The Gophers are anxious to get into a rhythm. An odd early season schedule left college hockey’s No. 1 team feeling like the season had yet to begin. That’ll change this weekend when Bemidji State visits Mariucci Arena.
The Gophers opened the season in front of only several hundred fans at the Ice Breaker Tournament in South Bend, Ind., two weeks ago. Then an early bye kept them off the schedule last weekend. The home-opener is the first of five straight weekends of at least one game at Mariucci Arena.
“It’s kind of like a start over to our season,” coach Don Lucia said. “We practice for a week then play in the Ice Breaker and have two weeks off. We’ve yet to play our first home game and it’s towards the end of October.
“It’s great to practice, but you have to play games in order for guys to get a better idea of what they're capable of doing and fighting for spots on the team. Guys can look good in practice, but who’s going to do it in a game?”
Swedish freshman forward Leon Bristedt will make his collegiate debut on Friday. Lucia wouldn’t confirm what line he would skate on, but Bristedt was paired on the first line with Kyle Rau and Hudson Fasching during Wednesday’s practice.
Lucia also said that the line combinations would continue to change early in the season and throughout games.
The Gophers will unveil their 2014 Big Ten regular-season championship banner during Friday’s pregame ceremonies. Saturday’s game will feature a ceremony honoring last year's First Team All-American Mike Reilly. He is the first First Team selection since Ryan Stoa in 2009 and is the program’s 42nd All-America honor,
Video from Wednesday's media access:
Coach Don Lucia:
Junior defenseman Mike Reilly: