The past year has been an emotional roller coaster for Eric Scheid, and the potential end to his college playing career has a certain amount of comfort and familiarity.
The native of Blain, Minn., returns to his home state for the Big Ten Men’s Hockey Tournament, with No. 3 seed Penn State hitting the ice in the first round Thursday.
Last August, he lost his father, Jim, to complications from a long bout with testicular cancer.
Jim Scheid played hockey at, and won a national championship in 1977 with, Wisconsin.
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The Nittany Lions open the tournament against the Badgers at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
“It’s been a pretty emotional year,” Scheid said at the team’s weekly media session Tuesday. “To go home and be able to play in front of all my friends and family against Wisconsin — my dad’s alma mater — is obviously pretty special. It’s funny how it works like that. But at this point I have to focus on what matters.”
Father and son were close, most obviously excelling in the same sport. They played together for hours on end at a rink Jim built in the back yard, and so much of Eric’s style comes from his father.
“The way I play, what I try to model myself after, I pretty much got all that from my dad,” said the 23-year-old, who will look to play professionally. “He always taught me to be an unselfish player and to distribute the puck. When he played, he was the guy that enjoyed getting the assist more than scoring a goal, and I kind of feel the same way.”
After his father passed away, Scheid paid tribute by changing his number from 19 to 23 – the number Jim wore with the Badgers. He still thinks about his father often, but hockey, while being an important connector, has also provided the means of escape. He could “zone in” on practices and games and forget about the loss.
The senior forward has scored 11 goals and assisted on 14 others this season. His 25 points are fourth on the team. For his career, including spending the 2011 season at Alaska Anchorage, he has 42 goals and 47 assists.
He and his teammates will look to bounce back from a three-game losing streak, and four losses in the last five games, in the Big Ten Tournament. After facing the Badgers, the Nittany Lions will then have to face No. 2 seed Michigan in the semifinals.
Penn State needs to roll all the way to a win in the finals if it hopes to cap the season with a trip to the NCAA tournament, and give Scheid some more good memories.
“We need a big win on Thursday,” Scheid said. “For me, I need to focus on making sure, come Thursday, no matter what’s going on, I give my best game.”
Head coach Guy Gadowsky had a long list of injury updates Tuesday, and it contributed to a long weekend at Michigan.
Dylan Richard and Vince Pedrie remain out of the lineup this week, as is James Robinson, who has missed nearly the entire season. It forced the team to play without a full complement of players last weekend.
On Friday, the team lost defenseman Luke Juha and forward Alec Marsh, and both missed Saturday’s game. Gadowsky said Juha is “day to day,” and his status is uncertain. Marsh is probable to play Thursday.
If Juha misses the game, forward Kenny Brooks will again move back as a defenseman, as he did last weekend and at other times during his career. Gadowsky said Brooks had two days of practice to prepare for the possible move. Going through last weekend’s experience with the lineup shuffling will prepare the Lions for this week.
“Once you go through that experience,” Gadowsky said, “to me right now, it’s not going to be — knock on wood — we should be better than that, so all the experiences leading up to that should make that mental adjustment easier.”
Eamon still the man
Despite the two lopsided losses to the Wolverines of 7-1 and 6-1, and a three-game losing streak in which he has been pulled from each game, Eamon McAdam remains the No. 1 goaltender heading into the Big Ten tournament and will start Thursday, according to the coach.
There were many factors contributing to Michigan’s lopsided wins, including the chase for higher seeds for this week and Senior Night festivities, but there also was the possibility Michigan coach Red Berenson may have been coaching his final home games.
The former Wolverine, and NHL player and coach, said in a pregame television interview he had not yet made up his mind, but rumors in Ann Arbor had him pondering retirement after 832 wins and two national titles over 32 seasons.
“I don’t know anything to be true,” Gadowsky said. “I’m not going to ask him. I have the ultimate respect for him, but it’s not my place to speculate or ask and so I’m not.”