Although British Columbia is obviously not of the same caliber as teams that the Gophers will face in the WCHA, it was still a good test for the team to gauge players' abilities. Don Lucia continually mixed up the lines but started Jay Barriball, Mike Hoeffel and freshman Erik Haula. It was pretty impressive the Lucia went Haula early on, putting him on a line that should score lots of goals. Haula was probably one of the most impressive freshman on the team.
At 5-foot-10 and 184 pounds, Haula is not the biggest guy on the ice but played with a definite aggression. One play that he scored on, he checked the British Columbia player at the Gophers' blue line and took the puck to make a pass then streaked down the ice to get in great position for an easy goal. Haula is a fast skater who seems to have a better hockey sense than most skaters on the ice. Haula was very impressive and will most likely put up great numbers for a freshman this season.
The second forward line that Lucia used was Jacob Cepis, Zach Budish and freshman Nick Bjugstad. This was probably the most interesting line combination of the night due to the size and strength of Bjugstad and Budish coupled with the small size, speed and playmaking ability of Cepis. Cepis seemed to pick up where he left off last season, making plays, showing great hustle and setting his teammates up. Cepis tallied one goal and one assist in the game.
Bjugstad, a highly touted freshman from Blaine played well but did not record a point in the contest. Bjugstad skated hard, which is promising being that some players have his caliber tend to float around and wait for plays to come to them. Bjugstad back-checked and hustled to pucks. Once he adjusts to the speed and pace of the college game, he will become a solid contributor on one of the top lines for the Gophers.
Possibly the most surprisingly impressive player of the night was freshman Tom Serratore. Serratore was not a highly touted recruit and played in the NAHL instead of the USHL like most Gopher recruits. When Serratore got on the ice, he played at 100% the entire time he was playing. He was all over the ice, hitting players and making plays. Serratore looked for the big hit whenever possible.
Serratore's skills were also very impressive. He scored one goal on the night which was a snipe to the top corner that gave the goalie no chance for a save. Later in the game, Serratore hit two posts and great shots that easily could have been goals. If Serratore gets ice time, he could be a very exiting energy player on the third or fourth line.
Defensively the Gophers looked solid, quelling the British Columbia offensive attack. Returning players, Aaron Ness, Cade Fairchild, Kevin Wehrs and Seth Helgeson all played well. Helgeson looked bigger and quicker than last season and should be an anchor on the blueline this year. The Gophers' defense is a big question mark because there are so many freshman who will get ice time this season.
Freshman Justin Holl looked like the player he was in high school. It made good decisions on defense and jumped up into the play offensively many times. Holl will have to stay on the blueline more often once the Gophers start playing better teams but his offensive ability was encouraging.
Nate Schmidt of St. Cloud is a thick kid who is always looking to take the body. Physicality on defense is something that the defense has been lacking recently.
Another freshman, Mark Alt also played well despite his lack of college experience. Alt is a big kid who will even grow bigger as he progresses through his career. Alt is a great defender and was almost always in good defensive position.
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