Jason Gonzalez has covered an array of sports at all levels over the last nine years. He learned ice hockey, however, long before — during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah (his hometown). He got a close up look of legendary Gophers alum Herb Brooks and other Minnesota hockey greats. Jason has been with the Star Tribune since 2012.
Freshman forward Gabe Guertler will rejoin the Gophers this weekend at Notre Dame. Guertler was indefinitely suspended a month prior to the season after being arrested on DWI charges.
Guertler was arrested by University of Minnesota police in August after being pulled over while he was driving a moped.
Coach Don Lucia originally stated Guertler's status would be revisited in November and made the announcement of the freshman's return on Wednesday.
“We haven’t made a determination whether he will play this weekend, but he will be going on the trip,” Lucia said. “He’s gotta earn his way back, now.”
Guertler was expected to be a big part of the Gophers' incoming freshmen class. Last season in the USHL, he compiled 31 goals and 20 assists in 60 games.
Guertler has practiced with the team throughout his suspension.
• A bye week came at the right time for the Gophers. Last weekend’s rest will allow the No. 1 team in college hockey to travel to South Bend at full strength, coach Don Lucia said on Wednesday.
Several Gophers were banged up after the Boston College series and needed the extra week to recover. Had the team played, last weekend, the Gophers would have been a few men down, Lucia said.
It's necessary that the Gophers are full strength against No. 4-ranked Notre Dame for Friday and Saturday's non-conference road games. The Fighting Irish have big bodies that will challenge Lucia's smaller lineup and are eager to avenge last year's 4-1 loss at Mariucci Arena.
“We’ve got really good games against them every year and they’ve got a lot of talented players. Every time we play them it’s something you look forward to and one of those games you obviously got marked at the beginning of the year,” Gophers senior co-captain Nate Condon said.
“A bye week helps the guys kind of just hang out and have fun for a while. It gives you time to rest," Condon added. "I know we got a couple injuries, guys nicked up here and there, so it gives you time to recover and hopefully bring back that fresh lineup that you’ll need going into a big weekend like Notre Dame.”
Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson expects the No. 1 Gophers to carry plenty of momentum into South Bend. Jackson saw an offensively explosive team with a lot of speed in the Gophers' 6-1 victory over Boston College. He said his team will try to play with the Gophers instead of trying to slow the tempo of the game.
“They lost a lot of great players and brought in a lot more,” Jackson said about the young Gophers team. “[This series] will be about puck possession and transition. I feel like it will be an up-tempo game.”
• The team practiced on the smaller rink at Ridder Arena on Wednesday to prepare for Notre Dame's smaller rink.
• Be on the lookout for Friday's feature about the unique relationship between Gophers coach Don Lucia and his son, Mario Lucia, who is a sophomore hockey player at Notre Dame.