Another unlikely star? Minnesota has a few possibilities

PHILADELPHIA — Before Minnesota’s 2-1 win over North Dakota Thursday night, senior Justin Holl was known as a stay-at-home defenseman and the consummate role-playing teammate, one who saw a little time as forward last season when asked, one who went back to defense willingly this year when told to do so.

One day later, Holl is a hero, scoring his first goal of the season with 0.6 seconds left in regulation, a beautiful, perfectly placed goal-scorer’s shot from between the circles that sailed past North Dakota’s Zane Gothberg and caught the net just inside of the right post.

Sometimes, the big stage creates big stars out of previously unknown players. In 2013, it was Yale junior Clinton Bourbonais, whose fourth goal of the season at 19:56 in the second period held up to be the winner against Quinnipiac. In 2009, it was Boston University sophomore forward Colby Cohen, whose eighth goal of the season at 11:47 in overtime lifted the Terriers over Miami.

This year, it’s Holl.

“I’m really happy for Justin, obviously,” said Minnesota forward and captain Nate Condon. “Being a really selfless player for our team, you’re really happy when a guy like that gets a big goal like that.”

Before Thursday night’s contest, Condon said that he and his teammates were joking about who would do the proverbial stepping up, mentioning Holl because he had yet to score a goal this season.

On a team where scoring is a collective effort, however, anyone can be the hero for the Golden Gophers on Saturday, if there’s a hero to be had.

There’s Condon himself, whose nine goals this season are three short of his career-high 12 in 2012-13, and whose last goals were two against Robert Morris two weeks ago, breaking a six-game drought.

There’s senior forward Tom Serratore, who has three goals this season — four fewer than last year — and who last scored March 1 against Penn State, the winner at 13:15 in the third period of a 2-1 game.

There’s junior defenseman Ben Marshall. With three goals this season, he’s five short of last year’s total. Like Serratore, Marshall’s last goal was a game-winning marker against Penn State — 20 games ago, at 15:59 in the third period of a Jan. 12 contest against the Nittany Lions.

Then there’s senior defenseman Jake Parenteau, who is one of two Golden Gophers skaters without a goal this season. In 30 games, Parenteau — another stay-at-home defender — has three assists. The only other skater without a goal is sophomore forward Ryan Reilly, who has played in just three games.

And Condon said that Parenteau was named alongside Holl before Thursday night’s game.

“I’m more than happy that Justin took the cake on that one,” said Parenteau. “That was a big goal and I’m glad he got it. We’ve still got one more game, so we’ll see what happens.”

Parenteau has four career goals in 112 career games.