DENVER -- In the span of a few months in 1980, former Bowling Green defenseman Ken Morrow won an Olympic gold medal with Team USA and a Stanley Cup with the New York Islanders.
If Sunday night’s results were any indication of the way things will go for the Colorado Avalanche in the coming weeks, former Minnesota Gophers forward Sampo Ranta has a chance to win a Big Ten playoff title and a Stanley Cup in the same season.
Ranta, who signed with the Avalanche in early April, shortly after his junior season of college hockey ended one game shy of the Frozen Four, made his NHL debut on Sunday in Colorado’s 7-1 blowout of the Vegas Golden Knights in the opening game of their second round playoff series.
Wearing jersey number 75 for the Avalanche, who were the NHL’s top regular season team, Ranta started the game on the team’s fourth line, playing right wing with Alex Newhook on the left side and Pierre-Edouard Bellmare at center. When he stepped on the ice in the first period, Ranta became the 22nd former Gopher to play in the NHL this season, and the 11th to appear in the league’s playoffs. Newhook is also a recent collegian, after playing for Boston College until the Eagles’ season ended in March.
In his debut, Ranta was on the ice for 7:47 and did not record a shot on goal. In fact, he finished a -1 as he was on the ice when William Karlsson scored the only goal for Vegas. Game Two of the series is Wednesday night in Denver. In 14 games with the Avalanche's top farm team, the Colorado Eagles, Ranta had seven points.
Ranta, who turns 22 on Memorial Day, led the Gophers with 31 points in 31 games as a junior, and was named first team All-America and first team All-Big Ten. He is the 123rd all-time Gopher to play in the NHL.