A native of Shoreview, Minn., Romanko joins the Gophers are spending two seasons with the Minnesota Wilderness in the NAHL. Under the guidance of former Gophers All-American Corey Millen, the Wilderness captured the organization’s first Robertson Cup in 2015 while Romanko led all NAHL players with 19 playoff points. The forward led the team with 61 points during the regular season and was named to the 2014-15 NAHL All-Midwest Division Team. He closed out his junior career with 102 points (51 goals, 51 assists) in 114 career NAHL regular-season games while adding another 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in 17 playoff games. Prior to playing for the Wilderness, Romanko skated for Mounds View High School, where he was the 2013 Suburban East Conference Forward of the Year and a two-time all-conference honoree.
You’re from Shoreview…just 20 minutes away from the University of Minnesota campus. What made you want to play hockey for the Gophers?
I’ve always been a Gopher fan. I grew up watching the Gophers, and my parents have had season tickets for my whole life. I’ve seen hundreds of games at Mariucci Arena, and I love the atmosphere there. Coming here to the University of Minnesota was a great opportunity to play close to my hometown. I love hockey, and I’m thrilled to be a part of this program.
Not only are you from a nearby town, but you also played juniors not too far away with the Minnesota Wilderness. After spending two years with the organization, what was it like winning the Robertson Cup for the first time as a team?
I had never won anything quite like that before. It was an incredible experience. Our team really bonded over the course of the season, and we really connected as the playoffs got going. We had a great team effort from every guy, and it was special to accomplish something like that together.
One of those teammates – goalie Brock Kautz – will also be on the Gophers roster this year. What should we expect from him, and are you excited to be playing with him again?
He’s a solid goalie, that’s for sure. He was injured last year, but he came in for the playoffs and was incredible. He was a huge part of our success last year, and I’m excited to play with him again this year here at Minnesota.
We asked Brock this too, but what was it like playing in the longest game in NAHL history?
Seven periods. Four overtimes. You’d take 20 seconds shifts and all you could do was try to get the puck out of your zone and into theirs. Then all you wanted to do was get in a line change. There was a lot of cramping, and it really wore you out. By the time we scored the game winner, I jumped onto the ice, took three hard strides and coasted the rest of the way to celebrate.
You had a chance to play for Gophers All-American Corey Millen with the Wilderness. How did he help you develop as a player?
He has such an expansive knowledge of the game. Every coach is smart, but he has these little tricks and tactics from playing in the NHL for so long that make you a better player and a smarter player. I just tried to stick close to him and learn as much from him as I could while I was there.
An easy one for you, hopefully. How did you learn to skate/play hockey and do you have a favorite memory?
I think I learned to skate when I was two or three, and I’ve just loved hockey ever since. My second year of Bantams, I remember going on road trips with the team. Hanging out with my teammates and all of the families was a great time.
Off the ice, what are your interests and hobbies?
I like to golf and fish when we have time. Actually, I just got into bowling last year, and I have my own bowling ball now. I like to think I’m pretty good, I average probably 150-160.