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Gophers Hockey Notebook: Romanko out for a while

“He’s out for a while,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said on Wednesday, Jan. 2, as the team preps for Penn State’s visit on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 4-5. “A couple weeks more for sure.”

Romanko suffered a leg injury in the Gophers’ win over Ferris State last Friday, and has been seen in a walking boot. He had mainly been playing on the team’s fourth line and has one assist in 15 games.

New digs for the Oles

Mike Eaves might someday be known as the Six Million Dollar Man in Northfield, Minn., where St. Olaf College opens its new on-campus ice arena this weekend. Eaves, who coached Wisconsin to the 2006 NCAA title, is in his third season coaching at St. Olaf and spearheaded a $6 million fundraising campaign to give the Oles men and women their own home rink.

After years of sharing an ice sheet with Northfield’s high school and youth hockey teams, the 800-seat St. Olaf Ice Arena — built inside an already-existing campus building — opens on Friday with the the men and women both hosting games.

“It’s a little gem,” Eaves said on Wednesday, noting that the official grand opening is Jan. 19 when the Oles host Hamline University. “We’re still getting used to the glass and the boards, so it might be more like a neutral site at first. But it’s got seating on both sides and it’s like a very intimate dinner theater where you’re right on top of the stage.”

St. Olaf enters 2019 on a four-game losing streak and is currently 3-6-1 overall.

Milestone wins for Jackson, Sandelin

When the Gophers travel to Indiana to face defending Big Ten champ Notre Dame next weekend, they will be facing the hockey program’s all-time winningest coach. On New Year’s Eve, the Irish beat Boston College 4-0, giving Jeff Jackson 308 wins behind their bench, which is the most in program history.

Jackson is in his 14th season coaching Notre Dame and has led the Irish to the NCAA title game twice. He coached Lake Superior State to a pair of NCAA titles in the 1990s.

Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin notched a similar milestone for that program last week, when his team rallied to beat Minnesota State Mankato at the Desert Hockey Classic tournament in Arizona. Sandelin, now in his 19th season in Duluth, is now the Bulldogs’ winningest coach with his 351 victories. However, Sandelin was not in attendance for the milestone win as he is assisting with Team USA at the World Junior Championship in British Columbia.

No love for the Lions

The Gophers ended last season with four consecutive losses to Penn State, which cost them a trip to the NCAA tournament. While the Nittany Lions are the furthest-fling Big Ten rival for the Gophers, they might be the ones that make blood boil the most for returning players.

“I hate ‘em,” Gophers senior forward Rem Pitlick said. “I’m not happy about last year. That’s no good that we got swept two weekends in a row…I don’t know how that happened.”

Even after those four losses, the Gophers still hold the all-time series mark with Penn State, with a 14-9-0 record.

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