MINNEAPOLIS — While gambling of any sort is not only frowned upon but strictly prohibited in the context of college athletics, the Minnesota Gophers seem to be following a rule of poker in picking the leadership group for the 2021-22 men’s hockey season.

Namely this rule: Three of a kind always beats an ace.

The Gophers will have a trio of men wearing the “C” for captain on their sweater this season, one of which returns two previous seasons of experience in that role. Senior forward Sammy Walker will be a Gophers captain for the third consecutive season (he was a co-captain alongside defenseman Tyler Nanne when Walker was a sophomore). He will be joined by junior forward Ben Meyers and super senior goalie Jack LaFontaine, who will also be captains this season.

“These three guys have been leaders for our team since they stepped foot on campus, and they really showed what they were made of during last year’s run,” Gophers head coach Bob Motzko said in a statement released by the school. “All three are excellent representatives of the Gopher hockey program and the University of Minnesota, and we are looking forward to their leadership in what will be an exciting year for our team.”

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Walker was the team’s sole captain last season with three Gophers — LaFontaine, Meyers and Brannon McManus in alternate captain roles. McManus entered the transfer portal at last season’s end and will spend his final season of college eligibility with Omaha.

Walker is the team’s top returning scorer, having put up 13 goals and 16 assists for 29 points last season. Meyers is widely regarded as the muscle on the team, known for his hard-nosed play at forward. He is second among returning scorers on the roster with 12 goals and 16 assists for 28 points as a sophomore. LaFontaine, who will be playing his fifth season of college hockey, won the Mike Richter Award as college hockey’s top goalie last season, backstopping 22 of the Gophers’ 24 wins while posting a 1.79 goals-against average and a .934 saves percentage.

The Gophers went 24-7-0 last season, winning the Big Ten tournament before falling to Minnesota State Mankato in the regional final in Loveland, Colo. While the Big Ten has not yet released their 2021-22 schedule, the Gophers are expected to open the season at home on Friday, Oct. 2 vs. Alaska.