Zach Budish has 21 points (6g-15a) in 25 games this year.
GopherSports: You have had two significant knee injuries in your career. How nice is it to be playing again?
Zach Budish: It is really nice. I missed pretty much two of the last three seasons with ACL injuries. I am lucky, happy and thankful to be back playing this year and am having fun playing with my teammates. It is a blast to be able to practice all week and then play games on Friday and Saturday. Playing college hockey is something I have always wanted to do, so it is fun to be playing again.
GS: You were named an assistant captain prior to this season. What does that mean to you?
ZB: It is definitely an honor to be voted by your teammates as one of the assistant captains. Ryan Flynn and Tony Lucia wore the captains my freshman year and I looked up to them. It is just an honor to wear a letter at Minnesota. Looking back at all the captains who have gone through the program it is pretty humbling to be named an assistant captain.
GS: You play a big role in the dressing room, but you are also on the first line and looked upon as an offensive leader on the team.
ZB: I just wanted to come back and make an impact right away. I feel like I got off to a good start in the first seven games last year before I got hurt. I wanted to start off this year like I did last year. It probably took six to eight games before I got my timing back and was completely comfortable playing games again.
GS: You mentioned timing. Was that the hardest thing to get back? Harder than the physical rehab?
ZB: Fortunately for me I was 10 or 11 months out of surgery before our first game. I had a long time to build strength back and skated all spring and summer so the skating part was not too bad. It was the timing of live hockey that I had to get back, where players are coming at you full speed. It took a little while to get going. Game action is not something you can really simulate in the offseason. We get some pretty good skates going in the offseason, but it is not like a WCHA game or a college hockey game.
GS: It has to be nice to play with Kyle Rau and Nick Bjugstad as well.
ZB: It is a lot of fun to play with those guys. They both know how to score and we work well together and feed off one another. We all bring different elements to the game. I try to get them the puck and try to grind it out in the corners and play physical. I am trying to pass to them and trying to put a few goals in myself.
GS: Minnesota split last weekend at North Dakota and won the season series 3-1. How does it feel to win the season series against a big rival?
ZB: That is a great feeling, winning the regular-season series against those guys. There is a good chance we will see them again. It is a pretty big rivalry and was nice to come out on the better end of it this year. It was huge for us to rebound on Saturday because we had lost three games in a row. We had a team meeting on Saturday morning. That was a pretty big game for us to get back on track. It is always tough to win in their building and luckily we came out on the better side. We played a solid game from top to bottom.
GS: What are your thoughts on the rest of the season because it does not get any easier?
ZB: We have a tough schedule coming up. We have 12 regular season games left and they are all hard games, starting this weekend with Colorado College. Rylan and Jaden Schwartz are two of the best players in the country. It will be important to try and shut them down. We have been pretty good defensively all year, giving up about only two goals per game. We need to play good team defense this weekend and try to shut down their offense. But we also need to play our game and play fast, skilled and physical.
GS: You have three older brothers. Did they give you a hard time growing up?
ZB: They are all quite a bit older. They are six years, nine years and 11 years older than me. I always wanted to hang out with them and fit in. Whenever they were playing hockey in the basement or street hockey they would suit me up as the goalie. I actually grew up kind of wanting to be a goalie, but I also wanted to be like my brothers and they all played forward. I remember growing up and going to all their games. I was the annoying little brother that always wanted to hang out with them. They were pretty good to me though and did not pick on me too much. They have been great for my career.
GS: Do you still have any of those goalie skills?
ZB: Absolutely not. I am glad I did not play goalie. I do not know how they do it. There is a lot of pressure and a lot of equipment. I played goalie in a game when I was in fifth grade, and I realized then that there was no way I was going to play goalie. I gave up two goals though so my career goals-against-average is 2.00. That is not bad.
GS: You were an accomplished athlete growing up. Was hockey always your favorite sport?
ZB: I grew up playing hockey, football and baseball. Hockey was always first for me. I enjoyed playing the other sports and think they have made me a better overall athlete and helped me in different areas. My goal was to play college hockey and hopefully in the NHL one day, so hockey was always my top priority.