Just as Minnesota (18-2-4, 7-0-1-0 Big Ten) gets back one defenseman, the Gophers will be without two more.
Junior defenseman Ben Marshall will miss Friday's game against Michigan State (8-12-3, 2-4-2-2 Big Ten) due to a one-game suspension for his third game misconduct of the season in Saturday's North Star College Cup championship against Minnesota-Duluth. The suspension after 3 game misconducts is an NCAA rule. Each additional misconduct also brings a one-game suspension.
With 43 seconds remaining in the second period, Marshall skated hard and hit UMD forward Austin Farley in the neutral zone. Replays showed it closer to shoulder than head. With an emphasis on being safe, however, the junior and Detroit Red Wings draft pick was given a game misconduct and 5 minute major for contact to the head.
Video: Ben Marshall ejected for contact to head
Ben Marshall was ejected from the final of the North Star College Cup during the second period for a questionable hit to the head.
Farley, for his part, recovered after lying on the ice before being helped to the locker room. He came back for the third period with the rest of the Bulldogs. More importantly he scored his second goal of the game during that frame.
"My shoulder's a little banged up, but that's hockey. I didn't see the guy," he told SB Nation College Hockey following Saturday's 4-4 tie. (The Gophers won a shootout to take home the inaugural NSCC tournament title.) "I think I'll be fine for next weekend."
That didn't stop Gophers head coach Don Lucia from suggesting Wednesday that college hockey adopt college football's method of reviewing major penalties.
"It's something I spoke with (Big Ten Director of Officiating) Steve Piotrowski about," Lucia said. "With all of the video capabilities now, football has a rule where - if it's contact to the head - it's a fifteen yard penalty and you get ejected, but they go to video. If there wasn't contact to the head the ejection is off, the fifteen yard penalty stays.
"You know, hopefully, with the new rule changes this upcoming year, we can go to video in a situation like that."
Marshall, who has three of Minnesota's four game misconducts this season, also received one for spearing in an exhibition game against Lethbridge (BC) and a second for facemasking against UMD on November 24th.
Regardless, he will sit Friday and the Gophers, with only 7 defensemen, will be shorthanded on defense against Michigan State. Despite the return Saturday of Jake Parenteau, who suffered a broken leg against the Spartans in early December, Minnesota will also be without freshman Michael Brodzinski (San Jose Sharks).
Brodzinski, who has 10 points (5G-5A) in , was injured in the third period of Friday's 4-1 win over St. Cloud. (Side note: Between Mike getting injured and missing Saturday's championship and Jonny .scoring three times in a third-place finish for the Huskies, Brodzinski Bowl I featured a pair of Pyrrhic victories). He is expected out for a couple weeks with a lower body injury; as is senior forward Tom Serratore, who was injured late Saturday.
"Other guys are going to have to step up now and that's all part of the course of the season. The good thing is both of the injuries we do have right now are nothing that's going to prevent them from playing the rest of the year," said Lucia.
Serratore missed time earlier this season with a lower body injury. Redshirt freshman Connor Reilly previously took his place on the third line; an arrangement which worked out well. It's one I'd expect to see again.
The same can't be said about the blue line. The Gophers, currently on a 12 game unbeaten streak (its longest since the team was unbeaten in 22 in 2006-07) previously played 5 defensemen in a 2-2 tie against Colgate after being without Parenteau and a stateside-bound from Sweden Brady Skjei (New York Rangers). Playing 65 minutes in the first game after a month-long break didn't help either, but there were moments of fatigue with long changes. Several defensemen put in 26-30 minutes total time on the ice.
Throw in Parenteau playing just his second game and Friday might be interesting. The senior defenseman does slip into Brodzinski's spot alongside Mike Reilly (Columbus Blue Jackets), which he held until being injured, and both Skjei and Justin Holl (Chicago Blackhawks) have spent the entire season together.
That leaves freshman Jake Bischoff (New York Islanders) the odd man out; a spot he also held against Colgate. I'm curious to see if he is rotated in or gets a partner from a transplanted forward. (That last sentence could also be the start of a hockey buddy-cop comedy. "You're playing by my rules now, forward!" Okay I'm done.)
Ryan Reilly played that part last time. However, he was more insurance than actually being used on defense. Acting head coach Mike Guentzel instead decided to roll with 5 D. While Parenteau has gotten the rink rust out of his system Saturday, there is more of a case to be made with an extra defender in lieu of Marshall and Brodzinski.
Especially given how things went the last time.
Then again, Minnesota's defense did stop Colgate despite being shorthanded. There were moments when only 4 blue liners were out there due to penalties. Sophomore goalie Adam Wilcox has also buckled down in the last two weeks and the team was able to win and tie despite being out-shot and out-chanced both nights last weekend.
"We have to give a ton of credit to Adam Wilcox for this past weekend," Mike Reilly said Wednesday. "We have to pick it up (going forward) and start focusing a little bit better."
Either way, Friday presents a challenge - one the Gopher staff didn't want to see themselves face so soon - with Marshall on suspension. Five defensemen have to play like six; at least for one night.
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Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate