Minnesota sophomore forward Tommy Novak will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.
“We’re really disappointed for Tommy, and losing him for the year is a big blow for our program,” head coach Don Lucia said in a statement released by the University. “The good thing is that we are lucky to have some of the top medical professionals in the country here at the University of Minnesota, and we know that Tommy will be in great hands as he recovers and rehabs from this injury.”
Novak will undergo season-ending surgery. He was injured with 1:40 remaining in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Michigan. The 19 year-old collided with Michigan forward Dexter Dancs and had to be helped off the ice. He was favoring his left leg, however, after the game Novak was able to walk around with some trepidation. No penalty was called on the play.
Lucia told SB Nation College Hockey following Saturday’s game he was going to be checked by doctors Sunday and that he was “keeping my fingers crossed.”
Novak, who broke a nearly two month goal drought in Friday’s 5-2 win, is the third Minnesota player in the last decade to suffer a season-ending lower body injury against Michigan. Ryan Stoa redshirted in 2007-2008 after a knee-on-knee collision in the second game of the season took him out of the Gopher lineup. The next year Taylor Matson caught his skate blade on the ice on his opening shift and missed the rest of the year.
Losing Novak means Minnesota needs to replace one of its top two centers and member of the power play beginning this weekend against Wisconsin. Options for the role include Vinni Lettieri and Rem Pitlick. Both players have experience at center with Minnesota, but depth at the position pushed both to roles on the wing. While there are options, Novak earned his spot over tough competition by being one of the team’s top playmakers and chemistry with a variety of different forwards. It’s tough to replace.
It also is an opportunity for players who have been in and out of the top-nine to steady their positions. Someone like a Taylor Camamrata or Connor Reilly or Luke Notermann, who started the year as a redshirt candidate, needing to catch up in the weight room and has gotten a chance in Minnesota’s last four games (all wins).
“If (Notermann’s) going to play well and keep contributing he’s going to earn a spot in the lineup,” said Lucia following Friday’s game.
Novak, a 2015 Nashville Predators third round pick, finishes his sophomore year with 14 points (5G-9A) in 20 games.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate