other Division I coaches recently met with a group of NHL general managers in early November.
"They thought in the last CBA [collective bargaining agreement] they were helping college hockey," Lucia said. "Obviously, it didn't happen. The communication line has been open. They are receptive. But it is not just NHL management and the GMs, the players association has a huge say in all this as well.
"But I thought it was a very positive session. I was glad I was able to go and be a part of it. They respected what we had to say. We also as college coaches respected what they had to say. So the dialogue was good from both sides."
Lucia said one option to improve the present situation, when college players can leave early for pro hockey anytime, is setting a summer date, say June 1, after which players can't sign.
"So you can plan on your team" after that, he said.
"They worry about after a kid's senior year, after August 15, they can lose [a drafted] player," Lucia said. "Can something be done about that? The age of the draft -- can something be done about that? Because all of us would rather see a 19-year-old draft rather than an 18-year-old draft.
"But again these are players association issues. It is not all part of the CBA. We would like to try to be protective a little bit. I have thrown out I'd like to see that if a kid signed out of college, under 20 that he is going to play in the NHL and not going to the American [Hockey] League. Whether that will ever happen, who knows?"
Lucia said the NHL is not trying to hurt college hockey. "That is not the intent of anything that has happened," Lucia said. "But again part of the CBA and entry-level salaries and salary cap and trying to fit salaries, getting your roster. ... It is not one thing, it is 15 things. And there is nobody at fault. It is trying to find a way that can be better for everybody."
* Lucia said the Gophers have nine players who have come directly from high school to college hockey, without playing in juniors. "Some kids can come in and bypass that step but it's hard," Lucia said. "You try to get more experienced."
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