Friday, March 10, 2017

Feature: Six seniors put Gopher hockey in a good place (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

One of the best compliments coach Don Lucia could give his six Gophers seniors came going into last weekend’s series against a Michigan team struggling without five players who departed early.

“I guarantee I’m a lot smarter because they’re back,” he said, calling them the team’s difference makers. “They’re guys you can’t replace.”

Minnesota’s 2016-17 senior class — forwards Taylor Cammarata, Justin Kloos, Vinni Lettieri, Connor Reilly and Mitch Rogge, along with defenseman Jake Bischoff — will be honored before Saturday’s regular-season finale against Michigan State. Their final series at Mariucci Arena carries a variety of emotions mixed with an opportunity to make history.

“Experiencing it, you realize (the four years) go by quicker than ever,” Bischoff said. “I’m going to try to live in the weekend and come away with a couple of wins.”

The first class to spend their entire playing tenure in the Big Ten has meant much to Lucia and the Gophers program due to their success and loyalty.

Leading Wisconsin by three points with two games remaining, Minnesota (22-10-2, 13-5-0) needs any combination of four points won by the Gophers or lost by the Badgers to win its fourth consecutive Big Ten regular-season title and sixth in a row overall dating back to 2012.

To do so would be an unprecedented feat in college hockey. Boston University won five straight Hockey East titles between 1993 and 1998.

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