Former St. Thomas All-American Simon Gondek will be a beat writer for the MCLA this spring, covering the association with an Midwest emphasis. He starts his preview session with the University of Minnesota. Want to write for MCLA.us for your conference? Send an email to email@example.com.
by Simon Gondek | MCLA.us
(Photo: Braden Doucette)
The Gophers had their best season of the Rich Limpert era in 2017, posting 11 wins, including impressive victories over Boston College and MCLA Division II powerhouse St. Thomas.
Prior to the CCLA playoffs, the Gophers were optimistic about making an MCLA tournament run, as they only had losses to Colorado, Colorado State, CCLA rival Michigan State. The Gophers weren’t able to garner a rematch with Michigan State and a chance to go to nationals, falling to Pittsburgh in the CCLA semifinals.
What should we expect out of the Gophers this season? Are they ready to make a push to the 2018 MCLA National Championships powered by Under Armour?
Postseason finish: Lost in CCLA semifinals to Pittsburgh
Roster losses: Losing goalie Matt Jorgensen, who was a four-year starter for the Gophers will hurt. The defense also takes a big hit as all of the starting defensemen from last year’s squad graduated. Bodhi Engum and Nick Abbott, two starting attackmen and two of the Gophers three leading scorers from a year ago, are also gone.
The 2018 Gophers
Who to watch for:
Amar Batra, Soph., Attack (38g, 39a)
Batra exploded in his rookie season, leading the team in points. He wears down defenders and routinely draws all types of attention that allows him to feed for easy dishes on the crease. Look for Batra to have another great season.
Trent Woodcock, Sr., Midfield (20g, 11a)
Woodcock, Minnesota’s best midfielder, can either score on the run or in time-and-room situations. He uses his body to get his hands free and opposing teams must use a long stick to contain him.
Josh Werkmeister, Sr., Midfield (12g, 3a)
Look for Werkmeister, a two-time captain for the Gophers, to have a breakout season. He will take on a larger role, and playing with Woodcock will give him a lot of opportunities to create a one-two punch in the midfield.
Charlie Kidder, A, Western Spring, Ill.
Four-time all-conference pick and second team All-Illinois in ’17, Kidder finished as Lyon Township’s career lead in points (252).
Malik Ekpenyong, M, Bloomington, Minn.
A transfer from Air Force, Ekpenyong was a four-time all-section and three-time all-conference pick at Bloomington-Jefferson. He was named to the state all-tournament team his senior year.
Tyler MacDowell, D, Apple Valley, Minn.
MacDowell was a second team all-state pick last year, helping Eastview finish the regular season as the top-ranked squad in Minnesota.
Achilles’ heel: Goalie and Defense.
The Gophers will have an entirely new defense with the loss of their goalie and all starting close defensemen. Losing so many defensemen hurts, and will impact this team during its run through a long season. Having the chance to win the CCLA or get an at-large bid will be tough for the Gophers without a proven defense or goalie. However, every year we see unproven players step up and make an impact, so don’t count out the Gophers.
“Those are big losses for us, however, we don't feel we need to rebuild,” said Limpert. “We have a great group guys who have been waiting in the wings, working hard and developing over the past couple years. They are ready to step up.”
Coach Limpert’s Analysis
"We have high expectations this year – we have to win the CCLA championship. It's not a "we want to" or a "we need to," we have to do it. Win that and then we make a run for the national championship.
"We've fallen short every year so far. Our players know what we have to do, and they understand how important this is for the program. Coming into this fall, the leadership this year as been amazing. All of the new players are on the same page and are bought in."