No active NCAA goalie has started more consecutive games than Minnesota Gophers junior Eric Schierhorn. Friday night, he’s expected to grace the crease for the 78th straight time, tying a school record.
Of much more importance, it will signal the start of the No. 11 Golden Gophers’ 2017-18 Big Ten season against No. 11 Penn State – a campaign in which Schierhorn is poised to become one of college hockey’s all-time dominant goalies.
Everyone I’ve spoken with likes the idea of conference play beginning this early in the season. That includes Schierhorn, who faces a nationally ranked team that, like his Gophers, has wobbled to a 1-1 season start. He’s already learned some key lessons from last Friday’s lid-lifter loss at Minnesota-Duluth.
“We blew two third-period leads,” he said, “but we have to have a short memory about that (4-3 overtime) loss.”
Except for rebound control. “That’s a key to my game, and it will be really important against Penn State”.
Schierhorn came to Minneapolis two seasons ago with a reputation for athleticism, aggressive puck handling and a strong lateral game. When he’s struggled, it’s been when the athleticism launches him in unpredictable directions and gets him out of sync with his defense. Head coach Don Lucia is satisfied that his junior netminder has made substantial progress in those areas. “Schierhorn is still very athletic but he’s much more square to the puck now,” he said. “I’m very confident that, barring injury, he could really have a tremendous year.”
As to that early-season start to conference play? Lucia said, “I like it. This could be a very big year for Big Ten hockey. I think you’re going to see a lot more parity, a number of split weekends all season long. It’s great that we get that started early on rather than having to wait until Thanksgiving on later.”
Friday’s game airs at 7 p.m., Sunday’s tilt at 3 p.m.on FOX Sports North. Ben Clymer and I are joined by ex-Gopher and US Olympian Krissy Wendell on our broadcasts this season. Can’t wait to welcome her!
DOUG McLEOD is the five-time Emmy Award-winning play-by-play announcer for Fox Sports and a longtime voice of Division I and NHL hockey. This is his 22nd season calling Golden Gopher hockey games.