MINNEAPOLIS — As pregame superstitions in hockey go, the ritual that Scott Reedy — the Minnesota Gophers’ leading goal scorer — shares with teammate Ryan Zuhlsdorf is pretty tame.
Before facing Bemidji State in the Mariucci Classic in late December, about the time that the team’s season turned around, Reedy and Zuhlsdorf locked eyes while drinking the same flavor of energy drink before heading out on the ice. They shared a friendly “cheers.” Reedy scored twice. The Gophers won, and a ritual was born.
How that simple pregame toast can affect the fortunes of a hockey team, or the scoring prowess of one particular player, is a mystery. But with Reedy more than doubling his goal output from last season as the team battles for the Big Ten title, Reedy and Zuhlsdorf are going to stick with whatever is working, offering each other a toast with an energy drink before every game since the holidays. And recently, everything Reedy is doing with the puck seems to click.
In late January, Reedy missed a pair of wins over Ohio State with an upper body injury. In the six games since, he has five goals and nine points, as the team has gone 4-1-1. Playing wing on a line with speedy sophomores Blake McLaughlin and Sammy Walker, Reedy’s broad-shouldered 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame provides some heft, and his quick release with the puck provides some goals.
“He’s got size, so he creates some space for those two,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. “He’s got a terrific shot, and they get him the puck, and he can play in traffic.”
The current line combination was born from desperation a month ago. When Reedy was injured late in an exhibition game versus the USA Hockey U-18 team, Motzko needed to replace his spot in the lineup. Motzko put freshman Ben Meyers at center between Sampo Ranta and Brannon McManus, and that trio had immediate success versus the Buckeyes.
So when Reedy returned to the lineup, Motzko moved him from center to wing on a new line. The numbers, and the eye test, both say it worked.
“I think his natural position is wing, and we had him out of position,” Motzko said, admitting that a few weeks ago at Wisconsin, Reedy had some struggles adjusting to the new position. “I remember his first weekend, it wasn’t pretty. He kept drifting to the middle and playing on the wall. But he’s gotten more comfortable and it’s all coming back to him. He’s playing pretty good hockey right now.”
Playing away from home
Reedy comes from a hockey family. His older brother, Will, plays for Bethel University. His father, Dan, has been known to show off a 40-year-old team photo from a group of squirts in the Chicago suburbs, when Dan was teammates with a chubby kid named Brett Hull.
After getting a start in the Lakeville and Prior Lake youth hockey systems, Scott skipped the Minnesota high school hockey scene, spending his eighth-, ninth- and tenth-grade seasons at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, then playing for the USA Hockey development program in Michigan as a high school junior and senior.
After living on campus at Shattuck, the move to suburban Detroit to play alongside current college standouts like North Dakota’s Grant Mismash and Penn State’s Evan Barratt went smoothly.
“I was out of the house but not too far from home. I definitely grew up there, learning to be away from the parents and away from the family,” Reedy recalls of his three years in Faribault. “That was a nice step and a nice warmup to going to Michigan.”
Reedy scored seven goals as a Gophers freshman under Don Lucia, and another seven last season playing for Motzko. This season he has more than doubled that total, although even those on his line have not figured out the secret to Reedy’s success.
“I don’t know,” McLaughlin said with a grin when asked what is working for Reedy. “The guy’s got, like, 15 goals. I think he’s just got the touch.”
That touch isn’t an accident. Reedy spent countless hours over the summer working on getting shots off quicker, and firing pucks with accuracy from all points in the offensive zone.
“I’m just finding my game again. It feels good to be healthy,” Reedy said of his post-injury success. “I’m obviously playing with great players and I worked a lot on my shot in the off-season, so I’m back to playing my game.”
For Gophers fans, that success is worthy of a toast. So raise an energy drink, and say “cheers.”