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Gophers Hockey: A new Wisconsin memory for Connor Reilly

An unassuming goal was a big one for Reilly in his return to Madison.

Matt Christians/SBN College Hockey

Every goal is a memory, one that tells a story. Lost among the thirteen Minnesota scored last weekend was a special moment by redshirt junior forward Connor Reilly.

Reilly had Minnesota's seventh of nine goals Saturday against Wisconsin. His didn't stand out or make the Sportscenter Top 10 plays.

Last weekend was his first in Wisconsin since a Corbin McGuire knee to knee hit ended Reilly's sophomore season.

"Obviously it was kind of a personal weekend but I tried not to make it like that. I wanted to make sure our team got two wins," he said.

Looking forward to the weekend and Wisconsin rivalry, which he said had not lost its luster, Reilly had memories of 2015 driving by the rink last weekend, but he tried to focus less on himself.

At the time of the hit, his third major knee injury, Reilly led Minnesota in scoring and was the team's most dependable asset on the power play. After spending the summer rehabbing, this season has featured another long road back. He has maintained his top-nine and power play spots. Up until the Michigan State series January 13-14 Reilly only had one goal, which was an empty-netter at the buzzer against Notre Dame.

Frustrating as it was for him to be snakebit, the Chanhassen, MN native tried to go back to what had worked a year before. He spent time trying to not solely focus towards the end result of a goal and instead focusing on little things in his game to reach that end result.

Most of all, both he and the Gophers are not playing to make mistakes. That has made a world's difference from the beginning of the season, he said.

"When you're playing and you're not afraid to make mistakes it's much easier to really make the plays and really set a guy loose or create more chances, more opportunities," said Reilly. "There's also more risk with that, but the reality is I think everyone is coming along.

"Every single player is playing well for the most part. We've gotten some good production from a few guys. We're defending really well. The reality is you have to defend well if you want to win at the end of the year. I think that's been a plus for us these past few weekends too."

Reilly now has two goals in as many weekends. Although the power play remains a work in progress his team, winners of five straight and eight of ten, and Reilly left Wisconsin with a couple victories and a better memory of Kohl Center than twelve months ago.

"I guess when one full year passes you're not going to be pissed off or angry as much as I initially was,"
said Reilly. "Scoring, I wasn't really looking for revenge or anything, but the best revenge is two wins there and sweeping them was big."


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 --