BOSTON – Rhett Pitlick is fully aware of the opportunity on the horizon.
In fact, there’s probably no better position than the Montreal Canadiens prospect to seize the full magnitude of his opportunity to win the NCAA national title this weekend at the Frozen Four. . Especially since she comes to him in her first season in the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers uniform.
“I’m super privileged to be here in my first year,” admitted the 21-year-old forward. “If we go all the way, it would be like a blessing. It’s really beneficial for me and for my development to live this experience alongside veterans who show us the way forward. »
It’s that the fifth-round choice of CH in 2019 could succeed where his father Lance failed in three appearances, between 1987 and 1990, and where his brother Rem, the Habs forward, never went – all three with the Gophers.
The Bob Motzko-led squad meet the Minnesota State University Mavericks in the semifinals on Thursday and could face the winner of the duel between the University of Michigan Wolverines and the University Pioneers of Denver if she gets her ticket to the final scheduled for Saturday at TD Garden in Boston.
Funny fact: Tyler, the cousin of the Pitlick brothers, the same one who also lines up with the Canadiens, wore the jersey of the Mavericks for one season before making the jump to the Western Hockey League (WHL) at junior level. Like everything is in everything.
“I’m sure Tyler will count for Rhett anyway,” laughed Rem on the phone. “It is an experience that we have never been able to live. As a college player, that’s what you’re aiming for when you join a program. You want to reach the Frozen Four.
“It’s very cool to see my brother have this experience. Each player has a different path, and it is the sum of what each person experiences that allows them to develop certain attributes and certain qualities. I’m sure it will allow him to learn things and grow as an individual. »
That’s a very philosophical way of looking at it all. What perhaps eludes us, given the distance and lack of familiarity with American universities and how they operate, is the great importance of this moment in the careers of these athletes.
Many will not experience greater emotions than those they will feel in the coming days in a TD Garden that promises to be crowded. It’s even more so for a kid who grew up in Minnesota and who proudly wears the Gophers jersey, as did the entire Pitlick line.
The eldest of the family explains: “It’s just huge in Minnesota. All hockey fans are Gophers fans. This culture is not present in Quebec. I would say that there is just below the NHL in terms of interest. People know the history of the program with the successes it has had and the many players it has produced for the NHL over the years. »
From a distance
The brothers have obviously been talking since the Gophers got their ticket to the four aces, almost two weeks ago, but Rem refrained from giving advice to his younger brother. After all, he has never experienced what he is about to experience, and they have erected boundaries – unlike a certain time.
“We used to watch our games and cut footage adding commentary,” the 25-year-old recalled with a laugh. “It’s not like that anymore. We obviously talk about hockey, but we have drawn a line. He has good people around him who can help him with that. »
This obviously does not prevent the youngest from dropping a call to his brother from time to time to discuss what he is going through on his road to the NHL.
“My brother is the one we go to when we want wisdom,” Rhett said. He went to the University of Minnesota, and I’m following in his footsteps. He knows very well what I am going through and the feelings that I can sometimes experience. We talk about hockey, and he’s always there for me. »
Rem will not be able to be physically present in Boston to encourage Rhett on Thursday, but he will keep an eye on his game as soon as the Habs’ game against the New Jersey Devils is over.
Either way, he’s not worried at all.
“It will be a different experience, but everything he’s been through in his career has prepared him for this,” he concluded. I know he’s ready and he’s going to do what he has to do. »
PHOTO : University of Minnesota Athletics