MINNEAPOLIS — Before he hopped on a transatlantic flight from Finland to Minnesota, where he is expected to arrive this week, Minnesota Gophers junior forward Sampo Ranta posted a video of some of his summer workout routine to Twitter.
The clips included a shot of Ranta doing a clean lift of 309 pounds (or 140 kilograms, as they say in Scandinavia). That routine is something he will be able to continue, with more room to spread out and socially distance, once he gets back to campus, with the official opening of the large-scale renovations inside 3M Arena at Mariucci.
The project, which began while the 2019-20 season was underway, and was completed with workers taking special precautions due to the pandemic, includes 11,000 square feet of remodeled space for an expanded training center and weight room, a new office suite and a new M Club alumni room. The project was funded by donations.
“We are absolutely thrilled with how this project turned out. Everyone involved did an unbelievable job, and we are so appreciative of the hard work and support that went into this project especially the generosity of Ron Peltier and Bob Eddy,” said Gophers coach Bob Motzko, in a statement from the school. “Many of our current players have seen the space and they are excited to use it. We are also excited to show it off to future and former Gophers when the time allows.”
While we do not yet know if and when students, alumni and fans will be allowed to attend games, the 4,560 square-foot M Club alumni room was designed as a multi-purpose space for the Gophers program and other athletic department personnel to use for recruiting and alumni events. The training and weight room includes a renovation of existing space, with upgrades to the equipment.
It has not yet been announced when the Gophers will hit the ice for their first practice, but with classes officially starting on Sept. 8 and student-athletes like Ranta making their way back to campus, one can rightfully expect the team will be skating and shooting soon. Big Ten rival Michigan, which features one of the nation’s most heralded freshman classes, had its first official practice on Monday, with Wolverines coach Mel Pearson noting the precautions being taken — things like masks and smaller on-ice groups — to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
Blurry Schmidt goal boosts Knights
As of Wednesday, the list of 17 former Gophers on NHL playoff rosters has been whittled down to just three defensemen who are still active — Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche, Nick Leddy of the New York Islanders and Nate Schmidt of the Vegas Golden Knights.
Typical of his high-scoring team, Schmidt has led the former Gophers offensively in the playoffs, with two goals and six assists in 13 games. Most notably, he has been a shooter for the Knights in their round robin games. In a first-round series win versus the Chicago Blackhawks, and in round two versus the Vancouver Canucks — a series that the Knights lead 3-2 heading into Thursday’s Game 6. Scmidt is second on the team (behind Shea Theodore) with 44 shots on goal.
Trailing 3-2 early in the third period of game four, Schmidt unleashed a one-timer slap shot that was past Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom and into the back of the net before anyone could blink. Even in slow motion, the rocketing puck is hard to pick up. That goal tied the game, which the Knights would go on to win 5-3.
New challenge for elder Potomak sister
Speaking of Gophers returning to campus, junior forward Amy Potomak, per her Instagram account, is in the process of making the long trip (26 hours, per Google Maps) from their family’s home outside Vancouver to the U of M campus. Her older sister, Sarah, who led the Gophers offensively as a senior last season, has a new challenge to tackle this winter.
In addition to striving toward a spot on Team Canada for the 2022 Olympics and playing professional women’s hockey, Sarah has been named an assistant coach for the women’s hockey team at Trinity Western University in the Vancouver suburbs.
“This just seems like a perfect opportunity for me. It honestly feels like God has planted this opportunity for me to work with these young women and work with (head coach) Jean (Laforest) and complete my school at TWU. I’m really excited for this opportunity,” Potomak said, in a statement from the school. “I’m looking forward to learning a ton and being part of a team in a different way. The fact that it is a brand new program is going to be a really cool experience to build a team and the culture of the team at TWU.”