Sam Rossini came to the Gophers this year on a path similar to many others. He's learned to play at the collegiate level day by day, and it is unclear whether he will see the ice this weekend as No. 7 Minnesota hosts No. 13 Harvard for the two teams’ first matchup in two years.
Rossini has the second best shooting percentage on the Gophers and is averaging 0.50 goals per game as a freshman defenseman.
“It’s a good feeling,” Rossini said. “I’m not really known as a goal scorer, so when the goals come, it’s fun. It’s fun for everybody else because they’re not really expecting it.”
Rossini has played in four of the Gophers’ 12 games this season, but he hasn’t played in both games of a weekend series.
Compared to assistant captain Ryan Lindgren, who has played in each game this season, Rossini hasn’t been a mainstay of the Gophers’ defense as a freshman. Still, the two are on equal footing when it comes to scoring goals; both Lindgren and Rossini have two scores this season.
“Everyone loves him,” Lindgren said. “You see him score a goal, and the whole bench is just fired up and it’s real exciting.”
Lindgren was on the ice for Rossini’s first goal, and said at first he didn’t know it was the freshman that scored it. Rossini was playing in his first collegiate game, scoring his first collegiate goal. As an added bonus, the goal came shorthanded against Penn State.
Rossini has five shots, good for a shooting percentage of .400, over .250 above the team average, and scoring an average of 0.50 goals per game in his four appearances, higher than any other player on the team.
Defenseman Steve Johnson said it's no surprise that Rossini has scored this season. Goals happen from getting to the puck to the net, and he had been doing a good job of that.
“The goals are a bonus,” said head coach Don Lucia. “I don’t think we expected him to lead our back end in goals at this point in the season.”
Rossini has scored goals in his limited time, but that limited time can be hard to manage. With a defensive group that is historically made up of older players, Rossini has been the odd man out a few nights on defense.
Lucia said he has been getting some playing time while running with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, with Rossini as the extra defenseman in a few cases.
“You’ve just got to be ready every game,” Rossini said. “You don’t know if you’re going to be in, but as long as you’re ready, you just do all you can when you’re out there, and try to make an impact.”
The transition from juniors at a familiar stop for Minnesota players, the Waterloo Black Hawks, was a big one for Rossini, and he said his biggest takeaway was learning how to deal with adverse situations.
While the defenseman may not play in every game and be in the routine of playing both nights of every weekend series, he has found a way to make an impact, and Lucia said that is a good step for the young defender.
“We need him to defend,” Lucia said. “[We need him to] be a hard guy to play against, be [a] good penalty killer more than anything else.”