College hockey teams are restricted to a 22-player travel party for regular-season games, but the University of Denver found an extra warm body at frigid North Dakota on Thursday.In a show of team solidarity, and on the heels of last week's departure of leading scorer Brock Trotter, injured sophomore center Tyler Ruegsegger paid his way to Grand Forks. The Lakewood native, who has no chance of facing the Fighting Sioux tonight or Saturday at Ralph Engelstad Arena, is out with an abdominal injury.
DU's third-leading scorer also missed last weekend's series against Minnesota.
"He took care of his flight, and he'll pay for his hotel and all his meals. Everything," Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky said. "That tells you a little bit about his commitment to the team, which is awesome."
Gwozdecky was speaking by phone from somewhere between Fargo and Grand Forks, where the temperature was minus-16 with an expected low to fall to minus-33 early this morning. That's no place for a player with an inflamed stomach muscle.
"When you're injured, you don't make the travel party, but I love being around the team and support them in whatever way I can," Ruegsegger said. "We have such a close brotherhood, I was more than happy to pay my own way and come up here."
Ruegsegger said he brought his skates, just in case he finally gets clearance to step on the ice for the first time since Feb. 2, when he suffered the injury at Minnesota State.
"Hoping to get on the ice up here a little, no equipment or anything, and just skate and see how it feels," he said. "I'm hoping I'll be able to play next weekend."
The Pioneers also won't have freshman defenseman Chris Nutini (flu) this weekend, and will play their fifth and sixth games without Trotter, who signed with the Montreal Canadiens last week.
DU's last remaining extra players are freshmen defensemen Joey Brehm and Jon Cook, neither of whom has played this season. Both are on the trip.
North Dakota will be without head coach Dave Hakstol, who will serve a school-imposed two-game suspension for making an obscene gesture at a WCHA referee Feb. 2 in a game at Minnesota.
The Sioux, who are on a nine-game unbeaten streak (8-0-1), were idle last weekend. DU is coming off a 1-1 tie and 4-1 win against Minnesota.
"If we can get the kind of effort and execution like we did last week, we give ourselves a chance," Gwozdecky said. "That's all you can ask."