Coming into this season, Union forward Adam Presizniuk had missed just one game in his college career. He was suspended for violating team rules last November.
But in his 124th game as a Dutchmen, a broken right thumb knocked Presizniuk out of action for an extended period.
After missing the last six games because of that injury, Presizniuk has been cleared to play and could be back as early as
tonight, when the 12th-ranked Dutchmen face No. 19 Minnesota at 7 in the Gophers’ Dodge Holiday Classic at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.
Union (10-6-3) will take on Bemidji State in the second round at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“The thumb’s feeling better every day,” Presizniuk said. “I’m able to do a little bit more. It’s coming along.”
Union coach Nate Leaman said it will be a game-time decision as to Presizniuk’s return to the lineup tonight.
“He has been skating with us, but it’s been pretty limited,” Leaman said. “I think he’ll eventually be ready.”
Presizniuk broke the thumb when he was checked from behind in the second period of Union’s 4-3 overtime loss to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Nov. 13 at Houston Field House. He had five goals and 12 assists in 12 games and was among the nation’s leading scorers at the time of the injury.
Presizniuk is tied with Jason Walters as Union’s all-time Division I leading scorer with 115 points.
“It’s frustrating sitting in the stands,” Presizniuk said. “I’ve never had to over my career.
It’s tough to sit in the stands when you really want to be out there and playing.”
Presizniuk’s absence has been felt. The Dutchmen are 3-3 without him in the lineup. In the three losses, Union was shut out by Yale and scored just two goals in a two-game series against Western Michigan.
“He’s been missed a lot, obviously, especially in Yale and Western Michigan, when we were looking for a guy to step up and get that big goal or that big point for us,” Leaman said. “Adam has been the guy that’s done that for us for four years. Yeah, he’s been missed, but any team in the nation would miss their leading scorer.”
Presizniuk’s teammates will be happy to have him back, whether it’s this weekend or next weekend, when the Dutchmen resume ECAC Hockey play.
“It will be very important,” Union captain Brock Matheson said. “It’s always great when we have ‘Preszie’ in the lineup. He does so much for us on our power play, and he’s on our top line. We hope he’s there. If not, we have other guys who can fill the void.”
The Dutchmen went into the Christmas break thinking about their 2-1 and 3-1 losses at Western Michigan two weekends ago.
Tonight’s game won’t be any easier. The Gophers (9-7-2) boast a roster with 19 NHL draft picks. One of those players, forward Nick Bjugstad, is playing for the Team USA in the World Junior Hockey Championships. Bjugstad’s NHL rights belong to the Florida Panthers.
Union also will have to play on a wider ice surface. The Mariucci Arena ice rink is 200 feet long by 100 feet wide, 14 feet wider than Union’s Messa Rink.
“It’s just about us executing our game plan,” Matheson said. “For the ‘D,’ it’s staying in the dots. For the forwards, it’s getting in on the forecheck and getting puck possession. If we stick to our game plan, we’ll be all right.”
Union is making its third trip to the Dodge Holiday Classic. The Dutchmen are 1-2-1. In 2000, they lost to the Gophers, 3-2, and tied
Bemidji State, 2-2. In 2005, the Dutchmen dropped an 8-0 decision to the Gophers, and beat Canisius, 2-0.
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Categories: College Sports