By Jess Myers
MINNEAPOLIS — In an ideal world, you play college hockey to win a championship and earn a degree. Tyler Nanne has accomplished the latter of those goals, and will give it another go in search of the former next season.
On Wednesday Nanne, a Minnesota Gophers defenseman from Edina, Minn., said he plans to return to the University of Minnesota for his senior season. The decision comes 10 days or so after Nanne walked across a stage on ice level of the Gophers’ home arena and collected his diploma for the business education marketing degree he earned.
“It was good to get that out of the way. I’m coming back for one more year,” said Nanne. “I think in the long run it’s going to help me out. I’ve only played two years with the Gophers and I’m only going to get better. I really like the coaching staff and the guys on the team and I think that one more year would solidify myself.”
Nanne spent a season at Ohio State after high school but never suited up for the Buckeyes due to a heart condition that kept him out of games. He then sat out a year after transferring to the U of M, so getting up to college hockey speed took some time. He played 37 games for the Gophers as a sophomore and all 38 games last season, recording new career highs with five goals and eight assists. He led the Gophers with 70 blocked shots.
“I felt that from Christmas on, as Tyler is really learning and discovering exactly where his strengths are and how he’s got to be, I thought he was very, very good for us,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said, acknowledging Nanne’s two seasons out of the game. “Part of it is he’s getting more comfortable. He’s getting experience…What we started to see is him catching up to where he’s one highly competitive, tough, great-skating defenseman.”
Nanne said that in terms of team goals, he wants to help get the Gophers back to the national tournament for the first time since 2017, and make a run at the program’s sixth NCAA hockey title. The first third-generation player in the program’s history, after his grandfather Lou and his father Marty both skated for the U of M, Tyler was a fifth-round pick of the New York Rangers in 2015. His cousin Vinni Letteri is in the Rangers system currently and skated in 27 NHL games last season.
Motzko has said that the team’s captains will be determined by the players and announced in the fall. Nanne will be one of three seniors on the roster, and would welcome a leadership position if one is offered.
“That’s another reason I’d like to come back. Back in Edina in the high school days we had a smaller senior class and I was a captain,” he said. “I really liked being the captain and hopefully that can be the case next year, or a leadership role. Just kind of leading on and off the ice and mentoring the new kids. We have a lot of new kids, so being a veteran it will be good.”
The Gophers’ 2019-20 schedule has not yet been announced, but a few games are starting to take shape based on opponents’ schedules that have been released. For example, the Gophers have a road series at Colorado College on Oct. 10-11 and a home-and-home series with two-time defending national champs Minnesota Duluth, with a game in Minneapolis on Oct. 25 and the rematch in Duluth the next night. They will host their other in-state rivals — Bemidji State, Minnesota State Mankato and St. Cloud State — over the holidays in the Mariucci Classic tournament.