Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.

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On Gophers' series with Wisconsin, injuries and illnesses

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz under College hockey, Gophers roster moves Updated: November 5, 2010 - 12:31 AM

Gophers coach Don Lucia said on Wednesday that the Wisconsin series this weekend is important for his team. "We want to try to stay on that winning track and then take a week off to catch our breath," he said.

Minnesota has won three games in a row to improve its WCHA record to 3-3. Next weekend the Gophers have a bye.

Lucia expects Mariucci Arena to be rocking for the Badgers. "The crowd is a little bit more charged up," Lucia said. "There's a little bit better atmosphere in the building. It’s a border battle and a rivalry and it should be a fun weekend."

Hopefully it's as much fun as last weekend, at least Gophers fans hope so. Minnesota swept Colorado College 4-1 and 9-4 at the Colorado Springs World Arena.

"We made some good plays," he said. "We had some good continuity. It carried over from winning on Sunday [2-1 over St Cloud State on Oct. 24].

"The good thing is we found a way to win on Friday night. We had better legs on Saturday during the game. Even our pregame skate Saturday morning was much sharper and better than it was Friday morning. Usually that carries over and that is certainly what happened on Saturday."

ON LINE CHANGES

Senior Patrick White was  in Zach Budish's right wing spot on the second line during two midweek practices this week. Budish, a 6-3, 221-pound sophomore is out with a right knee injury he suffered in a moped accident.

"Patrick played well this past weekend and he is someone that can score goals," Lucia said. "He needs to continue to learn to play with bite in his game and when he does that he can put himself in [scoring] spots.

"When he gets a chance to score, he can score. [Patrick] is probably as good a shooter as we have on our team."

Lucia said the loss of Budish for at least two months, and maybe the rest of the season has an effect on all the lines.

He said he would like to leave freshman center Erik Haula's line together. Haula centers the top line. He has seniors Mike Hoeffel and Jay Barriball on his wings.

"[Taylor] Matson’s line played pretty well last weekend and Taylor certainly played very well," Lucia said, referring to the third line. "Other guys are going to have to pick up the slack. That is just the reality of it. 

"Once we get guys back we will be OK. We just hope we don’t have any other injuries."

WIth three forwards and one defensemen out this weekend because of injuries or illinesses, the Gophers have only one extra forward and one extra defenseman.

"The frustrating thing is that is four [players] in four years we have had major knee injuries," Lucia said.

That's an obvious reference to Ryan Stoa, Taylor Matson and Jay Barriball in previous years and Budish this year.

"[Budish] is a big, strong," Lucia said, "but the good thing is we will get [Nick] Bjugstad back and he is a big, strong kid who can skate very well. He might be a candidate to go in [Budish's] spot, too. We will have to figure that out once he comes back.'

Bjugstad, a 6-4 freshman forrward, has missed the past three games with mono. Lucia said he expects Bjugstad to be able to start working out by the end of next week and to start skating the week of the Michigan Tech series Nov. 19-20 in Houghton. If that happens he would be able to play reduced minutes, at least, against the Huskies.

ON MOPED SAFETY

Lucia said a lot of his players ride mopeds.

"That’s their deal," he said. "I can’t tell them what they can or can’t do. My whole isssue is, and I have talked to them about it, is I wish they would wear helmets more than anything else"

Budish was not wearing a helmet.

"But [a moped] is a way to get around campus," Lucia said. "Guys have had them for years. I only know of one other time where we had a kid who put one down on purpose because a car didn’t see him. He was fine."

Usually there are about 20 mopeds by the players' entrance to Mariucci Arena during afternoon practices. Not all of them are necessarily belong to the players, but most do.

Lucia said hockey players just ride around the campus. "It’s not like they have been buzzing around on freeways or anything like that," he said. "It is basically coming from their house to campus. They don’t have to pay to park [with a moped] and it’s just easier to get around.

"I am not sure exactly what happened [with Budish] other than he fell," Lucia said. "He was waving at somebody and lost control. I am not exactly sure. It is really irrelevant."

Lucia said mopeds have become popular on college campuses everywhere, not just at Minnesota. "I know the only thing that is requried. is you have to have eye protection," Lucia said. "And the distances they travel is usually 1, 2 miles most of the time.

 "I know Tony had a moped," Lucia said, referring to his older son who was a senior last season and a team co-captain. "But the wife has already laid down the law that the younger one [Mario] will never have one after this."

Mario Lucia is a junior forward for Wayzata High School and rated the top NHL prospect in Minnesota in the Class of 2012.. He has not decided on a college.

ON MONO

Lucia said he recently read that one of Denver's players also had mononucleosis. True. That would be Justin Jackson, a 6-3 junior forward.

"[Mono] is one of those things," said Lucia, who has two players out with mono this weekend. "I don’t know if you test more often for it. I just don’t remember mono when I was growing up."

He said he did not know why three of his players have had mono in 2010; Hoeffel missed a month of last season with mono. "We clean the water bottles, we do all that," Lucia said. "Some of it -- you get more worn down when the season is going on [and] you get around exam times.

"It makes you wonder too about cell phones and texting and all the things kids do late at night. Are [players] getting less sleep because of that? ... I run into that with my own kids. Leave your phone here when you go to bed.

"I think it is just a flukey deal to be honest. This time of the year you do get some sickness, we have another player who is sick. I don’t know if he will be able to play this weekend or not. You get into late fall, the change of seasons. You get more illnesses." 

Overall, though, Lucia said his players are in good spirits. They just shook their heads on Wednesday, he said, when informed freshman defenseman Jake Parenteau had mono, too.

"We have enough players to play," Lucia said. "So we are missing [Budish] from what we had in the Saturday game, Our expectation does not change and the guys that are in there they have to play and play well. Now some of them are going to be in different roles and maybe get more ice time that they expected, but they are good hockey players."

Even without three players who were NHL draft picks -- Budish, Bjugstad and Nick Larson -- the Gophers have 16 others.

Larson, a junior forward, has a sore foot but also should be back for the Michigan Tech series.

QUOTES FROM THE DON

* On Zach Budish's immediate hockey future: "I don’t think it is real promising right now, that is the truth. ... Probably by next week we will know exactly whether he will be back this year or not. Or if he will try to come back. ... There is no question. It is a hit." 

"When I saw him [Tuesday], he looked despondent and rightfully so. When you have gone through something, you know what rehab is all about. It’s not fun. It is hard. It is tiring. ... If it turns out he doesn’t play the rest of the year, basically you are missing two years out of three in an important part of your career."

Budish missed his senior season of hockey at Edina High School after knee surgery on his other knee. He was injured playing football. 

"But the good news is, where we are at now in technology and what you can do with surgeries, you can come back at 100 percent."

* On off-field problems: "Between mono and mopeds we are getting eaten up by non-hockey related injuries, But that’s why we had as many players as we [27] did to start the year.

"Three of the guys that are out are non-hockey related. It’s frustrating, but if you are going to go through this, I would rather now than in February or March. Hopefully the black cloud will go away and the sunshine will start shining on this team. We are not going to feel sorry for ourselves and we are not going to make excuses."

 * On how strong the WCHA is: "UMD has got a real good team this year. They have some veterans that can score, they’ve got a great power play. North Dakota has got a real veteran team this year, and older guys that elected to come back and not turn pro. There is a reason those two [teams] were picked right where they were." North Dakota was the preseason WCHA favorite in the coaches' and media's polls, Minnesota Duluth was picked second in one, third in the other.

* On senior defenseman Cade Fairchild: "Cade played very well this [past] weekend. He was jumping up into the play offensively. He played this weekend, the last few games, like we expected him to play.

"[Cade] and Aaron [Ness] have to be the leaders back there [on the blue line]. Aaron has really taken a step. Cade struggled early the first few weeks, and now he seems to have found his game this past weekend. And there is no coincidence when he played like he did, our team was a lot better."

 * On mood swings this week: "I felt good Sunday. I was in a good mood and now I feel like I  am rop-a-doping right now."

 * On Gophers' lineup vs. Wisconsin: "We will probably have five freshman forwards playing this weekend. They have to contribute as well, maybe not so much scoring a big goal as much as playing good sound defense and playing it even.  And hopefully your top-end guys can decide the game."

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