"We have question marks going into the year," Gophers coach Don Lucia said on Thursday even after Nick Bjugstad told him he would be back for his junior season.

Lucia said a college hockey team can't just start where it finished the season before.

The Gophers, of course, finished strong, winning the West Regional with wins over Boston University and North Dakota and advancing to the Frozen Four.

The Gophers's biggest uncertainty is in goal. Workhorse Kent Patterson is gone. He was a senior. Either freshman Adam Wilcox, who played for Tri-City in the USHL last season, or junior Michael Shibrowski, who hardly played last season, will be in goal.

Easing that worry is the blue line. The top six D-men return there and they will be hard-pressed to keep their jobs. Incoming freshmen Brady Skjei and Mike Reilly both come in with big reputations. Skjei is a defensive D-man, picked in the first round of the NHL draft last month by the New York Rangers.

Reilly is an offensive defenseman. He tore up the British Columbia Hockey League last season. He had more than 80 points in the regular season playing for Penticton.

One D-man not back is sophomore Chris Student. He is transferring to a Division III college. He was buried on the depth chart at the U.

"We have good leadership and a good work ethic with this group," Lucia said.


Bjugstad said he is very confident in his decision to return: "I am kind of relaxed now."

* On Gophers: "After last year, expectations are a little higher, but that is a good thing. We will hard the rest of the summer."

* On Florida's reaction to his decision: He said when he left their development camp last week the Panthers knew which way he was leaning. "They said give is some more thought."

* On his sophomore season: "I thought I was good for three-fourths of it, and then I kind of died. I would like to finish off a full season."

* On his family's reaction: "They are excited to be able to watch me another year at home. They have supported me. My dad helped me out with the pros and cons. We sat down and broke it down. ... He left the decision up to me. I'm going to be 20 on Tuesday. I'm getting out of my teenage years."

* On Florida's development camp: "It was a good camp. We scrimmaged a couple of times. I got to play with some good players."

* On Minnesota hockey: "It is hard for people to understand in Canada and down South what Minnesota hockey is like. The fans are great and they love hockey, and this atmosphere. Minnesota has been known as a topnotch school. Then there is the coaching staff we have and my teammates and the opportunities we have. ..."

Bjugey appreciates it all.

* On why getting a college degree is so important to him: "Obviously, you can not play hockey your whole life."