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Key Returnees: Nick Bjugstad, Kent Patterson, Mark Alt, Erik Haula
Key Losses: Jay Barriball, Jacob Cepis, Aaron Ness
It seems like every year for the past four years it’s been considered a rebuilding year for Minnesota. For Gophers fans, there are reasons to hope things will be different this year. Don Lucia’s job may depend on it.
The Gophers lose their top three scorers from last season in Jay Barriball, Jacob Cepis and Mike Hoeffel. To make matters worse, defenseman Aaron Ness bolted for the NHL after his junior year. However, the Gophers should crack the upper ranks of the WCHA again this season.
Among these reasons is the return of power forward Nick Bjugstad.
Bjugstad, a 2010 first-round NHL Draft pick, started off slow during the first half of last season, but the talent and potential of the 6'5" power forward was unquestionable. He finished the year with 16 points with all coming in the last 16 games of the season. He will have a breakout season.
Also returning is second team all-WCHA goalie Kent Patterson, who is one of the top goaltenders in the WCHA. The return of popular assistant coach Mike Guentzel also gives Gophers fans reason for hope.
Newcomers Seth Ambroz and Kyle Rau should also contribute immediately and will be counted on to provide offensive production for the Gophers.
It’s been a rough few years for the Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey program. This year, Gophers fans have some reasons to be optimistic.
Pictured: Nick Bjugstad should have a breakout season in 2011-12.