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Gopher Hockey Notebok: Injury bug hits Minnesota forwards + More

Injuries last weekend to Cara Piazza and Kate Schipper put nearly half of the Gophers’ top-9 on the shelf as Minnesota faces St. Cloud State. Plus notes on Emma May’s first 2 career starts.

Dani Cameranesi (Nathan Wells) Nathan Wells/SBN College Hockey

In Brad Frost's 17 years of coaching, he has never had this many injuries happen to players, let alone key ones.

Minnesota (17-5-3, 13-4-3-2 WCHA) could be without four of its top-9 forwards this weekend when the Gophers travel to St. Cloud State for games Friday (7:00 p.m.) and Saturday. (3:00 p.m.)

"By far. Not even close," said Frost about it being unprecedented to his Minnesota teams. "You have one here or there, maybe two. To have four missing a series is pretty tough."

Both senior Kate Schipper and junior Cara Piazza suffered injuries during last weekend's series against Ohio State.

Frost said Wednesday he was unsure of their statuses for the weekend.

Piazza, who has 58 points in 102 career games, missed Saturday's 1-1 tie with the Buckeyes. Schipper left Saturday in the first period and did not return. Prior to the injury she had appeared in all 25 games for the Gophers. Her 8 goals are good for fourth on the team.

They join Dani Cameranesi and Alex Woken, both of whom already missed large chunks of the year on the injury shelf and are not expected back in the lineup anytime soon, if at all this season.

Cameranesi, whose 18 goals in 19 games remain second in the nation, was first injured in Minnesota's 2-0 win December 3rd against Wisconsin. She returned for the UMD series on Friday January 13th and subsequently left in the first period of Saturday’s game against the Bulldogs with a lower body injury.

Woken suffered a lower body injury in the first period of Minnesota's 4-0 win over Bemidji State on November 26th.

Despite the injuries, Minnesota remains second in the WCHA with 44 points, one point ahead of Minnesota Duluth, and fourth in the Pairwise. Losing so many upperclassmen forwards in key roles does give an opportunity for others, going beyond the obvious names like Kely Pannek, Sarah Potomak, Nicole Schammel or Caitlin Reilly, to step up.

"I think Kippin Keller had a good weekend. She continues to play really well," said Frost. "(Lindsay) Agnew at center looks to be a lot more comfortable as well. We expect big things out of her. It's a joint combined effort with everybody and everyone has to bring it each time."

The injuries have shuffled around a Gopher lineup which spent much of the year icing 11 forwards. Sophomore defender Sophie Skarzynski moved up to forward against Ohio State.

This doesn't include players missing time for national team duty, injuries that appeared to be more serious like Sarah Potomak being checked into the boards against Bemidji, or the flu, which has been going around Minnesota in general. The latest was goalie Serena D'Angelo.

Other notes:

-Offensively there has been a dip after Cameranesi went down, but not as much as you would think comes from missing a player averaging a nation-leading .95 goals per game. Minnesota averaged 3.47 goals per game when Cameranesi went down on December 3rd. The team has scored an average of 3.12 goals stretch she has been missed.

-Where the dip comes is on the other end of the ice. On defense the Gophers are 32nd out of 35 teams, averaging 3.5 goals per game given up versus 1.24 prior. Obviously Minnesota giving up eight goals to Wisconsin the first day, kicking off a 3-4-1 stretch, helps to warp the numbers. It starts to even out some with the Buckeyes scoring a combined two goals in two games against the Gophers.

-Sophomore Emma May started her first two career games last weekend and held her own in a goaltending duel Saturday against OSU's Kassidy Sauve. She found out Thursday that she'd be out on the ice starting in place of Sidney Peters.

"I definitely had the jitters," she said about her first start. "I got on the ice and everyone was pumping me up. It was exciting. Going out there, I was like 'Emma, time to settle down. This is your time to go.'"

Frost said it was time to make a change with Peters having started every game up to that point. He hadn't decided who would start Friday between May and Peters although was happy with May's play last weekend.

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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 --