Minnesota series a reunion for several Spartan hockey players


John Draeger grew up with everyone around him admiring the Minnesota Gophers.

The MSU hockey freshman defenseman and Faribault, Minn., native said growing up, “it (was) just the team” everyone followed.

And this weekend, Draeger will step onto the Gophers’ ice for the first time, skating in a green and white jersey to try and hand his home-state team an upset loss.

“I’ve had this date circled for a long time now, and I’m really excited to head back” Draeger said, adding he expects to see a lot of familiar faces in the stands. “I’ve had quite a few requests for tickets. I think there will be quite a few Draeger family members there.”

As a player at Shattuck-St. Mary’s High School in Minnesota, Draeger was a member of a nationally recognized program, earning two Tier I national back-to-back championships his junior and senior years.

During the 2011 championship, he played alongside current MSU sophomore forward Tanner Sorenson, who was team captain of Shattuck-St. Mary’s that year.

Despite being a Canton, Mich., native, sophomore forward Brent Darnell is familiar with multiple members of Minnesota’s current team as well.

Darnell played for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League for two seasons, located near the border of South Dakota and Minnesota.

“I know a lot of them,” Darnell said. “I played with four or five of them in juniors in Sioux Falls. I played overseas with (Nick) Bjugstad.”

For the rest of the MSU Spartans, the game is another must-win, but for Draeger and Darnell, there’s a personal aspect thrown in the mix, upping the stakes and making a win that much sweeter.

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