March 15, 2017 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Sheehy Leading The Pack In Gophers' Title Hunt

by Jashvina Shah/Staff Writer (@icehockeystick)

Minnesota captain Justin Kloos first met Tyler Sheehy around eight years ago. The pair laced up together during a summer camp, and Kloos instantly knew that Sheehy was good. But Kloos couldn’t predict just how good Sheehy would be — or the 52 points the sophomore would score this season.

“He thinks the game the right way and plays the right way,” Kloos said. “You can count on him to have a good career."

Sheehy, recently named the Big Ten Player of the Year, reached the 50-point mark on March 4 at Michigan. He scored two goals and netted an assist to help the Gophers defeat Michigan, 4-1, and propel them to an eventual Big Ten regular-season title — their sixth straight including two in the WCHA.

"He's playing with a lot of confidence from the start of the season [and] making a lot of good plays,” Kloos said. “He's always been a good offensive player. He's gotten a lot better in the D zone he's been a lot more reliable for our team and he's been outstanding all year."

The season hasn’t been easy for Sheehy, who lost his grandmother earlier in the year, and then some.

“Anything like that is probably the toughest,” Sheehy said. “One of my best friends growing up got in a really bad car accident and kind of left him with brain damage and he's no longer able to play hockey or anything like that, so seeing him go through that is probably the toughest thing that I've been through."

It was his grandmother who took him to hockey clinics when Sheehy was just starting ice hockey.

“I remember I was really mad and I kept wanting to get off the ice,” Sheehy said. “I kept telling her it was way too slippery so I couldn't get back out there.”

He grew to love the sport, though, and like most children from Minnesota, he wanted to wear Maroon sweaters with the thick “M” painted across the chest in gold. So when the Gophers recruited him, Sheehy knew where he would play.

Prior to joining the Gophers, the Burnsville, Minn., native spent two full seasons in the USHL split between several teams and was named to the USHL All-Rookie team in 2013-14.

“When I was in high school I didn't really pay too much attention to my position and things like that, whether that be playing defense or something like that,” Sheehy said. “That's something [in] my game that I continue to work on.”

Sheehy ranks tied seventh nationally and first among sophomores in scoring. He’s recorded 20 multi-point games this year and, along with his linemates Kloos and Rem Pitlick, has helped the Gophers average 3.78 goals per game — fifth in the country.

“It’s been a really good college hockey line, some skill, some speed, those guys can all make plays,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “Tyler and Justin are [both] perfect examples of what makes college hockey great. Undrafted guys that maybe are a little more undersized but have really good hands and thinks the game well. [Sheehy’s] got a great release. those are the things that really separate him a little bit, how well he thinks the game and he’s got a really quick release with his shot.”

While Sheehy’s defense and positioning is still a point of improvement, so is his skating.

“Hockey sense for sure is his top asset and he [has] a great shot,” Kloos said. “[He] can score from 20, 25 feet which is a huge asset to a goal scorer. [You] can't get to the net all of the time so being able to score from a little distance is nice and overall being in the right spot at the right time is kind of his MO.”

Despite being one of the nation’s top scorers, Sheehy is seldom talked about. And so are the Gophers, who sit fifth in the Pairwise and have a chance at winning their second Big Ten tournament. Minnesota’s overall record of 23-10-5 may not be as good as some of the top teams nationally — thanks to a difficult early season non-conference schedule — but the Gophers have gotten stronger as the season has gone on.

Even losing Tommy Novak and Ryan Lindgren for the rest of the season hasn’t deterred the team.

“Every single year I think this program has a pretty tough non conference schedule so I think that helps our Pairwise if you do well,” Sheehy said. “It prepares you for you conference [play] as well and it prepares you towards the end of the year and just prepares your team overall to become better.

“That's something that's really cool about playing for the Gophers is you get that tough non-conference schedule and get to play in different places."

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