December 2011 Archives

Observations from Minnesota's 3-2 Loss to Northeastern

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Wrapping Up the Mariucci Classic
With the loss on Saturday, Minnesota was denied its 13th Mariucci Classic championship title. The last time the Gophers won it was in 2008-09 when they topped Northeastern 3-2 in overtime. The Huskies won it for the second time. NU beat Minnesota 4-2 for a title win in 1997-98.

Minnesota made its 17th championship appearance in 21 years of the tournament.

See Ya, 2011!
The Gophers completed the 2011 calendar year with a 22-12-5 record and a 15-6-1 start to its current season. Minnesota finished the 2010-11 season with a 7-6-4 record. The last time UM had more than 20 wins in a year was in 2007 when it had 23. The 2006-07 Gophers had a 14-9-0 finish and the 2007-08 team was 9-9-2 midway through the season. Minnesota will begin 2012 with the Hall of Fame Game against Notre Dame next Saturday and a road WCHA series against North Dakota the following week.

Shuffling the Lines
Prior to Friday night, forward Zach Budish had played on a line with World Junior players Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau in all 20 of the team's games. On Friday, Budish stayed in his customary right wing position, but he was on a line with senior Nick Larson and freshman Christian Isackson. On Saturday, the lines were scrambled a bit yet again with Isackson moving the fourth line in place of Tom Serratore to play with Nico Sacchetti and Joe Miller. Travis Boyd took Isackson's spot on Budish-Larson line.

Costly Penalties
Penalties may have cost the Gophers their 13th Mariucci Classic title. Minnesota was shorthanded a season-high 12 times, including three five-on-threes (two of which resulted in goals against). All but one goal in the game was scored with UM playing shorthanded. The Gophers came up empty on all five of their man advantages. Minnesota had 26 penalty minutes to Northeastern's 10 and eight Gophers combined for 13 minor penalties in the contest.

Transfer Notes
After a solid defensive performance against Niagara on Friday, the Gophers kept the same six defensemen in the lineup on Saturday. This meant that Northeastern transfer Chris Student did not make his Minnesota debut against his former team. Vinny Saponari, who transferred from Boston University to Northeastern, scored NU's first goal.

Against the Huskies/Hockey East
With the loss on Saturday, Minnesota dropped to 12-5-0 against Northeastern all-time. Against Hockey East opponents, the Gophers have a 81-49-7 total record and are 1-2-0 this year after splitting with Vermont in late October. The Huskies won at Minnesota for the second time ever. The only other time the home team didn't win was the NU beat the Gophers for the 1997-98 Mariucci Classic.

Streaks Snapped
For the first time in 2011-12, Minnesota lost on a Saturday. UM is now 8-1-1 on Saturday and 8-2-1 in the second game of the weekend. The only other second-game loss came against another Hockey East opponent, Vermont, on Oct. 23. The Gophers also lost for the first time while wearing alternate uniforms this season. They were previously 2-0-0 in their gold uniforms and 2-0-0 in their alternate white uniforms. Minnesota fell to 13-3-0 when scoring first, as well.

Daily Clips: Dec. 31

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Minnesota advances to Mariucci Classic championship game (GopherSports.com)

VIDEO: Goal highlights from 5-1 win (GopherSports.com)

Gophers rely on secondary scoring to beat Niagara (Star Tribune)

Hansen, Patterson help lead romp (USCHO)

Minnesota looks sharp after layoff (Gopher Puck Live)

Gophers bust out of Friday funk (SBNation)

Minnesota quickly overwhelms Purple Eagles (FSN)

Renewed Gophers dominate (1500 ESPN)

Observations from Minnesota's 5-1 Win Over Niagara

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Mariucci Classic
With a win over Niagara on Friday, the Gophers reached the Mariucci Classic final for the 17th time in the tournament's 21-year history. Minnesota has won its own tournament 12 times. UM plays Northeastern of Hockey East tomorrow in the final.

The Gophers beat the Huskies in the 2008-09 championship 3-2 in overtime on a Patrick White goal. Northeastern won the 1997-98 tournament with a 4-2 victory of the Gophers.

Saturday's game against Northeastern, who topped Princeton in a shootout on Friday, begins at 6 p.m.

A Welcomed Guest
Pete Winslow, the brother of Minnesota athletic trainer Jeff Winslow, dropped the ceremonial first puck before Friday's game. Winslow was the youngest player on Team USA's power soccer team that won the 2011 FIPFA World Cup in Paris, France in November.

With Winslow in attendance, the Gophers improved to 7-4-0 on Fridays. The Gophers are unbeaten thus far on Saturdays (8-0-1).

An Eventful Year
With one game left in the calendar year, the Gophers have a 22-11-5 record in 2011. Minnesota finished the 2010-11 season with a 7-6-4 record and have started the current season at 15-5-1. The last time UM had more than 20 wins in a year was in 2007 when it had 23. The 2006-07 Gophers had a 14-9-0 finish and the 2007-08 team was 9-9-2 midway through the season. Minnesota will play its final game of 2011 in the Mariucci Classic championship against Northeastern of Hockey East.

Red, White, Blue, Maroon, and Gold
Sophomore Nick Bjugstad and freshman Kyle Rau are both missing this weekend to play for the United States at the World Junior Championships in Edmonton, Alta. Rau is the 62nd Minnesota player to compete in the tournament and the 60th to play for the U.S. in 35 years of competition. Only Thomas Vanek (Austria, 2004) and Erik Haula (Finland, 2011) have played for other countries. Bjugstad, who was on last year's bronze-medal winning squad, is the 19th Gopher to appear in the tournament twice.

Through three games, Rau has two goals and Bjugstad has one. Bjugstad's tally was the game-winner in the team's lone victory thus far. It was his third game-winning goal in two WJCs. Entering the night, the duo had accounted for 22.9 percent (49 of 219) of Minnesota's total points.

Current Nebraska-Omaha bench boss and former Gopher Dean Blais is the team's head coach for the third time. He is the third head coach of Team USA with Minnesota ties. Mike Guentzel, the Gophers' associate head coach, was on the team's coaching staff three times and current UM Director of Hockey Operations is now serving as the team's video coach.

Stepping In
Prior to tonight, forward Zach Budish had played on a line with Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau in all 20 of the team's games. Tonight, Budish stayed in his customary right wing position, but he was on a line with senior Nick Larson and freshman Christian Isackson. Isackson, Nico Sacchetti, and Joe Miller had the least amount of games played for Minnesota entering the night. Isackson and Sacchetti each played in their sixth game and Miller was playing in his second. Miller, who scored in his 2011-12 debut, is the only one with a point.
 
Big Helpers
With an assist on Nick Larson's game-opening goal, Nate Schmidt took the NCAA lead in assists with his 21st of the season. Sophomore Jake Parenteau also picked up his first career assist on the play, appearing in his 26th career game and 18th of the season. Schmidt added another assist on the third goal of the game by Erik Haula.

Haula, who assisted on a Justin Holl goal less than four minutes after his goal, moved into a tie for the team lead in points with 27. He is tied with Nick Bjugstad.

Against Atlantic Hockey
Atlantic Hockey opponents had haunted the Gophers prior to this season, but Minnesota has taken care of foes from the East this season. UM went 3-0-0 against AHA schools, outscoring Sacred Heart and Niagara by a combined 20-1.

Daily Clips: Dec. 30

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Gophers host Mariucci Classic (FSN and Gopher Puck Live)

Question-and-answer time with Jake Kremer (GopherSports.com)

Prediction time (USCHO.com) and taking a look at the second half of the WCHA schedule (USCHO.com)

Michael Shibrowski is ready if needed (Star Tribune) but Kent Patterson is expected to play a lot of the remaining games (Star Tribune)

Morning Skate With Jake Kremer

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Go Gophers! Jake Kremer
Go Gophers!
Goaltender Jake Kremer is in his final year as a Gopher.
Go Gophers!
Goaltender Jake Kremer sees more shots than any other goalie on the team. He knows who has the hardest shot and who has the best shootout move. We recently sat down with the senior and talked about his time as a Gopher and found out why he has so many nicknames.

GopherSports: How would you describe your time as a Gopher?

Jake Kremer: It is a lot of work. I come to the rink and work hard every day, but it is also lot of fun. I like being in practice and taking shots from the guys. They give me some abuse and I give some abuse back. It is all in good fun. Overall, I have enjoyed my time here. I like all the guys and we have a good thing going here right now.

GS: Can you give us an example of the amount of work you are talking about?

JK: I know the guys like a goalie to stay out after practice most of the time. They will ask a goalie to stay out, so they can take hundreds of extra breakaways and they need a goalie there. Otherwise, it is just getting up early to work out and then getting to the rink early and staying late after practice.

GS: You are the third goalie on the team, but you have to prepare every day as if you are going to play, right?

JK: Right, that is what you have to do. To be in my position, you cannot sit there and say, "I am happy with where I am." You have to want it the most and you have to be ready in case you are called upon.

GS: You see more shots than anybody. Who on the team gets you a little bit concerned during practice because you are not sure where their shot may be going?

JK: I have a lot of the guys down and know where they shoot most of the time, but Nick Bjugstad can really rip them. I get a little nervous sometimes when he is coming down, but I think I have had his number recently.

GS: Who has the hardest shot on the team?

JK: I would have to give the slap shot to Seth Helgeson, but Bjugstad has the quickest snapshot and knows how to thread the needle.

GS: What about a breakaway? Who puts the puck in the net?

JK: Joey Miller always seems to score. I don't know if he has the fanciest moves, but he gets it done. I would say Sam Warning or Travis Boyd have the most dangles.

GS: What is Miller's move where he is always scoring?

JK: It is nothing real special, but he knows how to throw it up top real quick and that gets the job done.

GS: You take more shots than anyone. Where is the worst place to get hit with a puck?

JK: Either the collarbone or down by the kneecap, right on top of the muscle there. That can make your leg go numb for a little bit.

GS: You are a senior, so this is your last year as a Gopher. Have you thought about that yet? What will you miss the most?

JK: I have to say I am going to miss the guys the most. I try not to think about it too much, with this being my last year, but I know I am going to miss the guys. That is going to be tough. It has been a great time and a great opportunity. There is definitely a lot of hard work and it is not all fun and games, but I have had a great time bonding with the guys. It has been the time of my life. 

GS: What do you like to do away from the ice?

JK: There is not a whole lot of time to relax, but mostly hang out with the guys and try to lay low and watch some TV.

GS: What is your favorite TV show?

JK: I like a lot of the HBO shows, like Entourage. I also enjoyed Friday Night Lights.

GS: What about during the summer?

JK: I enjoy being out on the lakes in Minnesota or out on Lake Minnetonka. I am not the best fisherman, but I like to fish. It is tough to beat being out on the lake relaxing.

GS: Your nickname is Krispy. Where did that come from?

JK: That is actually from high school. The other goalie of our team gave that to me. It is actually from Krispy Kreme doughnuts, so they just called me that because of my last name.

GS: How did that nickname get from high school to college?

JK: I think I helped bring that here because I put it on my mask, but I have developed a lot of different nicknames here.

GS: Tell us some of your current nicknames.

JK: Jacques Kremier is a recent one and there are plenty others. Peaches and Crumb, Kreme Sauce, Kremesicle and Kre-merica are a few more. There are a lot of them.

GS: Who gave you all the nicknames?

JK: I have gotten them over the years from a bunch of different people, but Helgeson likes to throw out a few every now and then. Pretty much anything he can think of.

Barnstorming with Grimm: The Game Room

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This week in "Barnstorming with Grimm," play-by-play man Mike Grimm explores the game room at Williams Arena. When the Gophers are not on the court, in the weight room, or in the video room, sometimes they just need time to relax. The game room is one place for them to do so.

To watch previous episodes of "Barnstorming," follow this link.

Minnesota coach Don Lucia met with the media today and touched on many topics including this weekend's Mariucci Classic and the ongoing World Junior Championship where Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau are competing.

Q: What do you know about Niagara?

Don Lucia: They outshoot almost everybody they play. They like to play an up-tempo game and it should be an entertaining game for the fans. They have an experienced older team that knows how to play. They have been successful in their league and in tournaments and have been in NCAA tournaments.

Q: With Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau at the World Juniors, will you juggle your lines or just fill in two players into their spots?

DL: We have talked about that a lot. I think as much as we can we would like to keep Haula's line together and Matson's as well. It is just two games, so when Nick and Kyle come back we can just insert them back to where they were. We have been experimenting every day with what the other two lines are going to look like. We have changed it every day and we are changing it today and will settle on what we want to do for Friday tomorrow.

Q: But you do know that you will have some guys in the lineup who have not played that much this year.

DL: It is an important weekend for them. We know the two guys who are not here are going to be playing on a regular basis, so there will be some new guys this weekend on the power play and some new guys killing penalties. Obviously Nick and Kyle play important roles on our team. This is an opportunity to other people to get a little bit more time and try to muscle their way into the lineup. Right now, two guys are going to be playing this weekend that won't be playing the next time we play.

Q: Is this an opportunity for some players to turn some heads of the coaching staff?

DL: That is what we did the last game against Michigan Tech. We felt that we needed to add a little energy into our lineup and thought we were a little stale. We inserted four new guys into our lineup and I though all four played with energy and brought something to the table and that is what we are looking for and we need the same this weekend.

Q: Does it give you a little more room to experiment with players because it is a non-league game?

DL: No, not really. We do not play that many games. We have three more non-conference games and 17 more regular season games left and these games are important for us too. We need to continue to win and put ourselves in the best possible position.

Q: Minnesota beat Northeastern 3-2 in overtime in the Mariucci Class championship game a few years ago. The seniors this year were freshmen then. What do you remember about that game?

DL: I was sicker than a dog and up in the press box. It was going into overtime and I said, "If we do not win this early, I am going home." I did not feel very good. Luckily we scored early in overtime, because I was one and done. 

Q: You have not played since Dec. 10. Was the break too long?

DL: I don't know. The guys seem to be good and have looked good in practice. We have four days of practice and I think that helps. There is not much you can do. You look at our schedule and you cannot play during final exams and we want guys to get a break, so you are going to play before Christmas or after. I don't think the guys want to play three days before Christmas and then be off between Christmas and New Year's. It works fine. It is nice that we did not have to bring them back home on Christmas day. They did not have to come back until Monday and we practiced later that day. Now we are back into our routine. I think the couple weeks off is a good mental break and a good physical break, but they will be ready to go. There will be a little rust getting back into game action, but hopefully that will play itself out quickly.

Q: Could we see Blake Thompson this weekend?

DL: There is a chance anybody could play this weekend. I am not hedging who is playing and who is not. We are evaluating our practices this week and the 12 forwards and six defensemen who have the best practice are the ones who are going to play on Friday night.

Q: Have you watched any of the World Juniors?

DL: It is fun to watch, especially when you have guys playing. Obviously, we are for the United States and want to see them do a well. A guy like Erik (Haula) is interested in how the Finnish team is doing. He is a little disappointed that our practice today is the same time as the game. He was a little bit ornery about that yesterday, but they will get a chance to see a lot of it. We want our guys to do well and we want the U.S. Team to do well. It is such a great tournament and a great event and one that those guys will remember for the rest of their lives.

Q: Have they handled Bjugstad and his injury the right way?

DL: We had talked. I had talked to Dean (Blais) and with Jim Johannson. Our trainer was in contact with their trainer and we did not want to have a situation where it could potentially get worse. We felt all along it was about a two-week deal. Everyone knew he was going to be on the team, so there was no point in playing him in those exhibition games. They are not going to do anything to jeopardize him. We talked before he left about the importance of our team and our season as well. And Mark Bahr is there keeping an eye on those things as well, so I think he is in good hands.

Q: Could we see Michael Shibrowski this weekend?

DL: Just like Kent had to pay his dues, Mike is paying his. The most important thing Mike can do right now is to continue to work with Justin Johnson--which he has, he is an extremely hard worker--and wait for his opportunity. If Kent plays Friday night, he could get hurt and be out a week or two weeks or something. You have to be ready when you get your chance. And whether his chance happens this week, next month or next year I don't know. I do know that if Kent is playing well and he is healthy then he is going to play.

Q: Do you see Shibrowski getting a chance to compete for the starting job next year?

DL: When we start next year it will be a wide open deal.

Get to Know Leah Cotton

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GopherSports.com recently sat down with junior guard Leah Cotton to learn a little bit more about why she chose the U, her major and the one thing that really grosses her out.

Why did you come to the U?
"I came to Minnesota because I liked the team and I enjoyed the atmosphere when I got up here. I loved their crowd support and it seemed like everything was a fit for me."

What is your favorite part about Minnesota?
"My favorite part about Minnesota is how close it is to downtown and how close it is to any other place you want to get to, but it's still a college-feel campus."

What is your major?
"My major is family social science. Right now, I want to be a child counselor after I graduate and do something with that. If not, who knows. We'll see where it takes me."

What grosses you out?
"I don't like feet. I hate when people take off their sock and stick their toes in the air like it is cool. Like Micaëlla Riché, she does that all of the time. I personally don't wear flip-flops. I don't wear sandals. I like my feet and my toes covered. Something's nasty about phalanges. I just don't like toes."

Video: Get to Know Chip Armelin

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Next up in our "Get to Know Your Gophers" interview series is sophomore guard Chip Armelin. The Sulphur, La., native provides a spark for the Gophers off the bench. He is averaging 5.9 points per game in 14.8 minutes per game this season. To learn more about Armelin, watch the video above and read the Q&A below from earlier this season.

Q: How was your experience playing in the Big Ten as a freshman?
A:  It was a great experience. With Blake (Hoffarber) and Al (Nolen) and where I play, I was able to learn from them and gain good experience. That helped me out to take me into my sophomore year, and I'm doing pretty well, working hard.

Q: How do you and the other returning sophomore guards (Austin Hollins and Maverick Ahanmisi) work together? What do you guys do to help each other out?
A: After practice, we talk about what we need to do to become better guards, as far as our shooting, passing, defensive skills, stuff like that. We also like to talk about how we can come together and make things better.

Q: How do you think you have improved your shooting compared to last year?
A: I'm very confident, compared to my freshman year. Last year I was trying to gain experience, trying to get used to playing in the Big Ten and playing in college overall, but I've been able to take that into my sophomore year and lock down shots. During the summer, I worked on my shooting back home and in the gym here. It's been helping me.

Q: Do you have any goals for this season?
A: My goals for this season are to help the team win some games, get to the Big Ten championship, and hopefully make a big run in the [NCAA] tourney.

Q: Who is your favorite opponent to face?

A: My favorite opponent right now I would have to say is Ohio State, because they're a top-10 team in the Big Ten. I'm looking forward to playing them and trying to upset them.

Q: What are some of your favorite drills to do in practice?
A: I would have to say shooting drills. That's my best drill in practice because it helps me with my shooting and becoming better at all areas.

Q: You had a career-high game against Ohio State last year with 14 points off the bench.
How did you feel after that game?

A: It gave me a confidence boost and helped me towards the next games. It really gave me a good spark to help me be able to take it to the next level. It helped me bring it to this year and get me more confident, take the ball to the hoop, and stay aggressive.

Q: Have you decided on a major?
A: Right now, I'm thinking about graphic design. If not graphic design, I'm thinking about music production.

Q: What was the most fun part about your trip to the Old Spice Classic this year?
A: Going to Disneyworld. That was my first time going there, so I got to see some cool things, ride some awesome rides.

Q: You're great at providing a spark when you come into the game. How do you contribute that spark to the team?
A: Coming in with tremendous energy, coming off the bench with some defensive stops, keep scoring, being aggressive. Just pumping up the crowd and getting them riled up.

Q: What's one superpower you wish you could have?
A: To fly. It'd be really easy to get to places if you could fly.

Interview by Kirsten Sherwood, Athletic Communications Student Assistant

Daily Clips: Dec. 27

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Bjugstad, Rau score as Team USA rolls Denmark 11-3 (GopherSports.com)

VIDEO: Kyle Rau highlights l Nick Bjugstad highlights

WCHA first half facts (USCHO.com)

Lot of reasons for Minnesota's success so far this season (The Daily Gopher)


Bjugstad, Rau Score As USA Wins Opener

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Nick Bjugstad season highlights l Kyle Rau season highlights

Sophomore Nick Bjugstad scored the game-winning goal for the United States against Denmark in its first game of the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship. Gopher teammate freshmen Kyle Rau scored twice for Team USA, which rolled to an 11-3 win.

The United States was up 3-2 early in the second period when Bjugstad scored the eventual game-winning goal. Bjugstad now has three career World junior Championship goals and all three are game-winners, which includes the goal that secured the bronze medal for the United States in last year's tournament.

Rau, who is competing in his first World junior Championship, scored the sixth and ninth goals for the United States.

Team USA plays its second game of the tournament on Wednesday against Finland.

Video: Rodney Williams: A Festival of Dunks

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During the Golden Gophers' 13 non-conference games, junior forward Rodney Williams dunked 23 times. Gophersports.com put together a highlight reel of some of No. 33's most exciting buckets so far this season. Click the video above to enjoy this holiday treat.

Gophers in the Pros - Week 16

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Vikings' cornerback and return specialist Marcus Sherels certainly had the best game of any former Gopher this weekend. He was the only former player to walk away with a win on this Christmas weekend.

Sherels contributed four tackles (two solo, two assisted) to the Vikings' defense on Saturday against the Washington Redskins. He also returned four kickoffs for a total of 98 yards with a game-long of 30, as well as one punt return.

Minnesota scored touchdowns on three of the four drives set up by Sherels' kickoff returns.

Despite suffering a season-ending knee injury to star player Adrian Peterson and losing quarterback Christian Ponder to a possible concussion, the Vikings were able to come away with a victory. They beat the Redskins 33-26, securing their third win of the season.

Sherels and the Vikings play their final game of the season this Sunday at home against the Chicago Bears.

Here's a look at the performance of other Gophers in the National Football League:

  • Eric Decker, wide receiver for the Denver Broncos, was active but did not record any catches in the Broncos' 40-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Decker was targeted four times and has just 80 yards on six receptions over the last four games. The Broncos can still clinch a playoff spot with a win next week over the Chiefs.
  • San Diego Chargers' linebacker Nate Triplett was active but did not record any statistics in Saturday's game against the Detroit Lions. Detroit beat San Diego 38-10 and eliminated the Chargers from playoff contention.
  • Matt Spaeth, tight end for the Bears, was active but did not record any statistics in the Bears' 35-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
  • Running back Marion Barber, also with the Chicago Bears, was inactive with a calf injury. Chicago's loss takes them out of the playoff hunt.
  • Safety Dominique Barber is on the Houston Texans' injured reserve list with a knee injury. The Texans lost to the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night 19-16.
  • Logan Payne, wide receiver for the New York Jets, is also on injured reserve while he recovers from wrist surgery. The Jets fell to the in-state rival Giants 29-14.
  • In addition to those who were on active rosters, five former Gopher players spent week 16 of the NFL season on the practice squad for their respective teams. Offensive lineman Dominic Alford is on the practice squad for the Cleveland Browns, cornerback Traye Simmons is with the San Diego Chargers, last year's quarterback Adam Weber is with the Denver Broncos, and fullback Jon Hoese recently signed to practice with the Green Bay Packers. Also, defensive end Cedric McKinley was signed to the New England Patriots' practice squad last week.

World Junior Championship Begins Tonight

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Gameday: USA vs. Denmark (USAHockey.com)

Sophomore Nick Bjugstad and freshman Kyle Rau are playing for the U.S. National Junior Team, which opens play at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship with a game against Denmark tonight at 7 p.m. C.T.

"It is a great opportunity for both of them," said coach Don Lucia. "They certainly both had great first half of the years with us and are deserving to play. That is one thing with that team, you have to play your way on it. It is a great opportunity for both those guys to represent their country in a big time event."

The game can be seen on NHL Network and is also being streamed on NHL.com. Bjugstad, who did not play in any of the three exhibition games, is wearing No. 27 for Team USA.

"With Bjugstad being on it last year he was pretty much a lock to be on it this year," said Lucia.

Bjugstad is tied for fourth in the nation in points (27) and is tied for second in goals (16). He has registered at least one point in 15 of Minnesota's 20 games this year.



Rau, who leads all freshmen nationally in points (22) and goals (12), has points in 14 of 20 games this year. He is tied for first in the nation with five game-winning goals. Rau, who played in two of the three exhibition games, will be wearing No. 20 for Team USA.

"Kyle was not even invited to their camp last summer, but proved his worth based on his production for us the first half of the season and when he went up to camp this month," said Lucia. "I don't know what his role is going to be, if he is going to play with Bjugstad or if he will be a penalty kill and power play guy, but the one about Kyle is that he can play anywhere. He can kill penalties and he can be a defensive forward. One of the things I have been most impressed with about him is how conscientious he is on both ends of the rink. He works just as hard defensively as he does offensively."

Blog: Gophers Share Holiday Spirit

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Toward the end of the non-conference season and the end of fall semester, the Minnesota basketball team had a busy schedule. But the Golden Gophers still took some time out to share some holiday spirit in the Twin Cities community. Gopher players and coaches participated in a number of charitable gestures put on by the Tubby Smith Foundation.
Go Gophers! coats for kids
Go Gophers!
The Gophers drop off a donation for Coats for Kids.
Go Gophers!

Several Gophers from both the men's and women's basketball teams visited the KARE-11 "backyard" during the 6 p.m. on Dec. 15 to drop off donations for Toys for Tots. The donations were collected at Gopher sporting events, including basketball games.

The next day, Smith and a few players went to the Salvation Army bearing 100 winter coats and a check to purchase 200 more. The donations support the Salvation Army's Coats for Kids program.

Even more Gophers got in the act on Dec. 20, when the team went on a shopping trip. The Gophers took 17 families shopping for holiday gifts at Target. They enjoyed interacting with the families and helping them find the items on their wish lists.

For photo galleries of these events visit the Facebook pages for Golden Gopher Basketball or the Tubby Smith Foundation. (These photos can be viewed with or without a Facebook account.)

GWH Blog: Future Gophers to Compete for USA U18 Team

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Two future Gopher women's hockey players have been named to the U.S. roster for the 2012 International Ice Hockey Federation World Women's U18 Championship. The tournament will be held in Perov and Zlin, Czech Republic Dec. 31 through Jan. 7. Defenseman Lee Stecklein and forward MaryAnne Menefee will don the red, white and blue for Team USA. Both players have signed National Letters of Intent to compete for the Gophers next season.

Lee Stecklein hails from Roseville, Minn., and Roseville Area High School. Maryanne Menefee is a senior at Lansing Eastern High School in Lansing, Mich., and plays for the Little Caesar's Under-19 AAA Hockey Club. Both players have previous experience with the U.S. Under-18 Team.

In addition to Stecklein and Menefee, Gopher coach Joel Johnson will serve as an assistant coach for Team USA at the World Championship.

Team USA has won the IIHF World Women's U18 Championship three times in the four-year history of the tournament, including their gold-medal performance at the 2011 tournament in Stockholm, Sweden.

Follow Team USA on the USA Hockey website.

Gopher Football Gets Strong Ratings on KFAN

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With the end of the Gopher football season still visible in the rear-view mirror, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at the first year of our radio partnership with KFAN as our flagship station.

KFAN Program Director Chad Abbott told me earlier this week that the station's ratings throughout the fall were very strong.

"We had tremendous ratings growth this fall," Abbott said. "KFAN experienced its best ratings period in the station's existence in the fall. Gopher Football games were a key component in that growth."

According to Abbott, many of KFAN's broadcasts of Minnesota Football games were the top-ranked radio programming in the Twin Cities during those particular windows. In fact, he said Minnesota's 2:30 p.m. starts were regularly the most-listened to programming at that time over any other station in the Twin Cities.

From KFAN's standpoint, the first season of carrying Gopher Football was a definite success, Abbott said.

"2011 was a great start to the partnership between KFAN, Learfield and Gopher Football," he said. "Ratings aside, we're excited about the direction of the program and being associated with it."

Daily Clips: Dec. 22

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Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau named to Team USA (GopherSports.com) which has an NCAA feel (USCHO)

Is Nick Bjugstad the WCHA Player of the Year so far? One scribe thinks so (College Hockey News)

Phil Kessel on pace for 40 goals (Toronto Star)

Bjugstad, Rau Named To Team USA

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Complete Team USA Roster

Bahr Named Video Coordinator For Team USA

Sophomore Nick Bjugstad and freshman Kyle Rau were named to the roster for the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team today. Bjugstad and Rau are part of the 22-man roster that will represent the United States at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, Dec. 26, 2010-Jan. 5, 2011, in Calgary and Edmonton, Alta.

Team USA will look to earn its third straight medal after capturing the bronze medal at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., and the gold medal at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship in Saskatoon, Sask.

Bjugstad and Rau were two of 28 players who gathered for a camp in Camrose, Alta., on Dec. 17. Neither Bjugstad or Rau played in Team USA's exhibition loss to Russia on Dec. 20, while Rau did play in an exhibition win against Switzerland on Dec. 21. The final exhibition game of camp is Dec. 23 against Slovakia.

Bjugstad helped lead the U.S. to a bronze medal at last year's World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y. He had two goals and two assists in six WJC games a year ago. Both of his goals were game-winners, as he scored the overtime game-winning goal against Finland and then scored the game-winning goal in the bronze medal game against Sweden.

Bjugstad is tied for fourth in the nation in points (27) and is tied for second in goals (16). He has registered at least one point in 15 of Minnesota's 20 games this year. Bjugstad will wear No. 27 for Team USA.

Rau, who leads all freshmen nationally in points (22) and goals (12), has points in 14 of 20 games this year. He is tied for first in the nation with five game-winning goals. Rau will wear No. 20 for Team USA.

Nick Bjugstad's International Resume: Participated in the 2011 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in August in Lake Placid, N.Y. He represented the United States at the 2011 World Junior Championship where he had two goals and two assists in six games for the bronze-winning U.S. squad. Both of his goals were game-winning goals, as he scored the overtime winner against Finland (12/26) and the goal that secured the bronze medal for the U.S. against Sweden (1/5). He participated in the 2010 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. and led Team USA with seven goals in seven games. He represented the United States at the 2008 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament in Prievidza, Slovakia and at the 2009 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Piestany, Slovakia.

Kyle Rau's International Resume: Competed for the United States Under-18 Team at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial in Piestany, Slovakia, where recorded an assist and had a plus/minus of +1 in three games.

Bickel Makes NHL Debut, Picks Up An Assist And Penalty

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Go Gophers! Stu Bickel
Go Gophers!
Stu Bickel, who made his NHL debut last night, had seven points and 92 penalty minutes for the Gophers in the 2007-08 season.
Go Gophers!
Gophers In The NHL page

Former Gopher Stu Bickel made his NHL debut last night for the New York Rangers. The 6'4", 207-pound defenseman from Chanhassen, Minn., had one assist and two penalty minutes as the Rangers picked up a 4-1 road win against the New Jersey Devils.

"I tried to treat it like any other game," Bickel told the New York Daily News after the win. "Once I was out there, I was able to settle down and get into a rhythm. I'll take a win over anything. All the rest goes to the background, but it's nice."

Bickel, who wears No. 41 for the Rangers, played the 2007-08 season at Minnesota. He had seven points (1g-6a) and 92 penalty minutes in 45 games as a Gopher.

New York coach John Tortorella liked what he saw from the former Gopher, who played on the penalty kill and stood up for a teammate.

"He's such a big man with a long reach," Tortorella told the Daily News. "I thought that was important killing penalties - just to be in the way. I just don't think he's afraid. I don't think he's afraid to step in and try to make a difference. I like what he did - I didn't see the hit or what happened on the (Devils) bench there, but he stood up for his teammate. I guess that's the best way to put it - I don't think he's timid. I think he wants to make a difference, and with the size and range in our end zone, he's going to get in the way somewhere."

Bickel is the second former Minnesota player to make his NHL debut this year, as Cade Fairchild played 10:31 for the St. Louis Blues in a Nov. 29 win at Washington.

Daily Clips: Dec. 21

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Stu Bickel made his NHL debut last night and had a point and a penalty (NY Daily News)

Blake Wheeler is a giver (Winnipeg Free Press)

Kyle Okposo playing with confidence again (Newsday)

Mike Hoeffel scores twice and Jeff Frazee makes 25 saves in win (Albany Times Union)

Nick Bjugstad expects to play at WJC (Star Tribune)

Expectations are high for Team USA at WJC (ESPN)

Barnstorming with Grimm: Athletic Medicine

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In this week's episode of "Barnstorming with Grimm," Mike Grimm takes us inside the training room at Williams Arena. See where injured Gophers do their rehab and where athletic trainer Roger Schipper's headquarters are.

Courtside with Corbu: Playing the Point

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In the newest episode of "Courtside with Corbu" for the week of Dec. 20, 2011, Gopher Radio Network voice Corbu Stathes goes inside the mind of Gopher point guard Rachel Banham, seeing how the freshman from Lakeville handles the point guard position.

There are special guest appearances by sophomore Sari Noga and team manager Alex Antonen, while Stathes takes a turn at playing a little defense.

Video: Get to Know Elliott Eliason

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After redshirting his true freshman season, Elliott Eliason checked into his first basketball game as a Golden Gopher this fall. Eliason did not have much time to ease into Division I competition--early in the season, the Gophers needed to move him into the starting lineup after injuries thinned the roster.

Eliason started three consecutive games (against Virginia Tech, USC, and Appalachian State) and responded well to the challenge. He scored a career-high eight points against the Hokies, and pulled down a career-high nine rebounds against the Trojans. Eliason is also active without the ball, setting a lot of picks for his teammates.

Watch the video above to see the 6-11 center talk about his playing style, his Nebraska roots, and more.

GWH Blog: Gophers at the USA Hockey Winter Training Camp

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Four current members of the Gopher women's hockey team, as well as one alum and one future Gopher, have been named to the 2011 USA Hockey Winter Training Camp roster. Forty-one players are on the camp roster, including 16 Olympians.

Current Gopher defensemen Megan Bozek and Anne Schleper, along with forwards Amanda Kessel and Jen Schoullis were invited to participate in the winter camp. Former Gopher Gigi Marvin (2005-09), who was a member of Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, will also participate in the training camp. Hannah Brandt, who has signed a National Letter of Intent to compete for the Gophers next season, is the only high school player on the 41-player roster.

In addition to the players with Minnesota ties, Gopher head coach Brad Frost and former Gopher head coach Laura Halldorson will serve as assistant coaches at the training camp.

The Winter Training Camp is set for Dec. 26-31 in Blaine, Minn. The six-day camp, which will take place at the National Sports Center's Schwan Super Rink, will serve as an evaluation camp and training session for the U.S. Women's National Team.

Gophers in the Pros - Week 15

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It was a tough week in the NFL for former Gopher players.

Marion Barber, running back for the Chicago Bears, had 11 carries for 33 yards against the Seattle Seahawks. But the Bears never made it near the goal-line, which is where Barber almost always gets his hands on the ball.

Barber's teammate and tight end Matt Spaeth was active but did not record any statistics for Chicago. Despite leading at the half, the Bears fell to Seattle 38-14. It was the team's fourth straight loss, and with a 7-7 record and only two games remaining, they are likely to miss the playoffs.

The Denver Broncos faced the New England Patriots in the game of the week. Former Gopher wide receiver Eric Decker and the Broncos went into the game with a six game winning streak.

Decker was targeted only twice in the game and finished with one reception for 22 yards. The Broncos were unable to create another fourth quarter comeback and lost to the Patriots 41-23. But with Oakland also losing, Denver remains at the top of the AFC West.

Here's a look at the performance of other Gophers in the National Football League:

  • Vikings' cornerback and return specialist Marcus Sherels recorded five tackles (four solo, one assisted) in Minnesota's 42-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
  • Nate Triplett, linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, was active but did not record any statistics in San Diego's 34-14 victory over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday night. The win moves the Chargers to a 7-7 record and keeps their playoff hopes alive.
  • Dominique Barber, safety for the Houston Texans, is on injured reserve with a knee injury. Houston fell to the Carolina Panthers 28-13.
  • New York Jets' wide receiver Logan Payne is on injured reserve as well as he recovers from wrist surgery. The Jets lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 45-19.
  • In addition to those who were on active rosters, four former Gopher players spent week 15 of the NFL season on the practice squad for their respective teams. Offensive lineman Dominic Alford is on the practice squad for the Cleveland Browns, cornerback Traye Simmons is with the San Diego Chargers, and last year's quarterback Adam Weber is with the Denver Broncos. Also, fullback Jon Hoese was signed to the Green Bay Packers' practice squad last week.

Daily Clips: Dec. 17

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Young Gophers have come together quickly (1500 ESPN)

Four Gophers among national stat leaders (Star Tribune)

WCHA power rankings (College Hockey News)

Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau are in Canada (Edmonton Journal)

Thomas Vanek scored twice and had four points in his 500th NHL game as Buffalo beat Toronto and Phil Kessel last night. Read all the way to the bottom for a Johnny Pohl note (AP)

Alex Kangas picks up a win for first-place Fort Wayne (Journal Gazette)

Daily Clips: Dec. 16

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Offense and goaltending have powered the Gophers so far this year (FSN)

Nick Leddy has found his D partner (Chicago Sun-Times)

Thomas Vanek will play his 500th NHL game tonight (Buffalo News) against Phil Kessel and Toronto (Toronto Star)

Get to Know Nicole Mastey

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GopherSports.com recently sat down with senior guard Nicole Mastey to learn a little bit more about how she spent her summer, what it's like to play basketball with her twin sister and her plans following graduation. 

What did you get to do last summer?
"I went to Ireland in May and I got to spend three and a half weeks in Dublin and Belfast, so I got to see a lot of Northern Ireland. And then, got to see more of the tourist side down in Dublin. My favorite part would have been when we spent a night at Corrymeela, which is kind of a camp-like atmosphere. There were a lot of group bonding activities, like team activities, so we learned a lot about each other in the group and it was a very good experience."

What is it like to play basketball with your twin sister, Brianna?
"I've always wanted to continue playing basketball with Brianna. She has always been my role model. I have always grown up watching her play, so now that I get to be in college and play with her, it's kind of a dream come true. We get to share this experience together and it's something that we'll never forget."

What do you hope to do once you graduate from the U?
"I am actually working on getting an internship with a youth center called "The Garage" in Burnsville. They kind of already told me that I could potentially have a job position with them after, so I'm really hoping that will work out for me, because I have been volunteering there and I love the kids. They want someone there who can facilitate sports activities, so I'm thinking I might be the perfect one for that."

Daily Clips: Dec. 15

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Gopher go shopping for Toys for Tots (GopherSports.com)

Nick Bjugstad, Nate Schmidt lead Gophers in third period (Star Tribune)

Kyle Rau will be battling for a roster spot on the WJC team (UnitedStatesOfHockey.com)
Happy Thursday Gopher Wrestling fans. I wanted to pass along another video which features Head Assitant Coach Brandon Eggum.

Eggum talks about what the Gophers will do with the little break they ahve in the 2011-12 season. Minnesota will next wrestle at the Southern Scuffle Jan 1-2. 

Enjoy 

Go Gophers!




Gophers Go Shopping For Toys For Tots

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The University of Minnesota sold alumni signed hockey pucks at the Dec. 2 game against Minnesota State and the Dec. 10 home game against Michigan Tech.

The M-logo pucks were sold for $10 each and all proceeds benefited the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots foundation. Each puck was signed by one of the following former Gophers: Thomas Vanek, Alex Goligoski, Blake Wheeler, Paul Martin, Jordan Leopold, Keith Ballard, Ryan Potulny, Grant Potulny, Jeff Taffe, Mike Hoeffel, Tony Lucia and Aaron Ness.

Minnesota fans responded and purchased every puck before either game began. With more than $2,000 four Gophers - Taylor Matson, Jake Hansen, Zach Budish and Jake Parenteau - headed to a local Target store on Monday and purchased holiday gifts that will be delivered to Toys for Tots this evening.

We would like to sincerely thank all of our wonderful fans who purchased a signed puck and helped Gopher Hockey make a difference for some deserving kids this holiday season. We are already looking forward to doing this again next year!


VIDEO: Highlights from the 34-6 win over Iowa State

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Check out the latest highlights from the Gophers 34-6 win over Iowa State last Friday!

Daily Clips: Dec. 14

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Mark Alt honored by WCHA for his offense (GopherSports.com)

Don Lucia Q&A about the first half of the season (GopherSports.com)

Blake Wheeler packing a punch (Winnipeg Sun)

Gophers Inner Circle: Latest Rankings

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Good day Gopher Wrestling fans! Thought I would pass along some links of the latest rankings around the country. Some have Minnesota sitting at No. 3 and other have the Gophers at No. 4.

The team is in the middle of finals week and will have a short break before they next compete at the Southern Scuffle, Jan. 1-2 2012. Some notable teams that will be at this year's Southern Scuffle with the Gophers are: Penn State, Cornell, Oregon State and Missouri. 

InterMat Rankings 

Win Magazine 

NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll

DICollegeWrestling.net

Defenseman Alt Named WCHA co-Offensive Player of the Week

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Go Gophers! Mark Alt
Go Gophers!
Mark Alt was named WCHA co-Offensive Player of the Week after leading all WCHA players with five points last weekend.
Go Gophers!
Sophomore defenseman Mark Alt was named Red Baron WCHA co-Offensive Player of the Week for Dec. 13 as a result of his outstanding efforts last weekend. He shares the honor with Mitch Bruijsten of Alaska Anchorage.

Alt led all WCHA players with five points (2g-3a) last weekend as host Minnesota split with Michigan Tech. In a 3-2 overtime setback last Friday, he scored the first goal of the game to put Minnesota up 1-0 and then assisted on Seth Helgeson's goal that sent the game into the extra session to earn No. 2 star honors.

On Saturday, Alt recorded the first three-point game of his collegiate career with the game-winning goal and two assists, earning No. 1 star accolades as the Gophers romped the Huskies 6-2.

Alt, who is a draftee of the Carolina Hurricanes, was also a +5 for the weekend and did not take a penalty. He was one the ice for only one goal against, which was a power-play tally.

Alt is the fifth Gopher to be honored by the WCHA this year. He joins Kyle Rau (Oct. 18 rookie of the week), Nick Bjugstad (Nov. 22 offensive player of the week) and Kent Patterson (Oct. 11 and Nov. 1 defensive player of the week) in being recognized by the WCHA this season.

Gophers in the Pros - Week 14

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Former Gopher Nate Triplett signed a two-year contract with the San Diego Chargers. The linebacker was added to the team's active roster last week.

Triplett was originally drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. In October of last year he signed with the Chargers' practice squad. He spent seven weeks on San Diego's practice team.

The Indianapolis Colts signed the rookie free agent to their active roster last December. Triplett played on special teams in the Colt's final five games of the 2010-11 season as well as during the team's two playoff games. He played in three games for the Colts earlier this season.

Triplett's new team, the Chargers, beat the Bills on Sunday 37-10 to keep their playoff hopes alive. They moved to a 6-7 record, two games behind the division-leading Broncos.

Here's a look at the performance of other Gophers in the National Football League:

  • Eric Decker, wide receiver for the Denver Broncos, recorded three receptions for 33 yards. The Broncos once again rallied late to defeat the Bears in overtime 13-10.
  • Chicago Bears' running back Marion Barber recorded 27 carries for 108 yards and one touchdown. He also had two receptions for 32 yards in the Bears' loss to Denver.
  • Matt Spaeth, tight end for the Bears, was active but did not record any statistics in the overtime loss.
  • Vikings' cornerback and return specialist Marcus Sherels recorded four tackles (two solo, two assisted) in Sunday's close game against Detroit. He returned two punts for 22 yards in addition to one kickoff return for 16 yards. The Lions were able to hold on and beat the Vikings 34-28.
  • Safety Dominique Barber is on the Houston Texans' injured reserve list with a knee injury. The Texans beat the Bengals 20-19 and clinched a playoff spot for the first time in team history.
  • Logan Payne, wide receiver for the New York Jets, is also on injured reserve while he recovers from wrist surgery. The Jets beat the Kansan City Chiefs 37-10.
  • Adam Weber, last year's quarterback for the Gophers, is expected to be signed off the Broncos' practice squad to take the roster slot of Kyle Orton who was waived by the team last week.
  • In addition to those who were on active rosters, three former Gopher players spent week 14 of the NFL season on the practice squad for their respective teams. Offensive lineman Dominic Alford is on the practice squad for the Cleveland Browns, cornerback Traye Simmons is with the San Diego Chargers, and last year's quarterback Adam Weber is with the Denver Broncos.

GWH Blog: The Gopher Give Back Holiday Event

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Last evening, the Gopher women's hockey team hosted the Gopher Give Back Holiday Event at Ridder Arena. Youth hockey players from around the metro area joined the Gopher players in a fun night of activities, including making blankets for children in need, making decorations for elderly people in nursing homes, and making cards to send to Minnesota National Guard troops serving in the Middle East. In addition to the community service projects, the Gopher players gave tours of Ridder Arena, and the youth players participated in a scavenger hunt and trivia contest. At the end of the night, there was a prize drawing.

As an "admission fee", the youth players brought donations of Toys for Tots, Second Harvest, and clothing items.

Each youth player received a goodie bag with some treats, as well as photos and a poster. The Gophers were busy signing autographs all night, with the youth players taking special joy in getting an autograph from the Gopher player who shares their jersey number.

Nikki Ludwigson led the blanket-making station, and along with her teammates and the youth players, they completed about a dozen blankets. Many players helped at the craft station, where they wrote notes and made and impressive stack of Christmas tree decorations. 

The card-making station was upstairs in the club room, where many players helped to make nearly 150 holiday cards. Glitter, glue and stickers were flying everywhere! Kelly Seeler, who joked that she might be interested in an arts and crafts major if there was one offered at the U, made some very creative cards. Some of the cards turned out more beautiful than others, but we think all will be appreciated, even the one with the oddly-shaped Christmas tree drawn by Katie Frischmann. (Sorry Katie, I just had to mention it!). Coach Frost and his boys got in on the action too, there were some very nice cards made by Micah, Jonah and Josiah.  

The event was planned by several members of the team, headed by junior goalie Alyssa Grogan. We know Alyssa doesn't like to get attention for her community service work, but she certainly deserves credit for all her efforts in planning and executing the Give Back event. We think she and her teammates did a great job! Also helping with donations of supplies were Power Play Club members, GWH parents, and other supporters of Gopher women's hockey. A special thanks to David and Bob from the Power Play Club, who helped during the entire event, from set up to clean up.

A photo album from the event can be found on the Gophers' Facebook page at facebook.com/MinnesotaWomensHockey.

Coach Lucia Discusses The First Half Of The Season

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Go Gophers! Don Lucia
Go Gophers!
Don Lucia's Gophers are 14-5-1 overall and 11-3-0 in the WCHA.
Go Gophers!
Who is your team MVP after 20 games? Vote Now

The Gophers are 14-5-1 overall and 11-3-0 in the WCHA at the winter break. They are tied for first in the league and ranked No. 2 in the nation. We recently talked with coach Don Lucia about this year's team, exceeding expectations and what player has turned his head this year. We asked him a bunch of other questions too.

GopherSports: At the end of Last season, you said you felt the team was close to returning to form despite the disappointing end to the year. Is this year's team where you thought it would be or have they exceeded your expectations?

Don Lucia: I just felt when the season ended last year that we had a good second half run and had been playing pretty good hockey. Had we not faltered in that first round we would have been an NCAA tournament team and been on to the Final Five and done many of the things we had hoped to do during the course of the season. That weekend kind of left a stain for everybody.

I thought we had a chance to be a good team this year. I can't sit here and say that when the year began--looking at our schedule and knowing how young we were going to be in certain places--that we were going to be 11-3-0 in the WCHA. But that is a credit to our players and how hard they have worked and what a good team they have become.

GS: Coming into the season, a lot of people thought scoring would be a concern, but the Gophers have the second highest scoring offense in the nation. Were you as concerned as everyone else or did you think Minnesota would be able to score?

DL: It is always a concern and I think that is something that has held us back the last few years. We were not a high scoring team and could never get a timely goal or a separation goal when we needed it. I did not anticipate that we would be sitting here with Nick Bjugstad having 16 goals and Kyle Rau having 12 goals at the halfway point. Those two have gone a long way in helping alleviate some of our scoring concerns.

Then we did not have Zach Budish last year and I also think our freshmen have been complimentary pieces. Sophomores Nick Bjugstad, Erik Haula and Nate Condon have really taken another step forward in how they have played this year. It has also helped to get Taylor Matson back, who we did not have at the end of last year for the third straight year. That has made a difference. Then on the backend, a guy like Nate Schmidt has really emerged and played really well this year.

GS: You mentioned Nate Schmidt, who has 20 assists in 20 games this year. What do you attribute his breakout season to considering he played sparingly last year?

DL: He has shown a swagger this year that we never saw last year. I think last year probably in many ways was a humbling experience for him. He learned the value of how hard you have to work on and off the ice. Off the ice, he is in a lot better shape and leaned himself out. When the year began, we told him that he was going to be one of our top five defensemen and that we needed him to play with confidence. We told him that he was going to have to play himself out of a job and not into a job. He settled in and knew he was going to be on one of the power plays. He has done a nice job in every situation he has been in so far.

Go Gophers! Kyle Rau
Go Gophers!
Kyle Rau leads all freshmen nationally with 12 goals and 22 points.
Go Gophers!
GS: You have said many times that you have watched Kyle Rau play a lot of hockey over the years and have seen him score big goals. But did you expect the true freshmen would have the start that he is having with 12 goals and 22 points in 20 games?


DL: That line has been a dominant line on most nights and when they are on it makes it very difficult to beat us. We have good play throughout our other lineup as well, but you have to have that dominant line that can score for you every night and that is something that they can do. In the summer, looking at Kyle, Nick and Zach I thought that might be a good line. Kyle is a left-handed scoring winger with a right-handed center who started to become a dominant player they second half of last year. Budish adds size and is a good passer on the other side.

Kyle has a nose for the net. He scores most of his goals right around the blue paint. He is not a guy who is blowing pucks by goaltenders from 30 or 40 feet. A lot of times smaller guys want to play on the perimeter, but that is not his game. He is very competitive and is not afraid to make a big hit. He is scoring goals because he is going to the dirty areas.

GS: Is Rau more physical than you thought he would be?

DL: It is what I have seen, but I did not know if he would initiate as much contact as he has. He is not the biggest guy but he is ultra-competitive and I like the competitiveness he has shown on the ice, even with himself. When he makes a mistake, you can see him get mad at himself.

GS: Minnesota may be without Rau and Nick Bjugstad for the Mariucci Classic. That is 33 percent of your scoring. Who do you think is going to step up and score?

DL: We will have to do it by committee. We can move forward with a couple of our lines intact, but that would take away two-thirds of our top line and our two leading goal scorers, who also play on the power play and the penalty kill. We have to have some other guys play now and that is one of the reasons we played a whole different line last Saturday, because we know we will need those guys coming up. When we come back for those two games we know that other guys are going to get an opportunity. We do not know who yet, or how we are going to reconfigure our lines, but we need other guys to step forward. That may be guys who have not played a lot. A guy like Joey Miller, who played his first game of the year last Saturday found a way to score a goal.

Go Gophers! Kent Patterson
Go Gophers!
Kent Patterson set a school record this year with six shutouts.
Go Gophers!
GS: Senior goaltender Kent Patterson has a school record six shutouts this year. How important has his play been to the team's success?


DL: He is a big reason we are where we are. He has been outstanding all season. He has not needed to make a boatload of saves each night, but he has had to make timely saves and big saves at critical moments of a game that has allowed us to maintain a tie or a lead. He has given us the opportunity to forge ahead and get that separation goal that we need.

GS: You do not have any senior defensemen and only one junior. How would you describe the play of your young blueline? The shots allowed this year to last year are way down.  

DL: Our makeup is a little different. A year ago, on many nights we had three freshmen centers. Additionally, I think our defensemen are physically bigger this year than they were last year and I think they skate well. We have guys who can handle the puck pretty well and bring the puck out of our own end. I think we have done a better job of getting into people in our own ended and sealing and being able to get the puck and get out.

GS: The Gophers are 14-5-1 overall, but only 6-4-0 on Fridays. Is that a concern for you?

DL: No, part of what that is is that we played in three tough places. I think that factors into it. I think the Friday game against Michigan Tech was a different game. Four pucks went in off of different people and we made a mistake. We had chances to win that game and score some goals. I like the fact that on Saturday we have responded. If we lost the night before we have come back and played well. We have played hard and that shows that we are in good shape and that our compete level is good. But we also know that you cannot have a good weekend without winning on Friday.

GS: You mentioned Michigan Tech and last Saturday you showed a lot of emotion on the bench toward the end of the game. Many of your players said they appreciated the fact that you stood up for them and showed them that you have their backs.

DL: Some things happened in the course of the game-right or wrong-they happened, but I want our players to know that I do have their back and I am looking out for them. You do now want guys to get hurt at the end of the game and that is what I was most concerned with more than anything else. I think they understand that if you are a team, the players have to have the coaches back and the coaches have to have the players back.

Go Gophers! Nate Schmidt
Go Gophers!
Nate Schmidt is tied for first in the nation with 20 assists.
Go Gophers!
GS: Who is one player who has surprised you this year? A player who has turned your head and made you notice him.


DL: Probably the most important player that has stepped up that we needed to would be Nate Schmidt. We lost three of our six defensemen from a year ago. Jake Parenteau and Nate Schmidt played a handful of games last year, and Schmidt even played a few games at wing. You look at a guy like Nick Bjugstad, who has 16 goals, but you could see some of that coming during the last third of last season. What Nate has done on our backline--because we are not real deep there and inexperienced--is what we have needed.

GS: What are your initial thoughts on the upcoming Mariucci Classic?

DL: I think it should be a really competitive field. Niagara has done a good job in their league. Northeastern and Princeton have come on strong. Obviously we are going to be shorthanded, but I am looking forward to watching some of our players who have not had the opportunity to play and to see how some of our players do in an expanded role and see what they can do. It is an important time for some of the guys in our lineup to show what they can do.

The other thing, I think we learned after this past weekend is that we need to continue to rotate some guys in and out. I think there needs to be some heat put on guys to make sure they play at a high level.

GS: What is the schedule for the team from now until the Mariucci Classic?

DL: We have ice for them every day for the next couple of weeks. School ends Wednesday. They have a study day Thursday and the guys are required to be here through Friday. After that they are free to go home. I want them to maintain their conditioning level. I am not concerned with how much they are on the ice during the break. We will weigh them before they leave and weigh them when they get back. We want them to do some cardio to maintain their conditioning level, especially next week.

It is good to get away. I don't even care if they skate next week. Getting away is not a bad thing, but three times next week they need to get on a bike or do something to get their heart rate up to make sure they are still in good shape.

GS: You are getting away for a bit as well, right?

DL: I am going to get a chance to watch some of our guys in Penticton. I will also get a chance to see Mario play, which will be nice. We also will have a house full of relatives, which will be nice. That is what the holidays are about. You get to this time of year and it is good for the players to get away a little but it is also good for the coaches. It will be nice for Mike (Guentzel) to get a chance to watch Gabe play for Colorado College this weekend when they play at Mankato. It is good for everybody to have an opportunity to catch their breath, so to speak.

Daily Clips: Dec. 12

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Complete coverage: Minnesota 6, Michigan Tech 2 (GopherSports.com)

Gophers split with Tech (Minnesota Daily)

Alt had a career weekend (Star Tribune) and the Gophers are tied for first in the WCHA (Star Tribune)

Daily Clips: Dec. 11

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Complete coverage (video highlights and more) of Minnesota's 6-2 win (GopherSports.com)

Gophers pull away in win (Star Tribune)

With the outcome already determined, the game got a little heated (Pioneer Press)

A bounceback win for the Gophers (1500 ESPN)

Minnesota trumps Tech 6-2 (SBNation)

Fired up Gophers win heated battle (GopherPuckLive)

Gophers surge past Tech late (FSN)

Alt scores the game-winner (USCHO)

Minnesota earns the split (Examiner.com)

Bjugstad, Rau excited for World Juniors (FSN)
Check out some highlights from Friday nights 34-6 victory over Iowa State at Williams Arena! Minnesota improved to 4-2 overall with the win and will next compete at the Southern Scuffle (Jan. 1-2) in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The Gophers wont be home again at the Sports Pavilion until Sunday Jan. 8, when they host Ohio State at 1 p.m.

Observations from Minnesota's 6-2 Win Over Michigan Tech

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Catch Your Breath
For the first time since the 1990-91 season, Minnesota played 20 or more games before Christmas. Similar to that season, the this year's Gophers had no weeks off between the start of the season and Winter Break. In 1990-91, UM was 15-2-3 in the first half with a 12-1-3 record in WCHA play. This year, the Gophers are 14-5-1 with an 11-3-0 conference ledger. Minnesota is also 8-1-1 in its last 10 games leading into the mid-season break.

Turning It Around
After three seasons of not reaching the NCAA Tournament, it was important that the a youthful Gophers squad (18 underclassmen on a 27-man roster) got off to a good start in 2011-12. With a first-place standing in the WCHA (tied with Minnesota-Duluth) and a top-two national ranking though the first half of the year, they have done just that.

Some of the factors that have led to the Gophers' success have been their play at home, their ability to hold a lead, strong goaltending, and an all-important resiliency that has led to a 8-0-1 Saturday record. Kent Patterson, who has started all 20 games, set a school record with six shutouts and has plenty of time to build on that. The Gophers are also 10-0-0 when leading entering the third period, thanks in large part to a 34-10 scoring margin in the final frame.

Alt-ernative Scoring
Sophomore defenseman Mark Alt had one of the best weekend's of his career against Michigan Tech. After notching a goal and an assist on Friday, Alt scored the Gophers' game-winning goal on Saturday and added two assists to complete a five-point week. He now leads Minnesota defensemen in goals with four and has nine assists. 

Nate Schmidt, who had three assists in the first-half finale, leads Gopher blueliners in points with 21 (1g-20a). Seth Helgeson, who scored on Friday picked up an assist against the Huskies on Saturday. He now has eight points (3g-5a) on the year.

Changing It Up
After losing to Michigan Tech for the first time in eight meetings on Friday, the Gophers changed up their fourth line. Tom Serratore, Travis Boyd, and Nick Larson (flu) were taken out and Christian Isackson, Nico Sacchetti, and assistant captain Joey Miller were put in. It was Miller's 2011-12 debut. The new line combo created numerous chances and maintained good pressure on the forecheck, an effort that finally paid off when Joey Miller scored his first goal since Jan. 2, 2009.

Also, back in the lineup was freshman defenseman Blake Thompson. Thompson replaced Jake Parenteau as Nate Schmidt's defensive partner. Thompson was ejected with 2:43 left in the second period for a hit to the head on MTU's David Johnstone.

Gophers Host Huskies Before Break

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Alternate Channel Listing For Saturday's Game

About Last Night
Mark Alt and Seth Helgeson scored for Minnesota, but the Gophers fell 3-2 in overtime to Michigan Tech. Alt put Minnesota up 1-0 when his point shot deflected in of a Michigan Tech defenseman at the 10:22 mark of the first. Blake Pietila tied the game 1-1 when his shot from behind the net caromed in off Travis Boyd's skate. The second period was scoreless, but the Huskies took a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal by Jacob Johnstone at just 67 seconds into the third period. Helgeson sent the game to overtime with his third goal of the year at the 6:57 mark of the third period. Brett Olson won the game when he scored 33 seconds into overtime. 

Streak Snapped
Prior to last night, Minnesota had won seven straight games against Michigan Tech. The Gophers last loss to Michigan Tech was a 6-5 overtime road defeat on March 6, 2009. Minnesota's last home defeat to Michigan Tech was a 3-2 overtime loss on Nov. 30, 2007. Minnesota's last regulation loss to the Huskies was a 5-4 defeat at Mariucci Arena on March 3, 2006.

Saturday Night Success
The Gophers are 7-0-1 on Saturdays this year. Minnesota has outscored its opponents 33-14 on Saturdays so far and is 4-0-0 at home.

O From The D
Mark Alt and Seth Helgeson each notched their third goals of the season last night. Alt also picked up his seventh assist on the season on Helgeson's tally. Alt and Helgeson now lead Gopher defensemen in goals, but power-play specialist Nate Schmidt leads the team's blueliners in points with 18 (1g-17a).

A Rare Outcome
The Gophers scored the first goal of the game last night, but could not come up with the win. Minnesota has scored the first goal in 14 of 19 games this year and is 12-2-0 when scoring first. Last night, the Gophers also fell to 12-2-0 when tied or leading entering the third period.

Tied For First
Last night's defeat dropped the Gophers into a tie for first place in the WCHA with 20 points. Minnesota Duluth also earned its 20th point with a tie at Wisconsin. Tonight, the Gophers will look to avoid being swept for the first time in the regular season since Dec. 3 and 4, 2010 at Minnesota State.

Need Three
The Gophers failed to score three or more goals last night for only the third time this season. Minnesota is now 1-2-0 this year when scoring less than three goals (lost 3-2 last night, lost 3-1 at Wisconsin and beat North Dakota 2-0). Minnesota is 12-3-1 when scoring three or more goals (Gophers are 9-1-1 when scoring four or more goals this year).

Super Sophomores
Minnesota's sophomore class has produced the bulk of the scoring for the Gophers this year. The Maroon and Gold have registered 202 points (77g-125a) this year and the sophomore class has recorded 117 of those points (42g-75a) points (57.9%). There are 11 sophomores on the team and all of them except Chris Student have played. Of the 10 who have played, only defenseman Jake Parenteau is scoreless. Nick Bjugstad leads the way with 26 points and is followed by Erik Haula with 23.

Barnstorming with Grimm: The Press Room

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In this week's episode of "Barnstorming with Grimm," radio play-by-play man Mike Grimm takes us to the press room. Located on the second floor of Williams Arena, this is where press conferences and media pre-game meals take place.

A Monkey Off Their Back
The Gophers entered the night with a seven-game winning streak against Michigan Tech and were undefeated against the Huskies in the month of December under head coach Don Lucia at 5-0-0. MTU put an end to both losing streak by taking a hard-fought 3-2 overtime win at Mariucci Arena.

Kent Patterson, who had won in four straight appearances against the Huskies, fell to 4-2-0 in his career against Michigan Tech. Both of those losses came in overtime. Under Lucia, Minnesota is now 0-3-4 in overtime games against MTU.

Rare Loss
Until tonight, the Gophers had been almost unbeatable when taking the first lead. Minnesota scored the first goal of the game for the 14th time in 19 games this season when Mark Alt's shot from the point wound up in the back of the net at 10:22 of the first. However, Michigan Tech's comeback win dropped the Gophers record to 12-2-0 when scoring first.

Because the two teams entered the third period tied, the Gophers also fell to 12-2-0 when tied or leading entering the third period. Tonight's loss was also UM's first in overtime this year and first at Mariucci Arena in WCHA play, putting them at 1-1-1 in the extra session and 5-1-0 in home conference play in 2011-12.

The defeat dropped the Gophers into a tie for first place in the WCHA with 20 points. Minnesota-Duluth also earned its 20th point with a tie at Wisconsin. The Gophers will look to avoid being swept for the first time in the regular season since Dec. 3 and 4, 2010 against at Minnesota State.

O From the D
One bright spot from Friday's loss was that two UM defensemen scored goals. Mark Alt and Seth Helgeson each notched their third goals of the season in regulation. Alt also picked up his tenth assist on the season on Helgeson's tally. Alt and Helgeson now lead Gopher defensemen in goals, but power-play specialist Nate Schmidt leads the team's blueliners in points with 18 (1g-17a).

Keeping an Eye on No. 27
After taking the national lead in goals by going on a four-game goal streak from Nov. 12-25 (seven goals in that span), Nick Bjugstad has now gone four games without a goal--the longest stretch of time the sophomore has been kept out of the back of the net all year. Bjugstad, who does have three assists in those four games, still leads the team in points with 26. His first collegiate goal game against Michigan Tech in Houghton, Mich. last year and he recorded two shorthanded goals against the Huskies when the teams met at Mariucci Arena later in the season. Bjugstad came close on several power-play chances, but could not convert on Friday night.

Blog: Williams Flourishing in Mbakwe's Absence

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Even before Rodney Williams stepped on the court at Minnesota, people knew that he was a great athlete. He has proven that with his high vertical leaps and spectacular dunks. But now in his junior season, Williams has shown that there is more to his game than pure athleticism. He has gained confidence, taken on a leadership role, and excelled on the court. 

Following Trevor Mbakwe's ACL tear, Williams shifted from the wing to the power forward position. With this change, his impact on the game skyrocketed. Williams's average playing time prior to Mbakwe's injury was 26.0 minutes per game. In the three games so far without Mbakwe, Williams played an average of 10 more minutes. His scoring almost doubled (from 7.7 to 14.7 points per game), and his rebounding increased by five (from 2.7 to 7.7 rpg).
Go Gophers! Rodney
Go Gophers!
Williams has grown into a leadership role for the Gophers.
Go Gophers!

"I get a lot of mismatches because I can use my speed to get around the bigger guys," Williams said. "So I'm liking the four right now."

Scoring and rebounding are just the beginning of Williams's contributions. His post-Mbakwe blocks (1.0 to 3.3) and steals (1.6 to 2.3) averages have also increased. Head coach Tubby Smith also said Williams has been leading the team in deflections.

"I'm impressed with his defense, blocking shots--the total package," Smith said. "He's been outstanding. He can influence the game, not just by his athleticism, but by being a poised player, a smart player--staying out of foul trouble, knowing when to pass, knowing when to shoot. He's actually directing guys and communicating. He's really become a real leader."

With the success he has had in recent games, Williams has drawn comparisons to former Gopher forward Damian Johnson, who led the team in blocks for three years, and in both blocks and steals as a senior in 2009-10, while also averaging 9.9 ppg and 4.3 rpg. Williams has the potential to be as good as or even better than Johnson.

"He's a better athlete than Damian," Smith said. "And he's understanding how big of an impact he can have on a game at both ends of the court. That's why I think he's blossoming the way he is."

Bruce Smith's Heisman Speech Remembered 70 Years Later

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On this day 70 years ago, Minnesota saw its first and only Heisman Trophy winner accept the greatest honor a college football player can have bestowed upon him. Bruce Smith was on his way to New York City to accept his Heisman Trophy on Dec. 7, 1941 - the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, which led to the United States' entry into World War II.

Smith's Heisman Trophy acceptance speech given in New York on this day seven decades ago was inspirational to many. Audio of the speech, which hadn't been heard in years, was uncovered as of late and was featured on KARE-11 in a news report recently.

Smith and his acceptance speech were also featured on an ESPN Outside the Lines segment recently.

Below are the KARE-11 story on Smith and his speech and audio of his speech, with some game footage of his days as a Gopher:



GWH Blog: Busy weekend, lots of reminders for fans!

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The No. 2 Golden Gophers play host to the Ohio State Buckeyes this weekend, and with lots of promotions and extra events, we have a big list of reminders for fans this weekend.

First and foremost, we have a Saturday-Sunday series this weekend, rather than the normal Friday-Saturday competition days. Games are at 2:00 p.m. at Ridder Arena both days. A preview of the games can be found here.

Many of our Gopher teams are competing at home this weekend, so the athletics area of campus will be buzzing with activity. We encourage fans to allow plenty of time to get to campus and find parking. On both days, we recommend parking in the Fourth Street Ramp

The Gophers are hosting a Toy Drive this weekend, and any fan who brings a new, unwrapped toy to be donated to Toys for Tots will get free admission to the game. On Sunday, there will be a Teddy Bear Toss, which should be fun for fans. If you haven't seen a Teddy Bear Toss before, check out this video from the Calgary Hitmen's Teddy Bear Toss earlier this year. Pretty impressive!

Saturday is also Student Day. U of M students get free admission at Gopher women's hockey at all games, but on Saturday, they also get free pizza during the first intermission. Students - be sure to bring your U Card for your free ticket and free pizza!

Saturday is North St. Paul Community Day, in honor of Stephanie Anderson and her hometown. Members of the North St. Paul community get discounted admission for $4 (regularly $8). Just mention the community day event at the ticket window for discounted admission.

Sunday is Coon Rapids Community Day, in honor of Rachael Bona and her hometown. Members of the Coon Rapids community get discounted admission for $4.

On Sunday, former Gopher players will play in the annual Alumni Game. The game will take place at 10:30 a.m. at Ridder Arena, and fans are welcome to come watch the game. They will play two 30-minute halves. In addition to the Alumni Game, during an intermission in the game between Minnesota & Ohio State, the 2002 WCHA Championship team will be honored. The teams for the alumni game are:

Gold Team:
Kelli Blankenship (2007-10)
Tracy Engstrom-Cassano (1999-2002)
Brittany Francis (2007-10)
Michelle Maunu (2007-10)
Becky Wacker (2004-07)
Gwen Anderson-Polaski (2000-03)
Julie Otto-Greely (1998)
Kate Swenson (2001-02)
Sarma Pone-Ozmen (1998-2002)
Natalie Lamme (2006)

Maroon Team:
Chelsey Brodt-Rossenthol (2003-06)
Jerilyn Glenn (2001-04)
Jamie Horton (2007-09)
Krista Johnson (2003-06)
Nadine Muzerall (1998-2001)
Allie Sanchez (2003-06)
Lacey Franzmeier (1998-2000)
Betsey Kukowski (1998-2001)
Megan Milbert-Tripicchio (1997-2000)
Jody Horak (2002-05)
Sarah Harms (1997)

And finally, the team is hosting the Gopher Give Back Holiday Event on Monday, Dec. 12 from 6-9 p.m. at Ridder Arena. Space is still available. All the details about the event and how to register are included in this flyer.

We hope to see you at Ridder Arena this weekend!

Daily Clips: Dec. 9

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Saturday's autographed alumni puck sale to benefit Toys for Tots (GopherSports.com)

Michigan Tech radio announcer tells us how the Huskies can win (GopherSports.com)

Predictions for the weekend (Star Tribune and USCHO)

Gophers aim to stay atop the WCHA (FSN)

Nick Bjugstad feature (The Hockey News)

Whirlwind experience marked Cade Fairchild's NHL debut (NHL.com)

Alex Goligoski is off of IR (Pro Hockey Talk)
Go Gophers! Autographed hockey pucks
Go Gophers!
Minnesota is selling alumni autographed pucks (like the Alex Goligoski one above) at the Dec. 10 games for $10. All proceeds will benefit Toys for Tots.
Go Gophers!

The University of Minnesota will be selling a limited supply of autographed men's hockey alumni hockey pucks at the Saturday, Dec. 10 game against Michigan Tech. 

The pucks, which are $10 each, will be available behind section 2 in Mariucci Arena. All proceeds will benefit the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots foundation. All transactions must be made in cash.

Get your pucks as soon as you enter the arena, as they sold out prior to the start of the game last Friday. Gopher hockey players will go shopping on Monday for toys that will then be donated to Toys for Tots.

The M-logo pucks have been signed by one of the following alumni: Thomas Vanek, Alex Goligoski, Blake Wheeler, Paul Martin, Jordan Leopold, Keith Ballard, Ryan Potulny, Grant Potulny, Jeff Taffe, Mike Hoeffel, Tony Lucia and Aaron Ness. 

The pucks, which will make great holiday gifts, will be wrapped, so fans will not know whose autograph they are getting until they have purchased the puck and opened it.

The objectives of Toys for Tots are to help less fortunate children throughout the United States experience the joy of Christmas; to play an active role in the development of one of our nation's most valuable resources - our children; to unite all members of local communities in a common cause for three months each year during the annual toy collection and distribution campaign; and to contribute to better communities in the future.

"Iron Five" Reconnect with Teammates, Fans at Celebration

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By Justine Buerkle, GopherSports.com

Celebration Photo Gallery

The University of Minnesota campus has changed a lot since 1972, the year the "Iron Five" led Minnesota to a Big Ten basketball title and an NCAA Tournament berth. But Williams Arena still sits right there in the same place, and that is where the team united again to be honored for the 40th anniversary of their conference championship.
Go Gophers! Winfield
Go Gophers!
One of the Minnesota's greatest athletes, Dave Winfield returned to campus for the '71-'72 anniversary celebration.
Go Gophers!

The recognition ceremony took place at halftime of the current Gophers' game against USC on Saturday, Dec. 3. But the festivities started well before game time. The team members had a dinner together, where they caught up and rehashed memories from their time together at the "U". They also ate breakfast with the Golden Dunkers club.

Saturday afternoon, they signed autographs in the concourse before the game started, with some longtime fans bringing items from the 1971-72 season to be signed. At halftime, the team was introduced on the court and presented with plaques commemorating the 40th anniversary of their accomplishments as the fans in attendance at the Barn gave them a nice ovation. The 1971-72 Gophers appreciated the warm reception.

"The way the University of Minnesota honored us, feted us, presented us to the fans--it was great," said Dave Winfield, one of the U's most distinguished athletes. "A lot of love, a lot of support. There were people that told me they've been fans for 65 years, and that we were some of their favorites. So, it's great to know that we've had an impact."

After the game, the alumni joined the 2011-12 Gophers in the locker room to chat, offer congratulations, and impart some wisdom to their younger counterparts. Both generations of Gophers enjoyed this opportunity to connect.
Go Gophers! Brewer
Go Gophers!
Jim Brewer said he was thrilled so many fans acknowledged the impact the '71-'72 team had on the university.
Go Gophers!

Meeting with the current team and hearing fans voice their appreciation was a special experience for the Big Ten champions. But another important aspect of the weekend was the chance for them to simply spend time with each other. Some of the players had not seen each other for decades. Even after so much time apart, they still share the bond that comes from overcoming obstacles and succeeding together.

"These are the guys that I know I can depend on to be straight with me and tell me the truth," Jim Brewer said. "It's really great to be among friends, because those are the people who you've shared some kind of happiness, some kind of success with. I think that really says it all."

A testament to both their time on the basketball roster and their time in the classroom at Minnesota, the Gophers' success has continued off the court since their incredible 1972 season.

"What was enlightening to me, and a good thing to see, was that everyone who played here did well in life," Winfield said. "They're making major contributions. And that's important, because it shows what we learned at this school, the experiences that we had at this institution."

View From Michigan Tech

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Michigan Tech is coming to town this weekend, so we talked to radio voice of the Huskies Dirk Hembroff to get his take on Minnesota's opponent this weekend. Hembroff is the sports director and host of the "DirkSide" Morning Show at WKMJ.
 
GopherSports.com: Dirk, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you give us a scouting report on the Huskies this year?  

Dirk Hembroff: The Huskies are off to their best start in five years. Now  8-7-1, Tech jumped out of the gates with a 6-2-1 record in their first nine games, which included two overtime wins against Wisconsin and a three point weekend against Denver.

Milos Gordic, who missed the first six games recovering from off season upper body surgery, is leading the team with 7 goals, followed closely by freshman Tanner Kero with 6 tallies. Michigan Tech's captain, Brett Olson (5-12=17), leads the team in scoring. In contrast to recent seasons, Tech has spread their goals around with 14 different players having scored, nine of them have a least 3 goals. Another big reason for the early success of the Huskies has been senior netminder, Josh Robinson, who has compiled a .920 save percentage and two shutouts.

Defensively, the Huskies are led by junior Steven Seigo, who helps quarterback the power play. Freshman Riley Sweeny has fit in quickly as an important piece of the puzzle.

The Huskies' hot start has cooled a bit after a couple of tough losses last weekend to the now No. 1 ranked Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. Both games against Duluth saw the teams tied going into the third period, with the Bulldogs capitalizing on a couple of Tech mistakes to get the wins.

GS: Who is one player Gopher fans should pay extra attention to this weekend?

DH: Blake Pietila is Tech's lone draft pick and has been hot and cold this season. He's big, strong and has the ability to be a game changer, but he's still only 18 years old and is still learning how to be good every night. Blake will likely be playing with different linemates this weekend, so we'll see if that jumps starts his game again.

GS: What does Michigan Tech have to do to win?

DH: Like new head coach, Mel Pearson, has said many times already this season, the Huskies need 60 minutes of hockey each night this weekend to beat the Gophers. There can be no let downs. Michigan Tech has proven they can beat anyone, but they have not proven that they can beat good teams while making key mistakes. The more 5-on-5 hockey there is, the better for the Huskies' chances.

Maybe the most important element to Tech's opportunity to win against Minnesota would be Josh Robinson. He just needs to find a way to beat his counterpart in net, Kent Patterson.

Tech has a habit of playing well at Mariucci. It should be a good weekend of hockey.

Daily Clips: Dec. 8

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Minnesota hosts Michigan Tech before break (Minnesota Daily)

Gophers talk Tech, playing at home and not having a bye week (GopherSports.com)

Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau talk about the possibility of representing Team USA (GopherSports.com)

Phil Kessel still leads in All-Star voting (London Free Press) and scores his 17th goal of the year (Toronto Star)
Go Gophers! Don Lucia
Go Gophers!
The Gophers are 29-5-4 against Michigan Tech under coach Don Lucia.
Go Gophers!
Playing Michigan Tech

The Gophers have won seven straight games against Michigan Tech and their last loss in regulation to the Huskies was a 5-4 defeat at Mariucci Arena on March 3, 2006.

Minnesota went 4-0-0 against Michigan Tech last year, but knows that this year's squad from Houghton, Mich., is much improved from the team that won four games a year ago.
Husky alum Mel Pearson is in his first year as Michigan Tech's head coach and has his team of to an 8-7-1 start (5-6-1 WCHA).

"Tech is off to a great start with their new coach," said Minnesota bench boss Don Lucia. "They have a good nucleus of returning players. Last year three of their top four scorers were freshmen. They have some guys that can put the puck in the net and more than anything, that's what's been missing from their program the last couple of years. Now they're scoring, their specialty teams are strong, and they've gotten a good performance from their senior goaltender."

Redshirt sophomore Zach Budish said the Gophers need to play well this weekend to carry some momentum into the holiday break. However, he knows that will not be easy against the new-look Huskies, who were also missing key players last year because of injury.

"Michigan Tech is a lot better than they've been in the past," said Budish. "We've got to be ready to go both Friday and Saturday."

Freshman Seth Ambroz is looking forward to emptying the tank this weekend.

"We've got a break coming up so there's nothing to save," said Ambroz who scored his first goal in 16 games last Saturday against Minnesota State. "It's going to be a fun series. It's going to be a physical series."

Home Improvement

Minnesota finished last year with a 9-10-3 record at Mariucci Arena, which was its first season under .500 at the new Mariucci. The Gophers have raced out to an 8-1-0 home record this year and are 5-0-0 in home WCHA games.

"It is something we emphasized when the year began," said coach Don Lucia. "We had our struggles at home last year and did not play particularly well. This year, we have come out with much more energy and played better start to finish. We have had very strong first periods and have finished off games at home as well."

The Gophers, who are 13-4-1 overall and 10-2-0 in the WCHA, are ranked No. 2 in both major polls this week. Minnesota has outscored its opponents 42-11 at Mariucci Arena this season, including 14-2 in the first period and 15-2 in the third period.

"We have also had very good goaltending at home," said Lucia, who has watched his Gophers pitch five shutouts in nine home games this year. "We have also scored some timely goals. Last year, we would get a lead but then we could not get that separation goal. That is a big reason we have the record we do, because we are having success at home."

Another thing that is different this year at home is the atmosphere in the building. The Gophers are averaging 9,148 fans at Mariucci Arena and the barn is rocking again.

"We have played better and our fans have reacted to it," said Lucia. "When our fans get into it a little bit more, our players get into it a little bit more. When our players get into it more, our fans get into it more. They have fed off each other and it has been a much better atmosphere. I think our fans are excited about our start."

Senior captain Taylor Matson said he thinks the Olympic-size ice at Mariucci Arena has benefited the Gophers this season.

"I think the Olympic sheet is an advantage for us because of our speed and aggressiveness," said Matson, who scored twice at home against Minnesota State last weekend. "We are also in great shape this season. It is the best conditioned team that I have been a part of and that has had a big effect in the third periods. That is where we have been successful this year."

Sophomore defenseman Nate Schmidt said the team was not happy with their performance at home last year and has worked hard to change the home results.

"One of our goals at the start of the year was that we wanted to protect home ice as much as possible," said Schmidt, who leads the Gophers with 17 assists. "It's gotten away from us the last couple of years--not playing well at home. One of the biggest things is getting in front of the home fans and performing the way we know we can and putting a better product on the ice than we have in the last couple years by working hard and blocking shots. We've changed our mentality over the last year."

Playing Every Weekend

While most teams have already had a bye week in their schedule, the Gophers will play for the tenth straight week when they host Michigan Tech on Friday and Saturday. It is the first time since the 1990-91 season that Minnesota will play 20 games before the holiday break. After this weekend, Minnesota will not play against until the Dec. 30-31 Mariucci Classic.  

Go Gophers! Zach Budish
Go Gophers!
Zach Budish is second on the team with 14 assists.
Go Gophers!
For head coach Don Lucia, playing 10 straight weeks has been fine with him.

"If you are healthy it is fine and we have been healthy," said Lucia. "If you are nicked up a lot then that is where that bye week can come into play. The bye week is hard from the standpoint that you shut it down and do not have practice with your players and you do not know if they are going to come back sluggish after that week."

Redshirt sophomore Zach Budish said he prefers the schedule the way it is this year.  

"I do not like a bye week," said Budish, who is second on the team with 14 assists. "I think we are in a good routine right now. We have not had too bad of a streak here, so it is nice to keep it going. I like playing every weekend instead of sitting at home and watching on TV."

The Gophers by week this year is the first weekend in February.

"That comes at a pretty good time," said Lucia.

Bjugstad, Rau Headed To Camp

Sophomore Nick Bjugstad and freshman Kyle Rau were named to the preliminary roster for the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team today. Bjugstad and Rau are two of 29 players who will gather for a camp in Camrose, Alta., on Dec. 17. The camp will include exhibition games against Russia (Dec. 20), Switzerland (Dec. 21) and Slovakia (Dec. 23).

The final 22-player U.S. National Junior Team roster is expected to be named Dec. 22.

"It is exciting," said Rau. "I do not really know what to expect when I get there. I am going to talk to Nick and see what to expect, but it is exciting."

What does Rau have to do to make the team? Even he is not sure.

"That is a good question," said Rau. "Just play my game and hope that is what they want."

Rau was not invited to the 2011 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in August in Lake Placid, N.Y., but has turned the heads of USA Hockey in his first 18 collegiate games. He leads all freshmen nationally in points (19) and goals (11). His five game-winning goals are also tied for the most in the nation among all players.

Bjugstad thinks Rau will fit in just fine.

"It is exciting and will be nice to have Kyle there as well," said Bjugstad, who is second in the nation in points (26) and goals (15). "Hopefully we can have a good showing at the tryout and perform well. It is a fast-paced game and the players are younger. The players are not as strong as in college hockey but it is really fast and skilled hockey. Kyle will adjust fine as he is a really fast player."

Bjugstad helped lead the U.S. to a bronze medal at last year's World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y. He had two goals and two assists in six WJC games a year ago. Both of his goals were game-winners, as he scored the overtime game-winning goal against Finland and then scored the game-winning goal in the bronze medal game against Sweden

"It was a surreal experience for me," said Bjugstad. "There were a lot of good leaders on the team. We played Canada in our barn but there were 18,000 Canadian fans was a pretty cool experience for me. It had to be like a Stanley Cup experience. It was very hostile and very intense. It was fun."

VIDEO: Decker caught 2 passes during Sunday's Denver win over the Vikings.

By Cory Hall, GopherSports.com

The Denver Broncos and quarterback Tim Tebow have been a top headline in the National Football League over the past month or two. But Gopher fans know there is more to the team's success than a fleet-footed quarterback. Former Minnesota football players Eric Decker and Adam Weber may not reap the glory, but each of them have played an integral part in helping the Broncos rise to the top of the AFC West Division, alongside the Oakland Raiders.

This past weekend, the Broncos snuck out of Minneapolis with a 35-32 comeback victory over the Minnesota Vikings to improve to 7-5 overall and grab their fifth straight win. The triumph at Mall of America Field places Denver in a tie for first in the AFC West with the Raiders and generates hope for a playoff berth for the Broncos.
Go Gophers! Decker
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Eric Decker has emerged as one of Broncos' quarterback Tim Tebow's favorite targets this season.
Go Gophers!

"It was a battle today, and it just came down to the last play," former Gopher Eric Decker said following the team's third-straight comeback win. "Our mentality is that if it's close in the fourth, we're going to find a way to win, no matter how it gets done. I am glad we came out on top, and it was great to get a win in front of family and friends."

Decker, a second-year wide-out who holds Gopher records for career receptions (277) and receiving yards (3,119), has been just one of notable players in the Broncos organization who has received praise for the team's revival. With Denver's receiving corps looking for a No. 1 target heading into the season, the Cold Springs, Minn. native has stepped up to be the go-to-guy, pulling in 39 receptions for 552 yards and eight touchdowns.

The numbers support a case for Decker being a large part of Denver's success the past month or two. But the 6-foot-3, wide receiver paid tribute to a plethora of pieces in the organization for the team's turnaround.

"It is just fun to be a part of this team and the comeback that we are making," Decker stated. "Every game someone different makes a big play, and it doesn't matter who makes them, just as long as we win."

Following the Broncos' three-point victory over Minnesota, former Gopher teammate and now Vikings defensive back Marcus Sherels applauded Decker for his tenacity. Sherels played receiver with Decker for two seasons at the U and then switched to defensive back.

"I was with [Eric] Decker for four years and trained at receiver with him for two years," Sherels said. "I have always looked up to him and respected him a lot. His work ethic is second to none."

On the other hand, rookie quarterback Adam Weber hasn't been in the spotlight thus far in his young NFL career. But the contribution that he makes with the practice squad has helped prepare the stifling Denver defense, which has held three of its last four opponents to 13 points or less.
Go Gophers! Weber
Go Gophers!
Former Gopher QB Adam Weber is currently on the Denver Broncos' practice squad.
Go Gophers!

"Weber is good," said Decker, who is a current teammate of Weber's and was his top target when they were Gophers from 2007-09. "He is playing well right now with the practice squad. He is going to get a shot one of these days because he definitely has the skills to play in this league."

Weber, who holds Minnesota career records for passing yards (10,917), completions (909) and touchdowns (72), was activated this past weekend against the Vikings for the first time in his career.

When looking toward the future, both former Gophers have hopes of establishing themselves as a weekly contributor in the NFL, but right now, their sights are set on the short-term goal of aiding Denver in reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

"Our mentality really is one game at a time," Decker said. "To know that Oakland lost and we won, and that we're tied in first place -- we have a chance. That's the best thing right now. We're playing our best football and playing together as a team. Camaraderie is high and we'll see where it takes us."

After playing five of its last seven games on the road, Decker, Weber and the Broncos return home to Mile High Stadium this weekend to host an injury-plagued Chicago Bears team, which also has a couple former Gophers on its roster. Running back Marion Barber III and tight end Matt Spaeth will have a chance to catch up with Decker and Weber this weekend.

Blog: Gophers Volunteer at Big Brothers Big Sisters Event

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The Golden Gophers' fall golf schedule is over, and they will not be competing again until February, but they have still been keeping busy. In addition to practice and school work, the team has also taken some time to volunteer. On Dec. 2, the Gophers were at the Metrodome for the annual Big Brothers Big Sisters Holiday Party. Read Jackie Shepherd's account of the event below:

About 350 kids ages 7-12 from the Twin Cities area participated. There were various activities set up from them to do on the Metrodome field, such as moon bounces, face painting, flag football, bowling, kickball, and a mini golf course.

We were in change of the kickball game (we found out the athletic ability, or rather the lack of athletic ability, that our team possesses outside of golf) and the mini golf course. At the end of the night each kid was surprised with a new bicycle as a Christmas gift from Big Brothers Big Sisters. It was fun to see the kids get excited about the bikes.
 The team poses with Star Wars characters at the event.

Get to Know Alex Ionescu

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GopherSports.com recently sat down with freshman guard Alex Ionescu to learn a little bit more about why she decided to come to Minnesota, what she plans to major in and her favorite American food. 

Why did you decide to come to the U?
"Because of the cold weather. Haha. No, it was always my dream to play college basketball, and Coach Borton came to Romania two days before my surgery. That was very important to me."

What type of surgery did you have?
"ACL surgery on my left leg."

What do you want to major in at the U?
"I want to major in retail merchandising apparel, and maybe minor in journalism."

What is your favorite American food>
"Ummm... Bacon. We don't have bacon in Romania. I mean, some people eat it, but it's not something specifically Romanian."

Jennie-O-Wrestler of the Week: Jonathon Volp

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1.     Gophersports: Why did you first decide to become a wrestler? 

Go Gophers! NAME OF PICTURE
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Switch to Turkey
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Jonathon Volp: My 7th grade gym class had a wrestling unit and I really enjoyed it. My friend convinced me to join the actual team and I loved it.

2.     GS: What made you want to come to Minnesota?
JV: It is a great school overall, and I wasn't getting scouted. I figured if I'm going to walk on anywhere, why not one of the premier programs in the nation?

3.     GS: What are you most looking forward to in college?
JV: Being able to train in a winning environment and living life on my own.

4.     GS:Do you have any pre-match rituals?
JV: Music and sprints.

5.     GS: What is playing on your ipod right now?
JV: Eminem, Breaking Benjamin, AC/DC, Kanye West, Rise Against, Rage Against The Machine, Linkin Park, Drake, Tupac

6.     GS: What are your favorite movies?
JV: The Rocky series, the Bourne series, Inception, The Town, High Plains Drifter, Ocean's Eleven, Burn After Reading, Saving Private Ryan

7.     GS: What are some talents or skills you have outside of wrestling? 
JV: I'm a fairly good writer

8.     GS: What do you plan to major in?
JV: As of now, History, with the intention of transferring into Carlton if I get good enough grades.

9.     GS: If you had to pick one thing to eat the rest of your life what would it be? 
JV:Gyros

10.  GS: What are some of your goals for your first season as a Golden Gopher?

JV: Improve every single day and work hard to establish myself as a valuable member of the team.

 

 

Favorite Sports Team? I'm a big fan of all the Minnesota professional sports teams

Favorite food? Gyros

Favorite T.V. Show? Sportscenter

Favorite vacation destination? Florida

Favorite Cereal? Reeses Puffs

Daily Clips: Dec. 7

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Weekend Preview: Michigan Tech (GopherSports.com)

VIDEO: Wally Shaver preview Michigan Tech series (YouTube)

Q&A with Jake Hansen (GopherSports.com)

Gophers wrap up first half against improved Huskies (GopherPuckLive)

Bjugstad, Rau amont 18 NCAA players vying for WJC spot (College Hockey News and USCHO)

Morning Skate With Jake Hansen

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Go Gophers! Jake Hansen
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Jake Hansen has 16 points (6g-10a) in 18 games this year.
Go Gophers!
We sat down with senior forward Jake Hansen and talked about what it feels like to score a goal at Mariucci Arena, his shootout move, impressive golf game and why he wears No. 21.

GopherSports.com: Have you always played forward or did you ever play another position growing up?

Jake Hansen: The only time I have ever played goalie was in street hockey just messing around. In squirts my coach had me play defense for half a year because he wanted me to see the game from a defensive point of view. After that I went straight back to forward.

GS: You have scored some big goals during your career. Can you describe what it feels like to score a goal?

JH: At Mariucci or on the road, it feels incredible. For me that is why I play hockey. There is no better feeling in the world. Especially at Mariucci where you have 10,000 people standing up and cheering after you score. There is nothing better than celebrating with your fans. I cannot even explain how good it feels. There is nothing that can explain the adrenaline rush that goes through your body. It feels so good that you cannot explain it.

GS: You scored last year against Alaska Anchorage on a penalty shot. Did we see your go-to move or was that just spontaneous.

JH: In juniors I did not do that well in penalty shots. One time we were playing against Omaha and instead of going backhand I brought the puck across and went with a quick five-hole like I did against Alaska Anchorage. Before I would try to go backhand and upstairs across my body, but against Omaha in juniors I brought it across and went five-hole and it worked. It catches the goalies off guard and they do not know what to expect. I would try it out in practice against Kent and the guys and it would work. But then they could read it and know that it was coming. But for against Alaska Anchorage I knew right away what I was going to do. The ice was a little choppy and I did not want to over-handle the puck, so I knew exactly what I was going to do and it worked.

GS: You wear No. 21. Did you ask for that number or was it just given to you?

JH:  My favorite high school player at White Bear Lake was Dan Bonne and he was No. 21. Brian Bonin also wore it and I am a big Brian fan and loved watching him play the game. A lot of people think I wear it because of him and you cannot go wrong with him because he was awesome. But when I was younger, I loved the way Dan Bonne played. I just enjoyed watching him in high school because he played with so much passion. I wore it in high school and wore it in juniors my second year. When I got here they asked what number I wanted and I said No. 21. Thankfully nobody had it, so it worked out.

GS: Rumor has it you are the best golfer on the team. When did you start hitting the links?

JH: I started playing golf when I was five years old. My dad has a passion for the game and we played a lot growing up. He taught me young and we played all the time during the summer. I did not play that much hockey during the summer because we were out on the course. I played high school golf as well. Even now there is nothing I enjoy more than playing golf in the summer.

Q: What is the best round you have ever had?

JH: I was either 11 or 12 and was playing in a state tournament for my age group. I shot 72 and won. That was probably the best round of golf that I have ever played. Everything was working that day and I was able to win the tournament.

GS: So would you say you are the best golfer on the team?

JH: I think I am one of the better players, but Seth Helgeson and Nico Sacchetti are both pretty good as well. 

Blog: Tubby Smith to Be Honored at Alma Mater

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Golden Gopher Head Coach Tubby Smith will be heading out of town following his team's matchup with Appalachian State for a special evening at his alma mater, High Point University in North Carolina.

Coach Smith will be honored Wednesday evening when the Panthers take on Wake Forest in what will be "Tubby Smith Night".

Gophersports.com hopes to secure video and photos of the event.

Congratulations Coach Smith!

The release below is courtesy of High Point University's Communications Director Jon Litchfield. 

High Point University will honor 1973 alum Orlando "Tubby" Smith during halftime of the HPU men's basketball team's game against Wake Forest on Wednesday night at the Millis Center. Smith scored 1,589 points during his four seasons at HPU and went on to become a national champion head coach.

Wednesday's game has been designated "Tubby Smith Night" and High Point University will unveil a banner in his honor at halftime. It will be the first time HPU has ever hosted an ACC opponent in men's basketball.

Smith played at High Point University from 1969-73, playing under coach J.D. Barnett his junior year and Jerry Steele his senior year. Barnett later became head coach at Virginia Commonwealth University and hired Smith as his assistant coach, giving Smith his first collegiate coaching job.

An honorable mention high school All-American out of Great Mills in Maryland, Smith made an immediate impact for the Panthers, averaging 13.3 points and 5.2 rebounds his freshman year. He began his sophomore year after having surgery on his wrist during the offseason, but still managed 12.6 points per game.

Smith was one of HPU's top scoring threats his junior and senior seasons, averaging 16.4 points on 45.9 percent shooting in 1971-72 and averaging 17.3 points 49.2 percent shooting along with 5.2 rebounds in 1972-73.

Along with his well-known basketball exploits, Smith was an outstanding sprinter for High Point's track & field team and helped HPU to three conference championships. He was a member of HPU's record-setting 440-yard relay team.

Smith went on to become one of the top college basketball coaches in the nation with head coaching stops at Tulsa (1991-95), Georgia (1995-97) and Kentucky (1997-2007) before being named the University of Minnesota's head coach in 2007.

In his first four seasons at Minnesota, Smith's teams won 80 games - the most of any coach's first four years in the history of Minnesota basketball. Smith's wins at Minnesota include five over top-10 teams, the Gophers' first-ever trip to the Big Ten championship game and consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in program history. Minnesota is 8-1 this season, most recently getting wins over Virginia Tech and Southern California.

Smith spent 10 highly-successful seasons at Kentucky, leading the Wildcats to the 1998 NCAA Championship, four Elite Eight appearances, six Sweet Sixteen appearances, five SEC regular season titles and five SEC tournament titles. His teams went 263-83, averaging over 26 wins per year.

Smith was named National Coach of the Year and SEC Coach of the Year in 1998, 2003 and 2005. He has sent 19 players to the NBA during his coaching career.

With the honor, Smith joins Steele, HPU's all-time winningest coach, along with all-time leading scorer Gene Littles, career point-per-game leader Danny Sewell and women's all-time leading scorer Karen Curtis McConico as HPU greats with banners in the Millis Center.

Daily Clips: Dec. 6

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Bjugstad and Rau could be representing the United States at the WJC (GopherSports.com) where Mark Bahr will be serving as the video coordinator (GopherSports.com)

Coach Lucia played high school and college hockey against Tech's new coach (Star Tribune)

Cade Fairchild had to buy a suit after he made his NHL debut so he could fly with the Blue (Journal Star)


Blog: Coaching Connections

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Appalachian State head coach Jason Capel was still in high school the last time Tubby Smith faced the Mountaineers, an 85-67 win for Smith's Georgia Bulldogs in 1996. But Tuesday's matchup between Smith and Capel's teams is not the first time the two coaches have been each other's opponents. Early in the 2001-02 season, when Smith was the head coach at Kentucky and Capel was a senior guard for North Carolina, Smith's Wildcat's defeated Capel's Tar Heels, 79-59.

Smith's connections with the Capel family actually extend back another generation. He coached against Jason's father, Jeff Capel Jr., at both the high school and collegiate level. Smith and Capel's teams met many times on the North Carolina high school circuit.
Go Gophers! Tubby Smith
Go Gophers!
Smith has connections to the Mountaineers' coaching staff.
Go Gophers!

"Appalachian State's head coach Jason Capel is the head of a promising young coaching staff," Smith said. "Jason's father Jeff and I have history that goes back to our high school coaching days. I was at Hoke County High School in Raeford, N.C. and he was at Pinecrest High School in Pinehurst, N.C."

The stakes were high in Jeff Capel Jr. and Smith's only collegiate meeting: It was the Second Round of the 1995 NCAA Tournament. Smith's Tulsa team came away with a 64-52 victory over Capel's Old Dominion team. Capel Jr. was the head coach of the Monarchs from 1994-2001.

"We have also had sons that have played against each other in college ball and are now coaching college basketball so there is definitely history and a lot of similarities," Smith said. "Kellen Sampson is on Jason's staff, and his father (Kelvin) and I go way back, so there are plenty of familiar faces and familiar places."

Kellen Sampson, who played for Oklahoma from 2003-07, played for Jason Capel's older brother, Jeff Capel III, for one season. Jeff coached at Virginia Commonwealth (2002-06) before taking the helm at Oklahoma (2006-11), and is now an assistant at his alma mater, Duke. Kelvin Sampson and Smith coached against each other on multiple occasions while Sampson was at Indiana.

Kyle Rau and Nick Bjugstad
Go Gophers!
Kyle Rau (left) and Nick Bjugstad were both named to the preliminary roster for the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team.
Go Gophers!
Bahr Named Video Coordinator for U.S. National Junior Team

Complete roster

Sophomore Nick Bjugstad and freshman Kyle Rau were named to the preliminary roster for the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team today. Bjugstad and Rau are two of 29 players who will gather for a camp in Camrose, Alta., on Dec. 17. The camp will include exhibition games against Russia (Dec. 20), Switzerland (Dec. 21) and Slovakia (Dec. 23).

The final 22-player U.S. National Junior Team roster is expected to be named Dec. 22.

"We're very excited to see what this group of players brings to camp," said Jim Johannson, general manager of the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team and also the assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey. "The talent and skill that all of these players bring will make trimming the roster tough, but we look forward to the process."

Bjugstad helped lead the U.S. to a bronze medal at last year's World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y. He had two goals and two assists in six WJC games a year ago. Both of his goals were game-winners, as he scored the overtime game-winning goal against Finland and then scored the game-winning goal in the bronze medal game against Sweden.

Bjugstad is second in the nation in points (26) and goals (15) and has registered at least one point in 14 of Minnesota's 18 games this year.

Rau, who leads all freshmen nationally in points (19) and goals (11), has points in 13 of 18 games this year. He is tied for first in the nation with five game-winning goals.

The 2012 U.S. National Junior Team will compete at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, Dec. 26, 2010-Jan. 5, 2011, in Calgary and Edmonton, Alta. Team USA will look to earn its third straight medal after capturing the bronze medal at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., and the gold medal at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship in Saskatoon, Sask.

Go Gophers! Nick Bjugstad
Go Gophers!
Nick Bjugstad helped lead the United States to a bronze medal last year.
Go Gophers!
Nick Bjugstad's International Resume:
Participated in the 2011 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in August in Lake Placid, N.Y. • represented the United States at the 2011 World Junior Championship • had two goals and two assists in six games for the bronze-winning U.S. squad • both of his goals were game-winning goals, as he scored the overtime winner against Finland (12/26) and the goal that secured the bronze medal for the U.S. against Sweden (1/5) • participated in the 2010 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. and led Team USA with seven goals in seven games • represented the United States at the 2008 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament in Prievidza, Slovakia and at the 2009 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Piestany, Slovakia.

Kyle Rau's International Resume: Competed for the United States Under-18 Team at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial in Piestany, Slovakia • recorded an assist and had a plus/minus of +1 in three games.

Gophers In the Pros - Week 13

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It was a Golden Gopher reunion on Sunday in Minneapolis. The Broncos traveled to Minnesota to play the Vikings in a game that featured three former Gopher players.

Cornerback and return specialist Marcus Sherels of the Vikings faced Denver wide receiver Eric Decker. They had nothing but positive words to say about each other.

"Marcus was a walk-on at Minnesota," Decker said. "He earned a scholarship and now is in the NFL. It truly exemplifies that he's a great person and a guy that always works hard."

"I was with Decker for four years and trained at receiver with him for two years. I have always looked up to him, and I respect him a lot. His work ethic is second to none," Sherels said. "We got to talk a little before the game. It was good to see him. We let each other know how proud we are of one another."

Last year's Gopher quarterback, Adam Weber, also made the trip with Denver. Weber is on the practice squad for the Broncos.

"Weber is good. He had a great training camp," Decker said. "He is playing well right now with the practice squad. He is going to get a shot one of these days, because he definitely has the skills to play in this league."

The Broncos, looking for their fifth straight victory and a share of the AFC west lead, had a lot at stake in this game. But the Vikings weren't going to make it easy for them.

Go Gophers! Sherels
Go Gophers!
Marcus Sherels has had a big impact for the Vikings this season.
Go Gophers!

The Vikings' offense was successful early against the Broncos' defense. Minnesota led 15-7 at the half. But the Denver offense, led by Tim Tebow, managed another late rally.

A Vikings' turnover in the final two minutes of the game resulted in a game-winning drive by the Broncos. Kicker Matt Prater hit the winning field goal as time expired to beat the Vikings by a final score of 35-32.

Decker finished with two receptions for 25 yards for the Broncos. He was targeted just four times.

"It was great to get a win in front of family and friends," he said. "It's nice to have all the support and see smiles from everyone after the game."

(Ed. Note - Check out some video of Decker talking to the Twin Cities media at the bottom of this blog entry.)

Sherels did not record any tackles for the Vikings, but totaled 14 yards on three punt returns and 111 yards on five kickoff returns, including a game-long kickoff return for 30 yards. Minnesota has now lost four straight.

"It's never fun losing, especially a close one like this," Sherels sad. "It's hard. I think we all need to step it up and get some wins."

Here's a look at the performance of other Gophers in the National Football League:

  • Chicago Bears' running back Marion Barber recorded 14 carries for 44 yards in Chicago's 10-3 loss to Kansas City.
  • Tight end Matt Spaeth, also with the Chicago Bears, was active but did not record any statistics in the loss to the Chiefs.
  • Dominique Barber, safety for the Houston Texans, is on injured reserve with a knee injury. The Texans beat the Falcons 17-10.
  • New York Jets' wide receiver Logan Payne is also on injured reserve as he recovers from wrist surgery. The Jets beat the Redskins 34-19.
  • In addition to Weber, two other former Gopher players spent week 13 of the NFL season on the practice squad for their respective teams. Offensive lineman Dominic Alford is with the Cleveland Browns and cornerback Traye Simmons practices with the San Diego Chargers.

Daily Clips: Dec. 5

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December is key for Minnesota (FSN)

Gophers sweep Minnesota State (Minnesota Daily and GopherHole)

Daily Clips: Dec. 4

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Gophers win penalty-filled game, sweep Mavericks (GopherSports.com)

Video highlights of all three goals in just 83 seconds (YouTube)

Big first period carried Gophers to sweep (1500ESPN and Star Tribune and SBNation)

Gophers complete sweep (FSN)

Ambroz, Matson and Budish each have two points in win (USCHO)

Gophers win 3-2 (Minnesota Daily)

Mankato Weekend Thoughts (GopherPuckLive)

Minnesota State falls short (Mankato Free Press)
Stopping A Stampede
Entering the weekend, the Gophers had not had much recent success against Minnesota State. The Mavericks knocked Minnesota out of the national rankings with a sweep in Mankato, Minn. last year and had gone 2-0-1 in their last three games at Mariucci Arena during the tenure of UM's current senior class.

With a sweep this weekend, Minnesota improved its record in two-game home series against MSU to 11-1-4 and its all-time record against Minnesota State to 31-8-6.

The Gophers also improved to 12-1-0 when scoring first and 12-1-0 when tied or leading entering the third period. On Saturday, they put up 40 shots for the seventh time this season and allowed under 30 shots for the 14th time in 18 games. Minnesota also recorded its fifth sweep of the season after having only four in all of 2010-11.

Saturday Night Lights
With their win in the second game of the series against Minnesota State, the Gophers improved their record on Saturdays to 7-0-1. Minnesota has outscored its opponents 33-14 on Saturdays so far this season. On Fridays the Gophers are 6-3-0 and UM lost its only Sunday game to Vermont on Oct. 23 at home. The Gophers are 4-0-0 at home on Saturday.

First Period Theatrics
If you watched the Saturday's game, hopefully you didn't miss the opening 20 minutes. Minnesota took a commanding 3-0 lead despite only outshooting Minnesota State 15-14. The 29 combined shots was tied the most in a period in a Gopher game this year. The Gophers outshot Michigan State 17-12 in the first period of their meeting on Nov. 25 and were tied 2-2.

Ambroz Takes Charge
After being taken out of the lineup for the first time all year last Saturday against Michigan State, freshman winger Seth Ambroz made sure to come back with a positive weekend against Minnesota State. He did just that. After finishing Friday night with a +1 rating, Ambroz sparked the Gophers early on Saturday. Playing with his usual grind-it-out style Ambroz put the Gophers up 1-0 by chipping home a power-play tally early in the first. He added an assist on Taylor Matson's goal later in the period and finished the night with another +1 rating.
Reversing the Curse
Minnesota's senior class had never beaten Minnesota State at home prior to Friday's 4-2 win. In the previous three seasons, the Gophers were 2-5-1 against the Mavericks had only beaten them once in their last six meetings--once in Mankato, Minn. and once at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. At Mariucci Arena with the current seniors, Minnesota lost a pair of 3-1 decisions and picked up a 3-3 tie for an 0-2-1 record.

In games that are a part of two-game regular-season home series against Minnesota State, UM has a 10-1-4 record all-time. The last time the Gophers played two home consecutive home games against the Mavericks prior to this weekend, though, was on Oct. 21 and 22, 2005.

Starting Strong and Finishing Strong
The Gophers were almost unbeatable in the third period entering the night and the team continued that trend Friday against Minnesota State. After scoring twice and holding MSU off the board in the third, UM has now outscored its opponents 29-7 in the final frame and is 11-1-0 when tied or leading entering the third in 2011-12. Minnesota is now also 11-1-0 when scoring first. The Gophers won on Friday after Taylor Matson put away the game's first goal.

Senior Leadership
Most of the season, the Gophers have been led by their high-scoring sophomore and freshmen classes, but on Friday seniors scored three of the team's four goals. Captain Taylor Matson opened the scoring in the first and Nick Larson put the Gophers ahead 2-1 in the second. Jake Hansen iced the game with his sixth goal of the season with under a minute to go in the third period. The sophomore class did get on the board with Erik Haula's game-winning power-play marker.

TGIF and Home Sweet Home
After beating North Dakota 2-0 on Friday, Nov. 4, the Gophers dropped three straight Friday games. Minnesota lost to Wisconsin, St. Cloud, and Michigan State. Those contests were all on the road. In their first series-opening game at home since beating UND last month, the Gophers got back to their winning ways against Minnesota State.

UM is now 6-3-0 on Fridays, 6-0-1 on Saturdays, and 0-1-0 on Sundays (only game was a 5-4 loss to Vermont on Oct. 23). Minnesota is also 6-1-0 at home and is a perfect 3-0-0 in WCHA games at Mariucci Arena.

Speaking of home games, Friday's game was marked the beginning of a seven-game homestand for the Gophers after the team played seven of its last 10 games away from home. UM was 3-3-1 in those road games.

VIDEO: #3 Gophers Take on #2 Cowboys on Sunday

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The No. 2 ranked Minnesota Wrestling team takes on Central Michigan is under a couple of hours in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. After Saturday, the Gophers will head to the state of Oklahoma to take on the No. 2 ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys, in Stillwater.

To get you all fired up for Gopher Wrestling this weekend, check out these two videos that feature J Robinson talking about the upcoming match and a another highlight that will just make you want to get out on the mat yourself against the Cowboys!

Go Gophers!

-Michael

 

Visit www.theguillotineflo.com for more videos

Visit www.theguillotineflo.com for more videos

Bjugstad Named National Player Of The Month

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Go Gophers! Nick Bjugstad
Go Gophers!
Nick Bjugstad was named the Hockey Commissioners' Association National Division I Player of the Month for November.
Go Gophers!
Forward Nick Bjugstad, who led the nation with nine goals and also totaled 13 scoring points, is the Hockey Commissioners' Association National Division I Player of the Month for November.

A 6-5, 211-pound sophomore from Blaine, Minn., Bjugstad had a point in seven of Minnesota's eight games and a goal in six of the eight. His nine goals and four assists also came in games that featured only WCHA opponents or nationally-ranked teams (vs North Dakota, vs Wisconsin, vs St. Cloud State and vs Michigan State). In five road games, Bjugstad scored four goals and set up three others for seven points while in three home contests he had five goals - including two game-winners - and one assist for six points. He also netted the first hat trick of his collegiate career against St. Cloud State on Nov. 18 and got Minnesota on the board first in back-to-back victories against North Dakota.

A draftee of the NHL's Florida Panthers, Bjugstad also earned a +3 plus/minus rating during the month and scored on nine of his 26 shots on goal (34.6%). He is the first Golden Gopher to score nine goals in a month since Ryan Potulny scored nine in March of 2006.

Through 16 games this season, Bjugstad is tied for first in scoring among all Div. 1 players with 25 points (15g, 10a), currently sharing the top spot with Wisconsin's Justin Schultz and Mark Zengerle.

Bjugstad and the Gophers host in-state rival Minnesota State this weekend at Mariucci Arena. Bjugstad joins teammates Kent Patterson and Kyle Rau as being recognized nationally by the Hockey Commissioners' Association this year. Patterson was the national player of the month for October, while Rau was the national rookie of the month for October.

HCA Commissioners' Choice Awards
November, 2011


National Player of the Month
Nick Bjugstad, F, Minnesota, WCHA

National Rookie of the Month
Brian Ferlin, F, Cornell, ECACH

Honorable Mention Player of the Month
Brandon Komm, G, Bentley, AHA
Tim Schaller, F, Providence, HEA
Austin Smith, F, Colgate, ECACH
Reilly Smith, F, Miami, CCHA

Honorable Mention Rookie of the Month
Daniel Bahntge, F, Mercyhurst, AHA
Austin Czarnik, F, Miami, CCHA
Grayson Downing, F, UNH, HEA
Jayson Megna, F, Nebraska-Omaha, WCHA

-- Release courtesy of Hockey Commissioners' Association

Blog: 1971-72 Big Ten Champions to Be Honored Saturday

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Photo Gallery

The 1971-72 Golden Gopher basketball team brought home the program's first Big Ten title since the 1936-37 season. Led down the stretch by a starting lineup known as the "Iron Five," Minnesota qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. The Gopher basketball program will commemorate the 40th anniversary of this Big Ten championship team at halftime of Minnesota's game against USC on Saturday.
Go Gophers! Jim Brewer
Go Gophers!
Jim Brewer is one of 10 players expected to be at the ceremony.
Go Gophers!

The celebration will start with an autograph session before the game. Team members who are present will sign autographs from 12:15 to 12:45 in the concourse. At halftime, the players, managers, assistant coach Bill Klucas, and head coach Bill Musselman's son Max will be introduced on the court as they receive 40th anniversary plaques.

The 1971-72 Gophers finished the season with an 11-3 record, just ahead of Ohio State (10-4). Clyde Turner was the team's leading scorer, averaging 18.6 points per game. Also in the "Iron Five" lineup were Dave Winfield, Jim Brewer, Keith Young, and Bob Nix. Turner, Winfield, and Brewer are expected to be in attendance at the ceremony, along with seven other players.

Look back on Gophersports.com after the game for video and photos of the team reunion. Until then, check out the photo gallery above.

Daily Clips: Dec. 2

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Five questions with Kent Patterson (FoxSportsNorth.com) and who is ready for an in-state battle this weekend (FoxSportsNorth.com)

Ben Marshall has a quick learning curve (Star Tribune)

Predictions (Star Tribune) and will the Gophers lose any players to the upcoming WJC (Star Tribune)

Gameday: Minnesota State at Minnesota (Mankato Free Press)

Video: Catching Up With Quincy Lewis

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Quincy Lewis was born in Little Rock, Ark., but he has found a home in Minnesota. The former Golden Gopher forward remains heavily involved with his alma mater, currently working with the Golden Gopher Fund. He enjoyed seeing his fellow alumni at Gopher All-Star Friday Night on Oct. 14. That is where Gophersports.com caught up with him for the video found above.

Go Gophers! Quincy
Go Gophers!
Lewis was a 1999 All-Big Ten selection.
Go Gophers!

Lewis finished his career (1995-99) in sixth place on Minnesota's all-time scoring list. His senior year scoring average of 23.1 points per game helped him reach a career total of 1,614 points. He earned All-Big Ten honors that season after leading the conference in scoring, in addition to leading the Gophers in three-point field goals, free throws, and steals.

After graduation, Lewis played four seasons in the NBA with the Jazz and the Timberwolves. He also spent six years playing in Europe. He has been working with the Golden Gopher Fund since summer of 2010, and is working on his Master's degree in sport management.

Daily Clips: Dec. 1

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Shane Frederick of The Mankato Free Press scouts the Mavericks for us (GopherSports.com)

Gophers happy to be home, need to figure out Minnesota State (GopherSports.com)

Bring a blanket to Dec. 3 game get a coupon for free Subway (GopherSports.com)

U is selling autographed alumni pucks at Dec. 2 and Dec. 10 games. All proceeds benefit Toys for Tots (GopherSports.com)

Gophers host Mavericks (Minnesota Daily)

Will the Gophers get out of their Friday funk (Star Tribune) and will they be clean-shaven? (Star Tribune)

Welcome to The Show, Cade Fairchild (GopherSports.com)

Fairchild "packed nothing" and took a private jet to DC in order to make the game (STLToday.com)

Alex Goligoski keeping the legs moving while the thumb is in a hard cast (Stars TV)

Thomas Vanek has become a complete player (Buffalo News)

View From Minnesota State

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Go Gophers! Shane Frederick
Go Gophers!
Shane Frederick is in his 12th season covering Minnesota State hockey for The Mankato Free Press.
Go Gophers!
Minnesota welcomes Minnesota State to Mariucci Arena for two games this weekend. We talked to Shane Frederick of the Mankato Free Press about the Mavericks. Frederick is in his 12th season covering Minnesota State hockey for The Free Press and was previously the editor of Let's Play Hockey for five years. You can read his blog here and can follow him on Twitter @puckato.
 
GopherSports.com: Shane, what can you tell us about Minnesota State this year?

Shane Frederick: The Mavericks have struggled over the first two months of the season, winning just three games. Currently, they are on a five-game winless streak; they've also had a six-game losing streak already this season.

Minnesota State has had an amazing number of injuries, especially on defense, as junior co-captain Tyler Elbrecht broke his arm in the first game of the season and has been out since (he was cleared for contact this week, however). Elbrecht and four other defensemen, including senior Cameron Cooper, have missed a combined 34 games to injury. That hasn't helped a rather inexperienced corps that lost a ton of minutes with the graduation of Kurt Davis, Ben Youds and Channing Boe.

Also, sophomore forward Chase Grant, one of the bright spots from last season, has been lost for the season with a hip injury.

As for the healthy players, MSU has a group of talented freshmen, led by winger Jean-Paul LaFontaine, nephew of Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine. The all-rookie line of LaFontaine (7 goals, 3 assists), Matt Leitner (4 goals, 6 assists) and Max Gaede has been the most prodcutive group thus far, and freshman defenseman Zach Palmquist has played a lot and has seven points.

Junior winger Eriah Hayes has played well of late. He is on a six-game scoring streak and has four goals and five assists. The LaCresent native also has 44 penalty minutes. Senior Justin Jokinen (2 goals, 4 assists) is coming off a strong weekend in a loss and tie to Alaska Anchorage.

In goal, Bloomington native Austin Lee has played the most. He had a fantastic stretch going early in the season, including a 1-0 shutout at RPI to start the season and back-to-back wins at Michigan Tech and at home to St. Cloud State.

GS: Who is one player that Gopher fans should pay extra attention to this weekend?

SF: Gopher fans may remember the name Michael Dorr. The Roseville native played for Minnesota for one semester before transferring to Minnesota State. The senior winger is now one of the Mavericks' co-captains and has 1 goal and five assists this season. During his time with the Mavericks, he has 18 goals and 30 assists in 72 games. He scored a goal against his old team last year in Mankato. But these will be his first games in Mariucci Arena since he donned a Gophers sweater in the fall of 2008 when he played in two games for Minnesota.

GS: What do you think the Mavericks have to do to win?

SF: Despite their record, the Mavericks have had some strong first periods this season. Their only problem is that they haven't scored much (21 shots on goal, no goals in the first period at UMD, for instance) when they've had those opportunities. I think they need to get off to a quick start and hope their goaltending gets back on track. After a rough weekend in their own end against Anchorage, MSU has to do a better job with the puck and avoid unforced turnovers that leave their goalies out to dry.

Minnesota fans should expect to see a typical MSU team--one that skates well and generally plays hard--much like previous Troy Jutting-coached teams. The question is: Do the Mavericks have the talent and the depth to keep it close or keep up.