Let's meet the crew.
Remember: a season / North Dakota series preview is here on Friday, along with short game recaps the day (at the latest) after every Gopher game this season. I may even live-blog some games depending on how things go (basketball, Brewster, interest).
Jay Barriball (Sr., Prior Lake, MN) - one of the more recognizable returnees, Barriball was third on the team last year with 11 goals and 23 assists. Played with Jordan Schroeder and Ryan Stoa last year on the first line. Barriball scored the opener against British Columbia in the team's exhibition, and also tallied two assists on a line with Schroeder and Mike Hoeffel. Will be leaned on to perform with the top line.
Mike Carman (Sr., Apple Valley, MN) - Carman played center his first three years at Minnesota, but has been used as a winger during fall practices. Carman has scored 21 goals his first three years, while also playing many minutes on the power play. If he does not play wing, he can revert to his center spot with Tony Lucia and Captain Ryan Flynn on the wings.
Jacob Cepis (Jr., Parma, OHIO) - sorry guys, I was wrong Tuesday when I said Sam Lofquist was the only non-Minnesotan. We actually have an Ohian on the team. Cepis will be eligible around the turn of the year. He played with Kevin Wehrs and Kent Patterson on the Cedar Rapids USHL team, scoring 72 points in 58 games. After that he joined Bowling Green and was named to the CCHA All-Rookie team after scoring 15 goals and 16 assists. However, last year he decided to transfer. Can't blame him - he found a way to the Twin Cities. After a period to regain his hockey footing in game situations, he will be expected to revert to his USHL and freshman form.
Ryan Flynn (Sr., Lino Lakes, MN) - The Captain. Flynn takes over from Ryan Stoa. Last year Flynn had 19 points in 37 games played. A rather big guy (6-3, 210 lbs.), it has taken time for Flynn to adjust to the Olympic-sized Gopher ice sheet. Along with the added role of leadership, Flynn will be expected to contribute double digits in goals.
Jake Hansen (So., White Bear Lake, MN) - Hansen came to Minnesota known as a prolific scorer, having notched 58 points in 60 games for Sioux Falls in the USHL. He was drafted by Columbus in round 3 of the 2007 draft. So, what happened last year? Seven points, none after January 30th, while playing on the fourth line for critical parts of the year, Hansen needs to rebound this year.
Mike Hoeffel (Jr., North Oaks, MN) - Based on reports from the first exhibition game, Hoeffel played on the first line with Barribell and Jordan Schroeder, which should do wonders for Hoeffel. Last year he had 12 goals and 20 points, and will be looked upon to fill the scoring gap left by Stoa.
Nick Larson (So., Stillwater, MN) - Larson returned last year from injury which forced him to miss the 2007-08 season. He played sparingly, tallying 2 points in 14 games. The key is for him to keep his health, and perhaps he will then get more playing time.
Tony Lucia (Sr., Plymouth, MN) - Recognizable name, and hasn't he been here 10 years? Last year Lucia had 17 points in 34 games, and likely will play with winger Ryan Flynn on the third line again this year.
Taylor Matson (So., Mound, MN) - Matson scored 1 point in 13 games before tearing his ACL against Michigan. Before the injury, he played center on the fourth line, and played penalty kill due to his speed. Matson seems to be on the road to recovery - hear it from Matson himself.
Joe Miller (So., Plymouth, MN) - Miller led Sioux City in the USHL with 49 points in 60 games in 2007-08 (and won the USHL's equivalent to the Lady Byng Trophy), and added depth to the Gophers squad last year. After contributing 3 points in 16 games, he will have to continue to work hard to see playing time.
Nico Sacchetti (So., Virginia, MN) - Sacchetti scored 7 points in 36 games last year, and is expected to take a greater role (hopefully on the second line) for the Gophers this year.
Jordan Schroeder (So., Prior Lake, MN) - Ah yes, a star. Schroeder had 13 goals and 32 assists as a freshman last year, and was named WCHA Rookie of the Year. He then was drafted in the first round by Vancouver, and recently has been named a preseason All American, and the preseason WCHA player of the year. No pressure then for Schroeder, who was third nationally in points last year. Expect the fireworks to continue this year.
Patrick White (Jr., Grand Rapids, MN) - After a record-setting career as a dual-threat quarterback at West Virginia......oh wait. White played well towards the end of last year, scoring eight points over the last nine games to finish with 16 points. He was drafted by Vancouver in the first round of the 2007 draft, and traded to San Jose. Much is expected, improvement and renewed effort is essential for White to help this team.
Josh Birkholz (Fr., Maple Grove, MN) - Birkholz was drafted by Florida in the third round of the 2009 draft, after scoring 36 points in 55 games for the USHL's Fargo representative. Birkholz is known for his speed, and also questions about his work ethic. Those both will be put to the test as Birkholz sets forth on his checking responsibilities this year. So far so good, as Birkholz assisted on Tony Lucia's goal in the exhibition against British Columbia.
Zach Budish (Fr., Edina, MN) - Budish missed the 2008-09 hockey season due to tearing his ACL while playing the barbarian sport of American gridiron football. Despite this, he was selected in the second round of the 2009 Draft by Nashville, and seems ready to go. He has definite size (6-3, 220 lbs) and should find his way to significant playing time this year.