Saturday, January 14, 2017

Pregame Blog: More on Tyler Sheehy's 2 goal night + Minnesota-Michigan Line Combinations

Trying to defeat the same team twice in a row is never easy. Minnesota would know as the Gophers try to sweep the Wolverines on Saturday. Both series last season saw Minnesota get blown out by Michigan on Friday only to regroup a night later and salvage a split.

That said, Minnesota's 5-2 win over Michigan featured several impressive performances.

Several players who hadn't celebrated a goal in a while did just that. Tommy Novak scored for the first time in nearly two months. Rem Pitlick, who had 46 goals in juniors last season yet entered the weekend with only two, showed why with another highlight-reel goal. (All three could be put in that category.) Junior defenseman Ryan Collins had two assists for his first multi-point game since November 28, 2014 at Boston College.

“The guys that we need scoring had a boost tonight,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia.

As a team, the Gophers nearly finished with both a nearly 2:1 shot and shot attempts (78-40) advantage against Michigan. Minnesota's special teams extended its penalty kill streak to 19 straight. Although this isn't the same Wolverines team as the one a year ago that could almost score at will and possessed one of the best power plays I've ever seen in college hockey, it was unable to get even strength chances against the Gopher defense in the final two periods.

However, the most impressive performance might have been one which on the surface sounds predictable. Tyler Sheehy scoring twice and assisting on Pitlick's goal. It's the fourth 2 goal game for him so far this season. He has points in 10 of his last 12 games.

Why impressive? His two goals came two days after being too sick to practice.

Sheehy, along with the rest of the Gophers, built on past performances Friday despite not being 100%. He leads Minnesota with 14 goals this season. That number already bests the sophomore forward's freshman total.

“You never want to look ahead and past an opponent, but at the same time you have to build off momentum from previous games,” said Sheehy. “It’s a little bit (difficult coming out of the break), but we were able to come out tonight fast and keep the momentum we had the last two weekends.”


Coach Lucia mentioned post game that he would likely make a couple changes for the second game of the two-game series.

He stuck to that word.

Forwards Brent Gates Jr. and Taylor Cammarata are out tonight. Connor Reilly comes back in and moves up to the second line with Vinni Lettieri and Novak. Leon Bristedt, meanwhile, moves back to the third line he has made his own as of late.

Not sure if Gates is a coach's decision, but if so that's a message sent only a couple games removed from the Grand Rapids, MI native scoring a hat trick. (UPDATE: Gates' absence is indeed from the illness going around the team.)

Ryan Norman replaces Cammarata on the fourth line.

Defense and goaltending remain the same. UPDATE: Jack Sadek has been scratched due to illness. Jack Glover will play.

Freshman Hayden Lavigne gets the nod in net for Michigan after Zach Nagelvoort allowed five goals Friday.

University of Minnesota Golden Gophers lines

Rem Pitlick (#15) - Justin Kloos (#25) - Tyler Sheehy (#22)
Connor Reilly (#21) - Tommy Novak (#17) - Vinni Lettieri (#19)
Leon Bristedt (#18) - Mike Szmatula (#9) - Luke Notermann (#11)
Ryan Norman (#23) - Darian Romanko (#26) - Jack Ramsey (#16)

Jake Bischoff (#28) - Ryan Lindgren (#5)
Steve Johnson (#4) - Jack Glover (#3)
Ryan Zuhsldorf (#20) - Ryan Collins (#6)

Eric Schierhorn (#37)
Nick Lehr (#34)
Brock Kautz (#1)
Tonight's game starts at 7 pm CT from Mariucci Arena. Fox Sports North Plus airs it on television. 1500 ESPN has radio coverage.

As a reminder, I am covering this weekend's series for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

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