On the heels of their fifth loss in eight games, the Gophers' are hoping the early return of Hudson Fasching and Ryan Collins will infuse some life into the team.
Fasching and Collins returned to Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon after the U.S. National Junior Team was eliminated at from the World Junior Championships on Friday in Montreal, Canada. They won't require any time to rest with Fasching returning to the second line and Collins skating as the extra defenseman.
Though the Gophers are still without Sweden national standout Leon Bristedt and injured junior defenseman Brady Skjei, the addition of Fasching and Collins will help create more stability up and down the lineup.
Sophomore forward Connor Reilly said the Gophers were able to build good chemistry without the missing players, but their absence was noticeable in the Gophers' power play on Friday night. They were 0-for-4 on power-play chances and were unable to capitalize on three straight Merrimack penalties midway through the second period.
"We had a week-and-a-half of practice together, so just with practice reps and repetition and certain drills you can build that chemistry in four days for sure," Reilly said.
The chemistry should be even better on Saturday night with Fasching and Collins back in familiar roles.
Friday replay: Gophers return from break with another Mariucci Classic letdown, 3-2 loss to Merrimack. Read Friday night's game story and postgame blog. Watch postgame video of sophomore forward Connor Reilly, senior forward Seth Ambroz and coach Don Lucia.
My feature this week takes a look at Adam Wilcox's record-breaking first half of the season and how the goaltender plans to handle the pressure of carrying the team through the second half. Check out video of Don Lucia and Seth Ambroz previewing the tournament.
• GOPHERS SATURDAY LINES
Forwards (left wing, center, right wing)
Sam Warning, Kyle Rau, Connor Reilly
Taylor Cammarata, Justin Kloos, Hudson Fasching
A.J. Michaelson, Travis Boyd, Seth Ambroz
Christian Isackson, Vinni Lettieri
Defensemen (left, right)
Steve Johnson,Michael Brodzinski
Mike Reilly, Jack Glover
Ben Marshall, Jake Bischoff
Extra defenseman: Ryan Collins
Adam Wilcox, Nick Lehr, Ryan Coyne
• Minnesotans in the tournament
Massachusetts-Lowell: Chris Forney, Fr., D, Thief River Falls; Lucas Kohls, Fr., D, Forest Lake
Merrimack: Jared Kolquist, Fr. D, Hermantown; Ben Bahe, Jr. F, Stillwater
• MARIUCCI CLASSIC
No. 9 Massachusetts-Lowell 7, RIT 3
No. 18 Merrimack 3, No. 8 Gophers 2
Championship game: No. 18 Merrimack vs. No. 9 Massachusetts-Lowell, 4 p.m. — Live stream: GopherSports.com
Consolation game: No. 7 Gophers vs. RIT, 7:05 p.m. — Live stream: BTN Plus. Radio: 1500-AM.
Gophers at a glance: The Gophers (9-5-1) are 2-4-1 in their past seven games and the schedule won’t get any easier this weekend with a Mariucci Classic that features two other nationally ranked teams. The Gophers are also without two regular contributors. Brady Skjei is out with an upper-body injury and and Leon Bristedt is competing in the World Junior Championships with Sweden.
RIT at a glance: The Tigers (5-9-3) got off to a slow start this season but are 3-3-2 in their past eight games. Senior forward Matt Garbowsky is tied for first in the country in goals and junior forward Josh Mitchell is tied for seventh in assists. Their penalty-killing unit is fourth in college hockey with a 89.9 percent success rate. The last time the Rochester Institute of Technology played in the Mariucci Classic, the Tigers upset the Gophers 4-3 in the first round in 2007 but lost in the title game to eventual NCAA champion Boston College.
For more on the Mariucci Classic tournament field, read full series preview.