Bjugstad and Schmidt (right) bump fists before the 2012 West regional semifinal (Photo credit: Sherri LaRose-Chiglo/St. Paul Pioneer Press)
After the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers were upset by Yale during last spring’s regional semifinal, a few of Minnesota’s star players left the program to pursue professional careers.
Among them were defenseman Nate Schmidt, who signed with the Washington Capitals as an undrafted free agent, and Florida Panthers’ 2010 first-round pick center Nick Bjugstad. Both spent three years in college hockey, and both were all-stars in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
Now, both Schmidt and Bjugstad are on NHL rosters. In Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Panthers, the former teammates played one another for the first time. Schmidt skated on the second defensive pairing with Mike Green. Bjugstad centered the Panthers’ third line alongside Jesse Winchester and Scottie Upshall.
Midway through the second period, Schmidt and Bjugstad collided in a post-whistle scrum. After exchanging a few shoves, they seemed to figure out who they were dealing with. They stopped the battle and skated away smiling.
“Oh, hey bud.”