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.
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The Gophers are unsure what to expect out of Saturday’s exhibition game against Lethbridge College (Alberta, Canada). With so many new pieces to Don Lucia’s puzzle, the coach couldn’t even begin to guess what the preseason warm-up would produce.
“I don’t know,” Lucia said Wednesday. “It’s just an opportunity for all of them to get game action. We can dress more than 20, so all the defensemen will play. We’ll probably play 14 forwards. … It might be in the course of the game where we might actually sit our older guys.”
This move would allow the Gophers numerous young players extra ice time. The Gophers have 15 underclassmen - eight freshmen, seven sophomores - who will likely see a lot of minutes as Lucia attempts to piece together line combinations.
Senior defender Jake Parenteau said the freshmen have been practicing well and he expects them to play a big part in the team’s success early in the season.
“To me this is a great evaluation of our younger guys and guys we maybe have to look to expand their roles this upcoming season,” Lucia said. “It’s our dry run. We don’t get six or seven exhibition games like the NHL or two or three like basketball. So this our one crack at it and we play live the following Friday.”
The Lethbridge game will start at 7 p.m. at Mariucci Arena. The season opener is next Friday against Mercyhurst in the Ice Breaker Tournament at Mariucci.
Video interviews and more from Wednesday's team access:
Gophers goalie Adam Wilcox
Gophers coach Don Lucia