January 2012 Archives

Sjoquist, Diamond to be Honored at Minnesota State Capitol

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Lynnette Sjoquist and Deborah Diamond, both members of the University of Minnesota women's basketball staff, will be honored in conjunction with the 26th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day as some of Minnesota's most inspiring and influential athletic leaders at an award ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul.

 

National Girls and Women in Sports Day is a nation-wide celebration recognizing the accomplishments of individuals in the promotion and advancement of girls' and women's sports.

 

Sjoquist, who has been a radio analyst for the Gophers since 2001, will be receiving the Girls' and Women's Sports in the Media Award, while Diamond, who recently joined the women's basketball staff as the team's office director, is set to receive one of 13 Breaking Barriers Awards for her 11 years of service in the Minnesota Sports Marketing office.

 

Twenty-one individuals will be receiving awards in five separate categories at the 2012 ceremony. Award recipients are nominated by schools, community organizations, recreation centers, and amateur and professional sports organizations.   

 

 

-UM-

Back On Top

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Go Gophers! Kyle Rau
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Kyle Rau and Minnesota are the new No. 1 team in college hockey according to the USA Today/USA Hockey poll.
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USA Today/USA Hockey poll l USCHO.com poll

Minnesota is the new No. 1 team in college hockey in the USA Today/USA Hockey poll after sweeping St. Cloud State this past weekend. The Gophers, who lead the nation with 19 wins, won 2-1 at home on Friday and 3-2 on the road on Saturday.

The Maroon and Gold were No. 3 in both the USA Today/USA Hockey poll and the USCHO.com poll entering last weekend, but jumped to No. 1 in the USA Today/USA Hockey poll after the sweep. The Gophers are ranked No. 2 in the USCHO.com poll that came out earlier today. 

Minnesota supplants Minnesota Duluth in the USA Today/USA Hockey poll as the top-ranked team in the nation after the Bulldogs tied and lost to Michigan Tech last weekend. Boston University was ranked No. 2 a week ago, but was swept by Maine this past weekend.

Minnesota, which spent two weeks at No. 1 earlier this season, has been ranked in the top five for the last 13 weeks. Minnesota began the year unranked in the USA Today/USA Hockey poll and was ranked No. 19 in the USCHO.com poll.

The Gophers are off this weekend and next play at WCHA rival Denver on Feb. 10-11.

Gophers in the Community: 2012 TwinsFest

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Photos from 2012 TwinsFest

Although the Gophers started their first practice of the season on Friday, Jan. 27th, members of the team were still able to join baseball fans young and old at the 2012 TwinsFest, Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 28-29 at the H.H.H. Metrodome.

While the others were practicing on campus, the team took shifts and signed autographs, played games and manned the stations throughout the course of the two days. Due to the Dome collapse last season, the 2012 TwinsFest marked the Gophers' first appearance to the event since 2010. Posters and schedule cards were able at the event, supporting the season that starts this Saturday with the Pro-Alumni Game, Feb. 4 at 3 p.m.

Travel Blog: On Our Way Back Home

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Get the inside scoop from the Gophers' trip to Iowa all weekend long in our GopherSports Travel Blog!
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Sunday Jan. 29 7:48 p.m.

Well after a tough loss (19-17) the team is back on the road making the haul to Minneapolis. First we made a quick stop at Wendy's and are back on the road.

Hope you all enjoyed the travel blog with all the updates from the weekend. The next time I have the opportunity to travel with the team again, I will conduct another one.

For now I am going to sit back and relax on the trip home. Next Sunday's dual against Nebraska will be a good one. The Huskers are tied with Penn State for first in the conference (5-1) and host the Nittany Lions on Friday night in Lincoln.

Catch you later Gopher fans!

M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A!

Travel Blog: Count Down

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Sunday Jan. 29 1:27 p.m.

Well I am sitting inside Carver Hawkeye in press row. We still have about a half hour until the teams will weigh in. Iowa's crew is putting the finishing touches on the mat and setting up each team's bench.

The team had a good final workout before resting up for weigh ins. They look focused and ready to go.

Remember I will have a live blog if you won't be able to tune into the dual. Check Gophersports at 2:45 CST for the blog!

Be back soon, Go Gophers!

Travel Blog: En Route to Carver Hawkeye Arena

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Sunday Jan. 29 Noon

We are en route to Carver Hawkeye Arena. The team will report to the locker room and get in a quick warm-up before the 2 p.m. weigh in.

We are getting close.

Big Ten Network start time is scheduled for 3:04 p.m. (CST)

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Travel Blog: It is Almost Time

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Sunday Jan. 29 8:43 p.m.

Today is the day there is no other way to explain it. Minnesota vs. Iowa: a rivalry, a battle and a thriller. So many things can be said about this upcoming dual. We are still over six hours away from action. The team will be at the hotel focusing and relaxing up until a few hours before.

I will have keep you posted when we are en route for Iowa.

Go Gophers!

Observations from Minnesota's 3-2 Win Over St. Cloud

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Another Big W
Minnesota's sweep over St. Cloud, paired with a win and a tie by Michigan Tech at Minnesota-Duluth this weekend, helped the Gophers cushion their lead for first place in the WCHA to five points. The Bulldogs have played two less games, but the Gophers own the tiebreaker over UMD after picking up a sweep in Duluth in October. Minnesota is chasing its first MacNaughton Cup since 2006-07 when the Gophers finished with 39 points at 18-7-3. That season was also the last time Minnesota finished with 15 or more wins in league play, the number it currently has with eight games to play.

UMD will travel to Alaska-Anchorage next week while the Gophers have the week off. The Gophers are guaranteed to finish with a winning record in the WCHA and overall. They need 10 more points to finish with more league points that they had in 2006-07. No team has gotten more than 43 points in the WCHA in the last 10 years.

We Call The Shots
Minnesota outshot St. Cloud 46-12 on Saturday and 72-25 on the weekend. On Friday, the Gophers allowed 13 shots or less for the first time since March 11, 2007 against Alaska-Anchorage when the Gophers allowed 12. They accomplished the feat for a second time on the weekend by holding the Huskies to 12 on Saturday. Minnesota also peppered SCSU's Ryan Faragher with 46 shots in the series finale, the highest amount of shots on target for UM since its first game of the season against Sacred Heart when it had 47.

Saturday Success
With the 3-2 win over St. Cloud, the Gophers improved to 11-2-1 in Saturday games, including a 10-0-0 mark in the WCHA. Minnesota has won five Friday games (8-6-0 overall on that day) in league play and has finished the sweep all five times with the last one prior to this weekend coming at home against Minnesota State.

He Warned Ya
After creating chances all night and all season long, the snake-bitten Sam Warning finally notched his first WCHA point when it mattered most. The freshman from Missouri scored the game-winning goal with 1:19 to play in his 17th conference game. The tally was also his first since Oct. 21 when he scored against Vermont and was his first point away from Mariucci Arena. Warning now has four goals and five assists on the year.

50 Straight For Patterson
Dating back to 2010-11, Kent Patterson started his 50th straight game for Minnesota on Saturday night. Since taking over as the team's starting goaltender full-time in place of Alex Kangas on Dec. 4, 2010, Patterson has gone 27-17-6 and has recorded a school record six shutouts in 2011-12. He has played every minute in net for the Gophers this season. Sophomore backup Mike Shibrowski and senior Jake Kremer have not made appearance between the pipes for the maroon and gold. Shibrowski does have some Division I experience, however. He appeared in two games and had one start (a win) for Colorado College in 2009-10.

Power Outage Ends
Since Nate Schmidt gave the Gophers a 4-0 lead against North Dakota on Jan. 14 with a power-play goal, Minnesota went through 12 straight unsuccessful power plays. That skid ended when Ben Marshall scored on the Gophers' third man advantage of Saturday's game. Erik Haula then scored his sixth power-play goal of the year on Minnesota's next man-up opportunity. Haula was the first UM forward to score on the power play since Nick Bjugstad did it with 2:47 left in the third period against Notre Dame on Jan. 7.

Marshall, Haula Get Back On Track
Goal-scoring-wise, it hadn't been a great 2012 for forward Erik Haula and defenseman Ben Marshall prior to Saturday. Haula hadn't scored in eight games since scoring on Dec. 30 against Niagara and hadn't scored a WCHA goal since Dec. 2 when he scored the game-winner against Minnesota State and Marshall hadn't scored since Nov. 26 against Michigan State. That all changed in the second period on Saturday when Marshall and Haula scored on back-to-back power plays to end their droughts. Marshall's goal was his first in WCHA play and third of the year.

Observations from Saturday's 77-72 Win Against Illinois

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It's Not Always Who Starts the Game...
Two of the Gopher starters (Austin Hollins with 14 and Joe Coleman with 11) reached double figures in scoring, but the story of the night was the Gopher bench. Minnesota's reserves provided 20 of the team's 30 first-half points, and outscored Illinois's bench, 39-9, for the game. Chip Armelin led the way with 14 points, including a career-high three three-pointers, while also adding seven rebounds. Andre Hollins also reached double figures from the bench, with 12 points. He was on the court for the crucial final minutes of the game.

Go Gophers! Chip Maravich
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Armelin led the Gopher reserves with 14 points.
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Highlight Reel
On the stat sheet, these plays will just read as two assists and a block, but Armelin and Elliott Eliason provided some highlight reel-worthy plays in the first half of tonight's game. Illinois's Meyers Leonard appeared to have a fairly easy basket, but Eliason blocked his dunk attempt out of bounds.

Armelin's first assist came on a fast break. Running down the right side, he cupped the ball in his hand and then delivered a behind-the-back pass to Oto Osenieks for the basket. On his second assist, he received a pass on a backdoor cut and then delivered it to Eliason for an alley-oop dunk. That was Eliason's first career dunk.

Extra Basketball

In Champaign during December, the Golden Gophers fell to Illinois in double overtime, so it seems only fitting that they would earn payback in an extra period. Both of Minnesota's overtime games this year have been against the Fighting Illini. The last Golden Gopher overtime win came against Michigan State in the 2010 Big Ten Tournament. Minnesota defeated the Spartans by a score of 72-67.

The last time the Gophers played two overtime games against the same opponent in a season was 1977. They lost, 66-64, at Purdue on Jan. 15, 1977, and beat the Boilermakers at home on Feb. 24 by a score of 84-78. Incidentally, the Gophers had also played two overtime games against Purdue in 1976.

Travel Blog: Team Practice at Iowa

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Photos from Practice

Saturday Jan. 28 5:38 p.m.

After a little rest at the team hotel, the Gophers made the short drive to Iowa's campus for a workout. It was a little busy on campus when we arrived. The crowd was clearing up from the women's basketball game that took place in the afternoon.

The team is currently working out in Iowa's wrestling room and they are getting a very solid workout in. They went through a warm-up, individual drills, team drills, live action and cool down period. Everyone looks focused and ready to get the job done tomorrow.

After the workout the team will get cleaned up and head back to the hotel and rest up for the evening.

We are less than 24 hours away from the dual!

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Live Meet Blog: Minnesota vs. No. 9 Penn State

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The University of Minnesota women's gymnastics team plays host to No. 9 Penn State this weekend. The Gophers look to grab their first dual meet win of the season after falling to nationally ranked teams in each of their first three competitions.

Follow along with all the action through tonight's interactive live blog. Everyone is encouraged to ask questions and provide additional input about the meet, the teams, the 2012 season and anything gymnastics related.


Travel Blog: Made it to Iowa

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Saturday Jan. 28 3:15 p.m.

Well the squad has made it to Iowa City. Currently everyone is resting up for a bit after the drive and soon they will head over for a light workout.

The weather was clear all day from the time we left Minneapolis, which made it for a smooth ride.

Check back later for a report from practice.

Travel Blog: Little Panera Lunch Break

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Saturday Jan. 28 1:22 p.m.

After being on the road for a little more than three hours the team stopped in Waterloo, IA for some lunch at Panera Bread. It was a pretty quick stop as some of the team brought their own lunch and had eaten it already on the drive.

Coach Becker was trying to make a bet with Ben Berhow in regards to these big loafs of bread they had for sale. No loaf of bread was eaten, but it made for a good laugh.

We are back on the road with about an hour an half to go until we arrive at the hotel. The plan is to check in and head over to the campus to get a workout in.

Stay tuned for more.

 

 

 

 

Travel Blog: Gophers En Route to Iowa

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Saturday Jan. 28 9:42 a.m.

Well the team has packed the vans and is en route to Iowa. We are in four vans carrying the team and staff, as I am typing this we are currently missing one van because head coach J Robinson (Van #2) forgot something as we were pulling out of the parking lot and needed to go back to his office. I am sure they will catch up to the group shortly.

The team was all in smiles as they loaded up, last night's win was a thriller, but the team is now poised and focused on their next test...Iowa.

For now we will just sit back and enjoy the ride down 35 W South.

 

 

 

 



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Get the inside scoop from the Gophers' trip to Iowa all weekend long in our GopherSports Travel Blog!
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Welcome Gopher Wrestling fans to this travel blog that I will be
conducting with the team as we head down to Iowa.

During the weekend I will be giving updates on the teams journey to Carver Hawkeye Area. The team and staff are scheduled to leave at 9:30 am this morning. Please check back later for more information!

Big Conference Win
The Gophers win tonight was their 14th in conference action, surpassing last season's league total of 13. In 2010-11, Minnesota finished 13-10-5 in the WCHA with 31 points. UM now has 28 points with nine conference games remaining.

The Gophers are in first place by three points over Minnesota-Duluth, who tied Michigan Tech 4-4 on Friday. The Bulldogs have played two less games, but the Gophers own the tiebreaker over UMD after picking up a sweep in Duluth in October. Minnesota is chasing its first MacNaughton Cup since 2006-07 when the Gophers finished with 39 points at 18-7-3.

49 Going On 50
Dating back to 2010-11, Kent Patterson started his 49th straight game for Minnesota on Friday. Since taking over as the team's starting goaltender on Dec. 4, 2010, Patterson has gone 26-17-6 and has recorded a school record six shutouts in 2011-12. He is expected to make his 50th consecutive start on Saturday against St. Cloud at the National Hockey Center.

Same Score Different Night
Four out of the last five of Minnesota's games, including the last three, have been decided by a 2-1 score. It is the first time in school history Minnesota has played three 2-1 games in a row and is also the first time the Gophers have had that score in four out of five games. The last time UM has had three or more games in a five-game stretch end in a 2-1 score was from Jan. 12-28, 1938. The Gophers then lost 2-1 on Jan 29, 1938.

A Win on Friday Night
After losing three Friday conference contests in a row dating back to Dec. 2, the Gophers finally earned a series opening win against St. Cloud. Minnesota is now 8-6-0 on Fridays on the season with a 10-2-1 record on Saturdays and an 0-1-0 record (a 5-4 loss to Vermont) on Sundays. Overall, the last time UM won on Friday was on Dec. 30 against Niagara in the Mariucci Classic. The Gophers are 9-0-0 in Saturday games in the WCHA, meaning that all four times they've opened a league series with a victory, they were able to complete the sweep.

No Shots For You!
The Gophers held St. Cloud to a season-low 13 shots on goal in the game, including just one in the third period. The previous season low for shots against for Minnesota came on Nov. 12 when Wisconsin only mustered 14 shots on goal in a 4-1 UM win. The last time Minnesota allowed 13 shots or less was on March 11, 2007 against Alaska-Anchorage when the Gophers allowed 12 shots in a 3-1 win.

Gophers Kick off 2012 Campaign with the First Practice

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Photos from First Practice

The University of Minnesota held its first official practice of the 2012 season, today at the Bronko-Nagurski Indoor Practice Facility on the U of M campus. The Golden Gophers held a team meeting before the first practice started at 4 p.m. The Gophers kicked off the season with the quote of the day, warm-ups and then off to base-running and fielding drills, as well as hitting fundamentals.

The Gophers will practice in the indoor, on-campus facility throughout the weekend and Monday afternoon. Starting tomorrow and Sunday, members of Gopher baseball will be at Twins Fest signing autographs. On Tuesday afternoon, the Gophers will move into its home for the 2012 season, the H.H.H. Metrodome. The Maroon and Gold kick off the season with the Pro-Alumni Game, Feb. 4 at 3 p.m. After the Big Ten/Big East Challenge, Feb. 17-19 in Florida, Minnesota returns for a 27-game homestand. 

Former Student Managers Excel in Coaching

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Former Gopher student manager Parker Kruckenberg has accepted a position as an assistant coach with the Thunder Bay Border Cats (Northwoods League). He is currently in his first year as an assistant coach with Augsburg College. A 2011 University of Minnesota graduate, Kruckenberg was with the Gophers for four years, including two NCAA Tournament teams and the 2010 Big Ten Championship team. A Fargo South High School graduate, Kruckenberg was a three-year letterwinner.

Kruckenberg joins Dan Pavlue as a former Gopher student manager currently in coaching. Pavlue is an assistant coach at Edgewood College in Madison, Wis. During Pavlue's three years (2007-10) with Minnesota, the team compiled a 92-84 record. Like Kruckenberg, Pavlue was a part of two NCAA Tournament teams and the 2010 Big Ten Championship team. Following his time as a Minnesota student assistant, Pavlue was a volunteer coach at Minnesota State University, Mankato, before taking the job at Edgewood College in 2011.

Blog: Practice Report 1/27

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The University of Minnesota softball team has nearly two weeks of practice under their belts, and head coach Jessica Allister is pleased with what she has seen thus far.

"Practice has been going really, really well," said head coach Jessica Allister. "I am impressed with the condition of the girls, which shows they trained over break and put in a lot of work. Offensively, we have made huge strides both with our returners and newcomers. I am excited to put the team against our pitchers in the coming days and see how they do."

The Gophers have just over two weeks of practice remaining before their first contest at the SportCo Kickoff Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. against host UNLV, but Allister hopes to have her team ready for the Rebels by simulating a few scrimmages in the coming weeks.

"We are going to start try and scrimmage a little more this January and early February than we did last year. I want to get the girls against some live pitching, so when we take the field in Las Vegas, we will have a couple games, so to say, under our belts."

Currently, the team is practicing in the Gibson-Nagurski Indoor Facility, but the team will make a few trips down to the Metrodome to get a feel for a full field.

"We are very lucky to have an indoor facility like this to practice in, and we are able to do everything that we need to do in preparation for the season. We also will make a few trips down to the Metrodome, so we can get a full field experience."

Gophers Add Michael Kvasnicka to Pro-Alumni Roster

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Former Gophers Michael Kvasnicka will also be attending the Pro-Alumni game and will play for the alumni team on Feb. 4 at the H.H.H. Metrodome. The game is slated to start at 3 p.m. Kvasnicka brings the total to 27 Gopher alums participating in the event.

Kvasnicka was drafted by the Houston Astros with the 33rd overall pick of the Major League Baseball Draft on June 7, 2010. Kvasnicka was the highest drafted Golden Gopher player since Glen Perkins was selected with the 22nd overall pick by the Minnesota Twins in 2004 in the first round. As a junior, Kvasnicka batted .355 with eight home runs, 50 RBI, 51 runs, a .459 on-base percentage and 46 walks on the season.Kvasnicka, was named a Second-Team All-Big Ten outfielder in 2010 and in a Third-Team All-Big Ten selection in 2009. In his sophomore year, Kvasnicka batted a .341 and had a team-high 18 doubles, 85 hits, 10 home runs and 65 RBI.

GWH Blog: In the Minnesota Daily

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The University of Minnesota campus newspaper featured two stories on Gopher women's hockey today. Check them out!

Kessel on the cusp of 100th point

Minnesota travels to Mankato this weekend

USCHO.com has a feature on equipment managers around the WCHA, including our very own Kate Bockenstedt.

Helping team stay sharp only a small part of this bench job

'Big Ten Icons' To Feature Herb Brooks

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Go Gophers! Herb Brooks
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Herb Brooks won three national championships at Minnesota.
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Release courtesy of BTN.com staff

Herb Brooks Photo Gallery

Minnesota's legendary Herb Brooks, who coached the 1980 Olympic hockey team's "Miracle on Ice" after leading the Gophers to three national titles, is profiled Friday in the return of Big Ten Icons. Hosted by Hall of Fame broadcaster Keith Jackson, the first of six new episodes airs at approximately 9:30 p.m. CT, following the Minnesota-St. Cloud State hockey game.

The show includes new one-on-one interviews with former Minnesota hockey standout and Olympic gold medalist Rob McClanahan; 1981 All-American Minnesota forward Steve Ulseth; 1976 National Champion and Most Valuable Player Tom Vannelli; John Gilbert, author of Herb Brooks: The Inside Story of a Hockey Mastermind, and others.

"He's an icon," Vannelli says of Brooks. "He was a Minnesotan. He did it as a player, he did it as a coach, he did it at the pro level; he was the ultimate achiever as a coach."

Brooks, a St. Paul, Minn., native, won three national championships in his seven seasons coaching the University of Minnesota hockey program, including titles in 1974, 1976 and 1979.

McClanahan says of the 1980 medal-round game, "I don't think there's another coach around that would have been ready to take the lead against the Soviet Union with ten minutes to go and be prepared for that. Herbie was, and all he said was, 'play your game.'"

After leaving Minnesota, Brooks coached four NHL teams and the 2002 US Olympic Hockey Team. On the afternoon of Aug. 11, 2003, Brooks tragically died in a single car accident north of the Twin Cities. He was 66 years old. That same year, the entire 1980 Olympic Hockey Team was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

View From St. Cloud State

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It is another rivalry weekend for Minnesota, as the Gophers host St. Cloud State on Friday and then play in St. Cloud on Saturday. Minnesota is 1-1-0 against the Huskies this year, as each team previously won at home. We talked with Zack Fisch, who is the play-by-play announcer for the Huskies on 88.1 FM KVSC in St. Cloud. Fisch is in his fourth year covering the Huskies. KVSC is the student radio station at St. Cloud State, but is the FM Home of Husky Hockey. Games are available on 88.1 FM and KVSC.org and you can follow Zack and the crew on Twitter at @KVSCHockey.

GopherSports: Zack, how have the Huskies played since they split with Minnesota earlier this season?

Zack Fisch: After the thrill of topping the #1 Gophers in November in the Friday game, the 5-0 loss on Saturday to Minnesota was the start of a tough stretch of hockey for the Huskies. St. Cloud went on a six-game winless streak (0-4-2) and was swept at Nebraska-Omaha, only took one point at home against Bemidji State, and dropped the first game of a series to Denver. However, since the 5-1 win over Denver on December 17, St. Cloud has appeared to turn the corner. The Huskies have still not swept a series this year, but in their last four series, SCSU has earned a win over ranked opponents including Denver, Western Michigan, Colorado College, and North Dakota. Several of the losses were one goal games and overtime losses, and the Huskies have competed until the final horn in every game.

One facet of the game that has been improving is the penalty kill for SCSU. Additionally, Ryan Faragher has still be fantastic in goal, and the defensive pairing of freshmen Andrew Prochno and sophomore Nick Jensen has provided not only offense, but stability on the blue line. Head coach Bob Motzko believes the team is playing their best stretch of hockey right now despite being stretched thin with injuries.

GS: How have the Huskies adjusted to the departure of a couple key players?

ZF: No doubt, Cam Reid departing St. Cloud leaves a big hole in the lineup. Reid was getting top-six minutes, playing special teams, and having a nice year with 15 points. Luckily the Huskies brought in forward Joe Rehkamp in from Waterloo of the USHL over Winter Break after losing Mitch MacMillan who transferred to North Dakota. Reid's departure saw Cory Thorson take his spot on a line with Nic Dowd and David Eddy. Thorson appeared to be fitting in well, but he injured his shoulder last Saturday. Jordy Christian also left last Saturday's game with a lower body injury, leaving the Huskies exceptionally depleted at forward.

With Reid gone, captain Drew LeBlanc still recovering from a broken leg, and a rash of other injuries, goals will need to come from the other five players on the top two lines. The Huskies need the unit of Ben Hanowski, Travis Novak, and Jared Festler to keep putting up big numbers, and players like Eddy and Dowd will have to up their game even more. Everyone has to play right now, and despite losing players unexpectedly due to injuries and departures, the team continues to battle and compete.

GS: After watching the first two games between these two teams, what adjustments do you think SCSU will make this time out against the Gophers?

ZF: The answer to this question is easier said than done. The Huskies will need to contain Nick Bjugstad. The Gopher winger had a hat-trick against SCSU in game two, and finished with five points in the series. Minnesota has a potent lineup of NHL draft picks and fantastic players, but it all starts with finding a way to limit Bjugstad's time and space. Staying out of the penalty box and keeping Minnesota's power play, which scored three times in the series earlier this year, off the ice is key as well. St. Cloud will need two strong performances in goal this weekend as well. Faragher stole the show in game one last time out against Minnesota, and while he is not to fault as SCSU was shutout in game two, he did allow five goals. Goalie and team captain Mike Lee is slated to possibly return this weekend for SCSU and could see action. While Faragher has more than proven himself, Lee has won big games for SCSU in the past. Regardless of whoever gets the nod in the nets, the Husky goaltender will need to be strong from start to finish.

Observations from Wednesday's 68-52 Loss at No. 11 Michigan State

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Gophers Cool Off
Tonight's loss to Michigan State snapped the Golden Gophers' three-game win streak. It was also the first time since the loss at Illinois that Minnesota's field goal shooting dipped below 40 percent. The Gophers shot 18-47 (.383) against the Spartans, following their season-best shooting performance against Northwestern (.577).
Go Gophers! Rodney shooting
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Williams led the Gophers with 15 points.
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Breslin Center Hex Continues
The Gophers have struggled against the Spartans in recent years, and that is especially true of road meetings. Minnesota's last official victory in East Lansing was on Feb. 1, 1990. Two more recent Breslin Center wins came during vacated seasons.

Williams Comes Out Firing
The score stayed close early in the contest largely because of Rodney Williams. The junior forward scored eight of the Gophers' first 10 points. Minnesota's first six points came on three-pointers by Williams. He made a career-high third three-pointer later on in the game. The last time Williams hit more than one three in a game was in the win at Michigan on Jan. 22, 2011.

Milestone for Izzo
With this win over the Gophers, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo became the fourth coach to reach 400 wins at a Big Ten school. Bob Knight (661 wins at Indiana), Gene Keady (512 at Purdue), and Lou Henson (423 at Illinois) are the other coaches who accomplished that feat. Now in his 17th year with the Spartans, Izzo's career record stands at 400-165.

McKnight Enjoys Experience at NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

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Former Gopher wide receiver Da'Jon McKnight took part in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Carson, Calif. this past Saturday. McKnight led all receivers in the game with 49 yards on four receptions.

I caught up with him on the phone earlier today and got some reaction from him about the experience and what his plans are between now and the NFL Draft.

Andy Seeley: What can you tell me about your experience at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl?
Da'Jon McKnight: The experience was fun. We had Tom Flores and Dick Vermeil as our coaches. You know both of them have won Super Bowls as coaches. Our coaching staff was really good and were really well-known guys. The other team had Isaac Bruce and we had Matthew Hatchette. Just meeting different players from other schools was a great experience. It was more like a bowl game. I got a chance to spend time with some guys from the Big Ten like Keith Nichol from Michigan State. Just being there was great.

AS: How did you feel you performed?
DM: I think I played pretty well. I took advantage of the opportunities I had. I didn't play much of the game. But when my chance came, I took advantage. Being the leading receiver, I feel that was a big accomplishment for me. The practices went well, too.

AS: You mentioned practice. Often at all-star games, practice is just as important as the game. How were the practices?
DM: Practices went well. I caught the ball well. I ran my routes pretty good. I was just being a good team player.

AS: What kind of feedback did you receive from your coaches?
DM: My receivers coach told me I did good. He just said to be more precise and just to be calm in everything you do. It's more about doing things right every time, rather than just being talented. You've got to know how to read defenses, catch the ball, be coachable. He gave me lots of good feedback. He was real proud of us. That was big for me to hear that from my coach.

AS: What's up next for you until the draft?
DM: I'm training here in Denver and I'll be up here until Pro Day. I'll be doing speed training and working the cone drills and working on my technique for Pro Day. I'll come back to Minnesota for Pro Day. April is the Draft and whatever happens, happens and I'll go on from there. 

Gophers Talk St. Cloud State

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Members of the Minnesota men's hockey team met with the media before practice on Wednesday. The third-ranked Gophers have a big home-and-home series coming up against in-state WCHA rival St. Cloud State on Friday and Saturday. Here is what head coach Don Lucia and some of his players had to say about this weekend's opponent, who has battled injury problems and departures from the team throughout the season:

Don Lucia, Head Coach
"They've been a team that's been splitting a lot, but they've been splitting the last month with Denver and Western Michigan and North Dakota and a lot of good teams. They've got most of their players available from the last time we played them. Their goaltender (Mike Lee) is probably going to be back this weekend--he's been hurt. Their D core is one of the strengths of their team. They're very offensive and those guys are all available. They certainly have enough up front with (Jared) Festler, (Ben) Hanowski, (Travis) Novak, (Nic) Dowd, and (David) Eddy and some other guys that can generate offense. All the guys that got points the last time we played them but one are back this weekend."

Nick Bjugstad, Forward
"They've lost a lot of guys, which is unfortunate, but they've found a way to win. That's good for them. They've got a good team, a good goaltender, and good coaching, so we've got to make sure we bring it every game."

Zach Budish, Forward
"We split with them earlier in the year. They're a good team. They've adjusted well with their injuries. They lost two of their three captains, their starting goalie (Mike Lee), and probably their top offensive player (Drew LeBlanc), so they've adjusted well and guys have stepped up. They've had a pretty good season so far, so it'll be a tough test. It's an in-state rivalry and they're a good team."

Nate Condon, Forward
"You never know who's going to come out and have a heck of a game for anyone. St. Cloud's got a lot of good players and they got players coming back from injury here and there. It's not going to be the team we're used to playing against, but then again everyone's a Division I college player and they deserve to be here so it's going to be a tough game."

Taylor Matson, Foward
"They've got ten healthy forwards, so they're looking for some lines with some chemistry. Everyone's good in college hockey--even the players that don't play every single night. Everyone comes from junior experience and they're well-coached players so we're looking forward to it."

Bjugstad Nets 20

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Sophomore Nick Bjugstad scored his team-leading 20th goal of the season for Minnesota last Friday night against Colorado College.

The 6-foot-5, 211-pound center, is the first Gopher to score 20 goals since Ryan Stoa registered 24 goals in 36 games during the 2008-09 season.
Go Gophers! Nick Bjugstad
Go Gophers!
Nick Bjugstad is the first Gopher to score 20 goals since Ryan Stoa tallied 24 during the 2008-09 season.
Go Gophers!

While Gopher fans and those who have followed Bjugstad's career may not be surprised to see him hit the 20-goal mark, the Blaine, Minn., readily admits that he has exceeded his own expectations.

"I did not really expect to score 20 goals at the beginning of the season," said Bjugstad, who is second in the nation with 20 goals. "I was pretty excited when I got 10 goals, so it is cool to get 20. I wanted to come in this year and do well as a team and do well individually. There are a lot of good goalscorers on the team, so I did not really come in with too high of expectations."

The goal was Bjugstad's team-leading 32nd point this year. He is the first Gopher to record 30 or more points in one season since 2008-09 when four players accomplished the feat. That year Stoa lead Minnesota with had 46 points (24g-22a) in 36 games. He was followed by Jordan Schroeder (45 points), Jay Barriball (34 points) and Cade Fairchild (33 points).

Bjugstad, who had eight goals and 12 assists in 29 games as a freshman, has 52 points (28g-24a) in 54 career games.

"I have learned a lot since my first year," said Bjugstad, who has at least one goal in 14 of 25 games this season. "I learned a lot from the coaching staff and just from playing games. The pace was a lot different than I was used to from high school. I am feeling more confident as well and that is the main deal with all of this."

Morning Skate With Mark Alt

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Go Gophers! Mark Alt
Go Gophers!
Mark Alt said one reason that the Gophers are allowing only 2.07 goals-per-game is because the team has worked hard to block shots this year.
Go Gophers!
Mark Alt is only a sophomore, but he has turned into one of the leaders on Minnesota's young blueline. We caught up with the former high school football star to talk about this season, his point production and if he ever brings up Minnesota's two-game winning streak in football against Iowa to his father, who was a star for the Hawkeyes in the early 1980s.

GopherSports: Mark, how would you describe Minnesota's season so far?

Mark Alt: We started off hot and were 9-1-0. That was a nice way to start the season because we are a young team. As the year has progressed we have definitely improved. We had a little slump after Christmas and we are kind of coming out of that now. We are getting stronger and playing better.

GS: Many people would be surprised to learn that Minnesota's defense is allowing the fourth fewest in the nation. What has been the biggest difference between last year and this year for the defense?

MA: For me, a big help has been coach Guentzel. He has really broken down our defense. He has really structured our defensive zone and made it easier for us to defend and keep pucks out of our zone and away from Kent. He has really helped out a lot.

GS: Is there anything specific that you can talk about that the defense is doing different?

MA: I think a big thing is our gaps and how close we are playing to the forwards who are coming at us. We have had real tight gaps and have been taking away chances to shoot. When opponents do get a chance to shoot we have been practicing on blocking shots and making sure we are getting in the way. We are doing whatever we can to get a stick or a pad on a puck.  

GS: It also seems like the defense is producing more offense this year. You have 16 points. Has this been a coming out year offensively for you?  

MA: I feel a lot more comfortable on the blueline this year. I am a lot more patient with the puck and that is something I wanted to work on. I am holding onto the puck and getting my eyes up more so I can try to make plays. When I do get the puck one of my biggest jobs it to get it on net. I have to get hard shots on the net for a rebound or get a shot off that can be tipped in. Offensively, being more patient for me is a big key.

GS: You play St. Cloud this weekend after splitting with them earlier this year. What do you expect those games to be like?

MA: We expect them to be fast and physical. That is how they came out on the Friday we lost at their place earlier this year. We let them set the tone a little bit. I think it is important for us to set the tone for the weekend on Friday. We need to expect that they are going to be coming at us and that it will be a fast and physical game. Defensively we need to be sound and keep pucks out of our end.

GS: There are only 10 games left in the regular season. Is that something you guys are aware of or are you taking the one game at a time approach?

MA: A little bit of both. We always try to take it one game at a time, but at practice this week coach has been talking about how we have to be aware of where are. We have 10 games left in the regular season and each one matters. We cannot really be splitting weekends at this point in the year. We need to focus on getting two wins each weekend. We need to play one game at a time, but need to know that time is winding down as well.

GS: You picked to play college hockey over college football. What was the driving force behind that decision?

MA: Hockey was always my first love. I played all sports growing up, but narrowed it down as I got older. Hockey and football were the two that I stuck with in high school. With my family background, hockey was not the route my family was planning on, but that is what I wanted to do. When I was presented the opportunity to play college hockey, I knew that was what I wanted to do and made that choice in high school.

GS: Your dad played football at Iowa before playing in the NFL. However, the Gophers have beaten Iowa in football the last two years. Is that something the two of you talk about?

MA: I don't talk about that at all. I know he goes to those games when they are here on campus, but those have been tough for him. He is a loyal fan and when Iowa comes up here he is always there. I have just kind of smiled when I have gone home after Minnesota beat Iowa the last two years, but I have never said anything about it to him.

GS: There are some accomplished football players on the hockey team with you. Who would you say are some of the better football players and did you play against them in high school?

MA: I could have played against Zach Budish, but we never ended up facing each other. Joey Miller was a phenomenal running back in high school and I did watch Budish a lot at linebacker when we were preparing for the state tournament. Both were great high school players and two of the better football players on our team.

GS: What do you want to get better at during your time here at Minnesota?

MA: My biggest concern is to be sound defensively. I want to keep improving on that so I can be solid in my own end. Then I would like to produce more points, which has been happening a little bit for me this year. For me it is a balance between being aggressive and being smart. I need to know when to step up at the right time and stay back when I should.

GS: The blueline is really young this year? Have you taken on a leadership role at all?

MA: Yeah, it kind of just happened. I was not planning on it, but with the way guys left last year it left me, Seth Helgeson and Justin Holl as the only returnees who played. I am partners with Ben Marshall and he will ask me a few questions sometimes about what we should do in certain situations or what we can do differently. I try to help him out as much as I can, but I still look up to and learn from Helgeson. But as a defensive core, we all work together really well. We are all still kind of young, but I do feel sometimes that I have taken on a leadership role and try to help the younger guys out. 

Jennie-O-Wrestler of the Week: Nick Dardanes

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This week Gophersports.com caught up with redshirt freshman Nick Dardanes. Nick is this week's Jennie-O-Wrestler of the week and he hails from  from Chicago, Ill.  

1.     Who is the funniest guy on the team?

        Brandon Bigelbach

Go Gophers! NAME OF PICTURE
Go Gophers!
Switch to Turkey
Go Gophers!

2.     Who is the least funny guy on the team?

       Sonny Yohn                                                                                                                     


3.    
What is your favorite class at Minnesota?

Go Gophers!

       Kinesiology

4.     What is your best memory you have had as a Minnesota Wrestler?

       Going to watch NCAA's last year

5.     What is the best advice you have for the freshman on the team?

       Come to practice with a purpose each day

6.     Do you have any match rituals or superstitions?

      Good hard warm up

7.     Who has the strangest pre-match ritual or superstitions? What is it?

       Alec Ortiz crazy jump rope

8.     What is on your IPod right now? 

       Country, rap ,alternative

 9.     Where is your favorite place to eat around campus?

        Jimmy johns

10.   What is your favorite Gopher team to watch outside of Wrestling?

        Women's gymnastics

11.   What is the best part about being a Minnesota Golden Gopher Wrestler?   

       When we get muscle milk

12.   What are your favorite hobbies off the mat?

        Watching tv, fishing

13.   What are your expectations for yourself and the team this year? 

        Win a NCAA Championship

14.   What was the last movie you saw?

        Bad teacher

15.   What is your favorite TV show?

         70's show

16.   What is one food that is hard not to eat when cutting weight?

        Ice cream

17.    What is one thing you really miss most about being away from home?   

         Mom waking me up

Get to Know Julian Welch

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Julian Welch is in his first season as a Golden Gopher, but he is the oldest member of the team's guard corps. The junior transfer has taken on a leadership role, starting all eight of Minnesota's Big Ten contests so far and averaging 11.5 points in those games. In the video above, Welch talks about being a leader, his California roots, and more.

Barnstorming with Grimm: The Film Room

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This week in "Barnstorming," Mike Grimm visits the Williams Arena film room. The radio voice of the Golden Gophers explains the various amenities of the room, which was part of the renovations to the Barn in the 2000s.

Lifelong Gopher Fan Has Experience Like None Other

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Photo Gallery

This past Friday, I was able to follow around Randy Turco, who is a diehard Golden Gopher football fan, at the unveiling ceremony for the new football uniforms. Randy, who is a 2003 graduate from Minnesota, was randomly selected by our football contact Andy Seeley to receive an invite to the jersey unveiling ceremony at TCF Bank Stadium. Little did Andy know that our randomly selected winner hailed from Lansing, Mich. Even with having this news brought to our attention, the invitation was still offered to Randy, but we didn't anticipate him to accept. I say this because for being the winner he was given an invitation to the jersey unveiling only, which obviously means an all-expense paid trip was not part of the deal. But to our surprise (and delight), Randy was not concerned about the financial aspect and eagerly accepted our invitation.

"When I got the tweet from Andy, I was actually on my office phone with my boss," said Turco. "As I read it, I began shaking because I was so excited, and I couldn't say anything out loud because I was talking to my boss. After work, I could barely drive home because I was trying to call everybody I knew."

When Randy told me this, I instantly knew he was more than just an average fan. After getting to know him a little better, I found out that Randy not only lives for Gopher football, but he loves the University of Minnesota as a whole. Here is a short rundown about Randy to help you get to know him a little better...

Go Gophers!
Go Gophers!

Go Gophers!

Randy is originally from Michigan, and chose to attend Minnesota to get away from home and experience life outside of "The Great Lakes State". In four years, Randy had the time of his life and fell in love with Minnesota. Following graduation, he got pulled back to his home state to work for the House of Representatives. The move back home was one Randy foresaw as a short term plan before he could return to the Twin Cities. Fast forward nine years later, and he still resides in Michigan as he finishes up law school.

"I haven't been able to move back to Minneapolis, but I still make a trip every summer to see old friends and keep the networks open. Everyone that knows me..knows what it means to me to be back in Minneapolis and get to visit campus."

This August, Randy will finish up with law school, and his first plan of action is to take the Minnesota Bar Exam.

With those things being said, let's get back to the story of Randy's visit.

The doors didn't open for the jersey ceremony until 3 p.m., so Randy spent the day roaming around campus and checking out what used to be his old stomping grounds. He even made sure to stop over at Gibson-Nagurski to visit Floyd of Rosedale along with all the other historic memorabilia surrounding the football offices.

Once the clock struck 3:00 p.m., sure enough, Randy was one of the first people to walk through the doors of the Gophers' locker room, and in his right hand, he was carrying a 2011 Minnesota Football Media Guide as any true Golden Gopher football fan would do!

After being introduced to Randy, I watched him from a distance as he wandered from locker to locker, checking out the various name plates. The longtime Minnesota fan looked like a kid in a candy store as he examined the locker room and soaked in everything.

Following the jersey unveiling, I shadowed Randy as he battled the crowds to get all eight Gopher players and head coach Jerry Kill to sign not one...but three posters that showcased the players in the new uniforms. The whole time Randy had a smile from ear-to-ear, and you could tell that this was an experience like none other.

After the crowds left, I sat down with Randy and asked him about the experience as a whole. As he started talking about everything that he had done and seen, it quickly hit me that my next question [What was your favorite part of this experience?] was obsolete because not one thing stood out more than another.

"It is just a great feeling to be a part of all of this, which makes it hard to choose what my favorite part from this day was. I mean, I got to check out Floyd [of Rosedale] over in Gibson-Nagurski, walk around TCF Bank Stadium and actually roam the locker room. Next time you guys [GopherSports.com] upload a postgame video of the team in this locker room after one of many big wins I foresee this team getting in the coming years, I will be able to say I have been in there. It is just an unbelievable experience, and I don't think a lot of people get to say that."

And it was at that moment that I had an epiphany...

Randy is witnessing and experiencing things that I have had the privilege to partake in and call my "job." I put "job" in quotes because some days I may view it as just any other job, but the truth is I get paid to work in athletics, which is something that I love and am passionate about. I may not enjoy every moment of it, but people like Randy make me look back at all the long nights, weekends and holidays I have spent in a press box or on a bus writing a game recap and appreciate what I call my "job." So Randy, thank you for opening my eyes!

To finish off this post, I once again would like to thank Randy for not only being a dedicated Golden Gopher football fan but also a lifelong supporter of the University of Minnesota. Good luck with the remainder of law school, and hopefully, you can make it to Minneapolis next season to attend your first game at TCF!

VIDEO: Highlights from the 37-3 Victory Over Wisconsin

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Well lets see Minnesota is 8-2 overall, 5-0 in the Big Ten (1st overall in the Big Ten) and is looking really good as we get set close out the month of January. Once again we have some highlights for you from Cole Schrupp from yesterdays 37-3 smashing over Wisconsin! 

Hope you enjoy and keep checking back to Gophersports.com this week for news/updates. 

Our (Unexpected) Celebrity Sighting

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Go Gophers! Ricky Rubio
Go Gophers!

I have been through my share of airports, having traveled around the country for work as well as for athletics back in my younger days. Just about a year ago, a team that I was working with was scheduled to play in a tournament at UCLA, which meant I was going to get to fly into LAX - a celebrity-gossip lover's dream. All I could think about was which celebrity I was going to see walking around the airport getting followed by the paparazzi? And, which famous heartthrob was I going to take a picture with while we were waiting at baggage claim?

Well, to my dismay, I did not see one celebrity the entire trip. Not one. Zero. My dreams had been dashed.

Looking back at my track record of celebrity sightings, the only encounters I've ever really had have been with athletes. Minnesota athletes at that. I remember meeting Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau, Johan Santana and Torii Hunter, then all of the Minnesota Twins, in Ft. Meyers, Fla., during our spring break softball trip as a junior in college. The guys let my teammates and I shag balls with them during batting practice and it is one of the greatest memories I have of my playing days.

It wasn't at the airport... but you get my drift.

Go Gophers! Ricky Rubio
Go Gophers!

Go Gophers!

Last week, the Minnesota women's basketball team was able to have one of those types of moments at the Minneapolis Airport, when they spotted Ricky Rubio hanging out near our baggage claim.

One of the most talked about athletes in the state of Minnesota at this very moment, Rubio surprisingly went unnoticed by passersby...until assistant coach Kelly Roysland recognized one of the Minnesota Timberwolves' most popular players.

By the time the team heard wind of the news of Rubio's presence, it became apparent to the rest of the crowd that the young man wearing the winter hat and eating Skittles was not your average Joe.

Members of the team politely asked Rubio if they would be able to get a photo with him, and he generously obliged. He sat for photo after photo, smiling and even sharing his candy. More people joined in, finally realizing that this young man was someone special. But, Rubio continued to sit and smile for the cameras.

Go Gophers! Ricky Rubio
Go Gophers!

Go Gophers!

The thing about his simple gesture was that he gave the Gophers, both players and staff alike, memories that many will remember for a lifetime.

Though my dreams were dashed at LAX just a short year ago, members of the Minnesota women's basketball team unexpectedly may have lived out theirs. It's not every day that you run into one of the most electrifying athletes in the NBA and have photos to prove it!

Though I don't have photo evidence, I also had another basketball encounter at Chicago O'Hare back in high school. I knew right away when I saw this man that he had to be a basketball player. He literally looked like he was walking on stilts. Even if he wanted to be incognito like Rubio had almost successfully been, it would have been no easy task. So, who was this man that towered over his entourage, you ask? None other than... Manute Bol.

I guess it's right what they say, the best things happen when you least expect them.

Gophers Have Success in the Classroom

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Golf team

The semester of fall 2011 saw the Minnesota men's golf team record its highest GPA in the last decade. The Golden Gophers will try to build off that success this spring semester, which started a week ago.

"The effort put forth by the entire roster this past fall semester in the classroom led to the highest GPA in the past decade for the men's golf team," head coach John Carlson said. "Being a student-athlete at the University of Minnesota is a privilege for all of my players and I couldn't be more proud of them by the way they are representing Gopher athletics."

Congratulations and keep up the good work, Gophers!

Rodney Williams Featured on "The Journey"

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Junior forward Rodney Williams is one of the featured individuals on the most recent episode of BTN's documentary series "Big Ten Basketball: The Journey." The episode made its debut during a special Saturday night time, and will re-air Monday at 5:30 p.m. CT. Williams talked about not just his dunks, but also about his all-around game. Trevor Mbakwe also made appearances on the show for the feature. Bonus video from BTN's interview with Williams is embedded above.

Observations from Sunday's 75-52 Win Against Northwestern

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Winning Big
This 23-point win was the Gophers' most decisive conference win of the season. Minnesota had not defeated a conference opponent by 20 or more points since the 2010 Big Ten Tournament, where the Gophers dominated Purdue, 69-42. Their last regular season Big Ten win by 20 or more was that season, too. They beat Iowa, 88-53 on senior day.

Home Sweet Home
Before today, it had been almost a year since Minnesota's last Big Ten victory at Williams Arena. The opponent on Jan. 26, 2011 was Northwestern. Today, the Gophers snapped a seven-game conference home losing streak by defeating the Wildcats again.

Go Gophers! Welch cheering
Go Gophers!
Welch's 14 points helped the Gophers to their first home Big Ten win since 2011.
Go Gophers!

Double Vision
While the Gopher bench made meaningful contributions, the starters definitely carried the Gophers in the scoring department today. All five members of the starting lineup scored in double figures, with Joe Coleman (16) leading the way. Coleman is averaging 15.3 points in four games as a starter, and has shot 29-of-35 from the free throw line in those games.

Cold Start for the 'Cats
For nearly the first eight minutes of the game, the basket appeared to have a lid on it for Northwestern. The Wildcats started out shooting 0-for-14 before Davide Curletti scored at the 12:11 mark. For the rest of the half, Northwestern shot 9-of-16. The Wildcats ended up at 18-of-55 from the field on the game.

Alumni Day
Dozens of Gopher basketball alumni took in the action at Williams Arena today. Randy Chall, a 2004 graduate, started things off by singing the national anthem before the game. Former players, coaches, and managers from each decade going back to the 1950s
were honored on the court at halftime.

Statement from Coach Kill on Joe Paterno's Passing

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The following is a statement from Gopher football head coach Jerry Kill on the passing of former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno. Paterno passed away this morning at the age of 85 due to complications from lung cancer:
Go Gophers! Kill
Go Gophers!
Gophers head coach Jerry Kill released a statement on the passing of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno.
Go Gophers!

"I got home last night from recruiting and my oldest daughter said she had just heard. Fifteen minutes later, my youngest daughter at Murray State called. That's two girls from a coach's family reacting to it. That really sums up his impact. It hits home. He coached for 60 years with more than 100 players per year. Think about how many lives he touched, how many good things he has done.

"From my family to the Paterno family, our prayers go out to them. It's a sad day for football, but a good day for the man upstairs.

"I would tell people not to forget what that guy has done. To coach for 60 years in one place, that just won't ever happen again. I didn't get to coach against him. But I got to coach in the Big Ten, sit next to him at a meeting and have my picture taken with him. That's something I will never forget."
Happy Hockey Day!
The State of Hockey celebrated Hockey Day on Saturday and the Minnesota-Colorado College was part of the day-long special by Fox Sports North. The Gophers improved their record on Hockey Day to 4-2-0 since the tradition officially began in 2007. Last year, the Gophers beat another team from Colorado, Denver, 7-3, on Hockey Day. That victory also helped Minnesota salvage a split.

Four Shorthanded
With Jake Parenteau serving a cross-checking penalty early in the first period on Saturday, Nate Condon tied the game at one with his fourth shorthanded goal of the season. Condon, who also scored with a teammate in the penalty box against Alaska-Anchorage, Northeastern, and last North Dakota is one shorthanded shorty shy of the Minnesota single season record. Peter Hankinson (1989-90) and Steve Griffith (1982-83) each had five. Condon is second nationally is shorthanded goals behind only Austin Smith of Colgate, who has five.

Perfect on Saturday
Despite being a top-five team for most of the season, the Gophers have struggled on Friday nights. The Gophers are only 7-5-0 on Fridays this season, but have more than cancelled their series-opening struggles with a 10-2-1 record on Saturdays. In WCHA play, Minnesota is now 9-0-0 in series finales. The Gophers' Saturday losses came against Northeastern and Notre Dame and their lone tie came against Michigan State. UM split with Colorado College for only the second time in ten regular-season series since the beginning of the 2005 calendar year. The only other time the teams split in that time was on Dec. 13 and 14, 2008. UM won the first game 4-1 and lost the following night 1-0.

Shooting Gallery
Though Minnesota did not score in the third period of Saturday's game, the Gophers put up more shots than they have in the third period of any game this season. Tiger goaltender Josh Thorimbert stopped all 17 UM shots in the final 20 minutes as CC only managed six shots in the period (20 in the game). The Gophers finished with 37 shots on goal.

Sacchetti Scores!
Senior Nico Sacchetti, who had the longest goalless streak on the team entering the game, finally ended his drought after 18 games played. Sacchetti last scored on Jan. 14, 2011 against North Dakota. Like his last goal in Grand Forks, N.D., his tally on Saturday was the game-winning goal. It was Sacchetti's second career goal and fifth career point against Colorado College in nine games and was his first point of 2011-12 in eight games.

Live Meet Blog: No. 24 Minnesota vs. No. 11 Michgain

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The Univeristy of Minnesota returns home for a matchup with the five-time defending Big Ten Conference Champions in Michigan. The Gophers hope to rebound after they struggled at Illinois last weekend where they posted a 192.800. The meet begins at 6 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion. Parking will be limited due to a number of other Minnesota athletic events going on Saturday afternoon and night.

Follow along with all the action through tonight's interactive live blog. Everyone is encouraged to ask questions and provide additional input about the meet, the teams, the 2012 season and anything gymnastics related.

Blog: Maurice Walker to Redshirt 2011-12 Season

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Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith announced this week that sophomore forward Maurice Walker will redshirt the 2011-12 season. Walker suffered a right knee injury in the Golden Gophers' game against South Dakota State on Dec. 23, 2010, and underwent surgery a little more than a year ago on Jan. 11.

Coming into this season, Walker and the staff were uncertain about whether or not he would play during his true sophomore year. He continued to rehab his knee, and had worked his way back to near full participation in team practices. Walker even suited up for a handful of games.
Go Gophers! Mo
Go Gophers!
Walker will be a redshirt sophomore in 2012-13.
Go Gophers!

"We were just kind of playing it by ear, day by day, to see how my knee was recovering and how it was doing strength-wise," Walker said. "(The trainers and coaches) just don't feel like it's ready yet. They want to wait until I'm 100 percent before I play again."

Walker, who gave the Gophers quality minutes off the bench last season, would have been nice to have this year, especially with senior forward Trevor Mbakwe out with an ACL tear. Smith said that Walker likely would have been ready for the beginning of Big Ten play had he not suffered a minor setback in rehab during November.

But after being forced to tone down the intensity of his workouts for several weeks back in the beginning of non-conference play, Smith said Walker was not close enough to being ready to play until about this point in the season. Already a third of the way through the conference schedule, Walker and the staff felt it would be, as Smith put it, "a waste of a year to play him."

"It's the best thing to do, and I think he has accepted it well," Smith said. "He's working extremely hard with (strength & conditioning coach) Kevin Kocos and (athletic trainer) Roger Schipper."

As for his knee, Walker said, "It feels good right now, but there are still some strength issues, and still slight pain at times." He has tried to maintain a positive attitude about the rehab process, although it is difficult to just sit and watch. There are times when he wishes he could be on the court, but he has accepted the decision to redshirt.

"I feel like I could help, but there's nothing I can really do about it except for encourage my teammates and try to pick them up," he said.

Mbakwe update: Trevor Mbakwe is also going through the rehab process, for a more recent knee injury suffered in Novemeber. He is enrolled in spring classes and is still cheering on his teammates at games. He has not yet told the coaching staff what he plans to do next year. Mbakwe has the option of petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility.

"He probably needs (the petition) done now so he can determine what he needs to do," Smith said.

If a sixth year is granted, Mbakwe will still have time to decide whether he wants to accept it or explore his options of a post-collegiate basketball career.

Minnesota Notes For Jan. 21 Against Colorado College

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About Last Night
Colorado College scored an early second-period goal to take a 1-0 lead into the third period. That would be the only goal scored by either team until the final two minutes of the game. With goaltender Kent Patterson on the bench, Nick Bjugstad tied the game 1-1 at the 18:43 mark. However, the Gopher's lead lasted less than one minute, as Tim Hall scored the game-winner for the Tigers with 36 seconds left in the game. With the win, Colorado College snapped a four-game losing streak to Minnesota.

Hockey Day Minnesota
The Gophers are participating in Hockey Day Minnesota today, which is the reason for the 5 p.m. start. Last year on Hockey Day, the Gophers dispatched Denver 7-3 to avoid being swept at home. The win improved Minnesota to 3-2 on Hockey Day Minnesota, a tradition that officially began in 2007.

20 For Bjugstad
Sophomore Nick Bjugstad scored his 20th goal last night for Minnesota. Bjugstad is the first Gopher to score 20 goals in one season since Ryan Stoa registered 24 goals in 36 games during the 2008-09 season. Bjugstad has a point in 19 of 24 games this year and has scored a goal in 14 games this season.

Close Encounters
The Gophers are 16-9-1 on the season. Of their nine defeats, eight have been by one goal (including one in overtime). Minnesota's only loss of more than one goal was a 3-1 setback at Wisconsin on Nov. 11. Minnesota is 4-8-0 in one-goal games this year.

Saturday Success
Minnesota is 9-2-1 in Saturday games this year. The Gophers, who are undefeated in WCHA play on Saturdays, lost to Notre Dame and Northeastern this year. The lone Saturday tie was at Michigan State.

Final Minute
Last night, Colorado College scored with 36 seconds left in the game to win 2-1. It was the first time all season that Minnesota allowed a goal with less than one minute remaining in the game. The Gophers have scored seven goals this season in the game's final minutes.

Getting Back On Track
Minnesota will look to snap a three-game skid at home tonight. The Gophers have lost their last three home games to Northeastern, Notre Dame and Colorado College. Minnesota's last home win was a 5-1 victory against Niagara on Dec. 30. The last time Minnesota lost three straight at home was Oct. 15-22, 2010 (lost twice to Nebraska Omaha and once to St. Cloud State).

New Tiger In Net
Over the past two years, Plymouth, Minn.-native Joe Howe had started all four contests against Minnesota for the Tigers. However, sophomore Josh Thorimbert looks to have stolen the job from the third-year netminder. In his four career starts against the Gophers, Howe was 0-4-0 and conceded 18 goals in 202:54. Thorimbert fared much better in his first start, shutting UM out through 58:43 and earning a 38-save victory on Friday.

Time to Rebound?
Minnesota is 7-5-0 on Friday nights in the 2011-12 season, but has not been swept since ending last year with a WCHA first round playoff defeat at the hands of Alaska-Anchorage thanks to a 9-2-1 Saturday ledger this season. The Gophers haven't been swept in the regular season since Dec. 3 and 4, 2010 at Minnesota State.

This series could be different, though, based on the recent history of Minnesota and Colorado College. Eight of the last nine series between the schools have seen one team earning all four points. The Gophers have had five sweeps and CC has had three. Outside of a split on Dec. 13 and 14, 2008 at Mariucci Arena, Minnesota hasn't played to a split with the Tigers since the beginning of the 2005 calendar year.

Trailing After Two
Though the Gophers are especially good in the third period, outscoring their opponents 40-15 (26-8 in the WCHA), they don't specialize in coming back in the final frame. Minnesota is now 1-6-1 when trailing after 40 minutes entering the final frame. Colorado College improved to 12-0-0 when leading after two periods with the win.

Still Looking for Revenge
Over the winter break, Minnesota top-line forwards Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau missed two games apiece to play for the United States at the World Junior Championships. In the tournament, where the U.S. failed to reach the medal round, Rau and Bjugstad's team was beaten 3-2 by Team Canada, who was captained by Colorado College sophomore Jaden Schwartz. Schwartz scored a goal in the game.

Bjugstad looked to have gotten a bit of payback by scoring the game-tying goal with 1:17 left, but Tim Hall won the game for CC less than a minute later. Both Schwartz and Rau were held off the scoresheet.

#HDM
The State of Hockey will celebrate Hockey Day in Minnesota on Saturday. The Gophers will be part of a schedule full of hockey on Fox Sports North. Minnesota's game will begin at 5 p.m. Last year on Hockey Day, the Gophers dispatched Denver 7-3 to avoid being swept at home. The win improved UM to 3-2 on Hockey Day in Minnesota, a tradition that officially began in 2007.

Gophers Inner Circle: Behind the Scenes with Gopher Wrestling

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Last weekend the Gophers defeated Illinois and Purdue on the road. The hired Cole Schrupp this year to put together all of the outstanding videos, highlights, interviews etc. that you have seen on either Gophersports.com of Facebook/Twitter

Over the weekend Cole decided to change things up and instead of just making a highlight video he chose to give fans an all-access behind the scenes of what the team does on the road. 

The piece is a four part series in which you can find below. I hope you all enjoy the great work Cole did on this and everything else he has put together for Minnesota Wrestling fans! 

PART 1 PART 2 PART 3 PART 4

Get to Know Kionna Kellogg

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GopherSports.com recently sat down with sophomore forward Kionna Kellogg to learn a little bit more about why she came to the U, her favorite part about living in Minneapolis and her nail polish collection.

Why did you come to the U of M from Iowa?
"I really like the cities and the idea of being in a bigger place. I wanted my parents to still be able to watch me play, but I needed to get away from them a little bit. The drive from Ames to Minneapolis is about three and a half hours."

What is your major here at the U?
"My major is communications, and I've switched a couple of times, so hopefully this one will stick."

What are your post-graduation plans?
"I don't know what I want to do when I graduate, but I'm thinking that I want to stay around the cities. I just like the cities."

What is your favorite part about living in Minneapolis?
"My favorite part about living in the cities is, first the view coming from I35. I love it. I get excited everytime that I come back. I also like Dinkytown and our living facilities, because we live with all of our teammates. So, its really cool to be able to walk down the hall and go hang out with whoever I want. We spend a lot of time together."

Name one quirky thing about you...
"I'm obsessed with nail polish. I have somewhere around 82 bottles of nail polish. They're not painted right now, but they typically are. I paint my nails and a lot of the girls on the team's nails. I could be a manicurist."

Meat Sauce Investigates the New Gopher Uniforms

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KFAN personality Meatsauce (aka Paul Lambert) was charged with getting the scoop on the new Gopher Football uniforms by his superiors at the Gopher Football flagship radio station recently. 

Follow along as 'Sauce is all over the Gibson-Nagurski Complex and the Bierman Field Building looking for clues in the below episode of Meatsauce Investigates. Then, be sure to log on to GopherSports.com, follow @GoldenGopherFB on Twitter and Like Golden Gopher Football on Facebook to see the new uniforms, beginning Friday afternoon around 4 p.m.

View From Colorado College

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The Gophers have not played this weekend's opponent Colorado College since November 2010. Minnesota swept the Tigers on the road then, but a lot has changed in the near 15 months since these two teams have played. We talked to Brian Gomez of the Colorado Springs Gazette to get some information on Colorado College and their high-powered offense. You can follow Brian and learn more about Colorado College on his Eye of the Tigers blog.

GopherSports: Brian, could you give us a scouting report on the Tigers?

Brian Gomez: Like Minnesota, CC is an up-tempo, fast-moving team with an explosive offense (3.68 goals per game) and a potent power play (25 percent) but the Tigers have struggled on defense (2.95 goals per game) and on the penalty kill (78.7 percent) and they're 2-3-1 since the holiday break. If Josh Thorimbert (8-3) starts in goal, CC is capable of holding onto a lead, especially if its defensemen are providing support. If Joe Howe (5-5-1) lines up between the pipes, no lead for CC is safe. And while the Tigers possess the horses to stage comebacks, when they're playing from behind, they're typically drained late in games, as was the case Saturday in a 5-4 overtime loss to St. Cloud State. Too many turnovers and loose fronts in the defensive zone have made CC's margin for error increasingly smaller, especially on the road, where the Tigers are 3-4 in the WCHA.

GS: Who is one player that Gopher fans should keep an eye on this weekend?

BG: CC left wing Jaden Schwartz, a 2010 first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues who has 24 points, including a team-high 17 assists. He's indisputably the most talented player on CC's roster, and if not for missing six games to captain Canada at the world junior championships, he no doubt would have the statistics to be a legitimate contender for the Hobey Baker Award. Schwartz didn't score last weekend in a split against St. Cloud State, although his mere presence on the ice makes everybody around him better, and he recorded three assists, setting up his older brother, Rylan, for his team-leading 18th goal. He's almost impossible to contain, and since he's so unselfish, if opponents focus too much on trying to slow him down, he'll simply position his teammates to do the damage.

GS: Brian, can you finish this sentence for us. Colorado College will win if...

BG: ...It plays considerably better than it has the past three weeks - and if it catches the Gophers on a weekend in which they're not the sharpest. If CC brings the kind of effort it did last weekend and if Minnesota is as dominant as it was Saturday in a 6-2 win at North Dakota, the Gophers will sweep with no problems. For the Tigers to stay competitive, they must get production outside of their top line, their defensemen must become more physical and they probably need their goaltender to stand on his head - perhaps only Thorimbert is capable of doing that right now, with Howe so inconsistent. Plus, CC has to keep the game low-scoring. When the Tigers have gotten into shootouts on the road in the WCHA, they've lost every time - against Nebraska-Omaha, Denver and North Dakota.
 

Barnstorming with Grimm: Inside Tubby Smith's Office

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Not everyone can coach a Division I college basketball team, but this week's episode of "Barnstorming with Grimm" gives the rest of us a chance to at least see what a coach's work space looks like. Play-by-play man Mike Grimm goes behind the scenes in Williams Arena to show us the coaches' locker room and head coach Tubby Smith's office. Stick around after the tour for an update on Joe Coleman and the Golden Gophers' upcoming schedule.

Get to Know Maverick Ahanmisi

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As a freshman in 2010-11, Maverick Ahanmisi was thrown into the spotlight after the Golden Gophers' senior point guard, Al Nolen, suffered an ankle injury. The experience he gained last year has helped Ahanmisi to be a bigger contributor as a sophomore. Get to know the Minnesota guard better in this video and Q&A. Ahanmisi talks about his freshman year, his California roots, and more.

Q: How important was it for you to gain point guard experience in the Big Ten as a freshman?

A: It was very important, because now I know what to expect, and things that I didn't know last year are going to really help me this year throughout the season.

Q: Are you okay with playing both guard positions?
A: Definitely. I feel like I can play point guard or shooting guard, whatever Coach would want me to play.

Q: Are there any particular opponents you are looking forward to facing?
A: Ohio State. They're always a competitive team. Purdue. Just everybody in the Big Ten, really.

Q: What are some of your favorite drills to do in practice?
A: My favorite drill would probably be shooting on the perimeter with the point guards, where Coach splits us up into guards and post moves. We'll start down low and pass it up top, and then we'll curl. First we'll shoot twos, then threes, then fade and curl, and things like that. That's my favorite drill.

Q: Does anyone ever tell you that you have the coolest name on the team?
A: Yeah, a lot of people say that all the time, actually.

Q: Do you know what you are going to major in yet?

A: I'm undecided right now, but it's probably somewhere in business and marketing.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do with your teammates outside of basketball?
A: It's been a recurring thing--we always try to find scary movies that come out, and we always go as a team and watch it.

Q: What is the scariest movie you have seen?
A: "Paranormal Activity 3."

Q: Did any of your teammates scream?
A: Yeah, Andre Ingram screamed.

Guentzel Prepares To Face Colorado College, Son

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Go Gophers! Mike Guentzel
Go Gophers!
Mike Guentzel's son, Gabe, plays for Colorado College, who is the Gophers opponent this weekend.
Go Gophers!
Minnesota Associate Head Coach Mike Guentzel and the Gophers face Colorado College this weekend. Guentzel's son, Gabe, is a senior defenseman for the Tigers. Mike is 1-1-0 against Gabe, as the two teams split a series last year when Mike was at Nebraska Omaha. We talked to Mike this morning about facing his son once again.

GopherSports: Mike, your son, Gabe, plays for Colorado College who happens to visit Mariucci Arena this weekend. You have experience coaching against Gabe when you were at Nebraska Omaha last season. What is it like?

Mike Guentzel: It is a situation where you hope he does well. I want him to play well and have a great experience. As I told him at Christmas, I don't care if he gets four or five points as long as we win. I want him to leave knowing that he is getting better and playing well, but this is my livelihood and he understands that. I want him to be very successful, but I want to win the games and that is what we are preparing for this week.

GS: Was it a little odd last year being on the opposite bench of him?

MG: Dean (Blais) took me with the team last year. Mike Hastings said I was going to go as well. I said I did not need all that drama and stress, but I went with the team and it was good. They beat us the first night and we rebounded and beat them the second night, so we got a split. Ultimately, everybody was somewhat happy because we each won a game. There was nothing gained, nothing lost and no bragging rights.

GS: How much attention can you pay to Gabe during a game? Obviously, you are checking to see if he is playing well.

MG: It depends upon what your responsibilities are as a coach. If we are on the penalty kill and he is obviously on the power play then I will be paying attention to certain things that we will be doing and what he will be doing. But I have pairings and different things going on during the course of the game, so it is really hard to concentrate on some things. When you see goals go in, you pay attention to who is out there for and against. You see those kinds of things and you can see a guy make a nice pass, but there are a lot of little things that you miss during the course of the game that you see on video afterwards.

GS: You are his dad, so you know his game better than anyone else. Can you give us a scouting report on him?

MG: He is smart. He moves the puck and competes real hard. He is agile and does a lot of good things. He is typical third, fourth, fifth defenseman who is a good puck mover and does well on the power play. I think he has 85 career points now. He has exceeded what I think they thought he was going to do. He has certainly exceeding what I thought he was going to do as a college player. I read the other day that he has played 140 of 142 games at CC, so he has been a regular and played well more than I ever thought he would. He plays 30 minutes a night and plays in all areas. Sometimes I would say that he even plays too much, but that is a good problem too.

GS: Is there a fine line that you have to walk when talking to him about our players or talking to our players about him and how he plays?

MG: No, because we are in an area of video and extreme preparation. I know they prepare their team really well with video and meetings. All of our games are on TV, so Gabe watches our games as a fan of the sport. He obviously wants to see his dad do well. These days, with summer camps and with playing in juniors guys know how players play. They know who the good players are. Gabe is in an environment where he has to play against the other team's best players, so he knows all about Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau and Zach Budish and our top-end players. He is going to have to face them shift after shift.

GS: You have coached against him before, but you also coached at Colorado College during his freshman year. What was that like?  

MG: I was on the staff coaching the forwards at the other end, but I was there. That can be stressful , because you are hoping that he does not make a mistake to cost you the game. It was his freshman year so he was trying to fit in, trying to adjust and trying to gain roles and responsibility. I am trying to watch the team and figure out how we can get better. I kind of had one eye on the team and one eye on my son, hoping that things go well for him. There is no question that it is a stressful situation that you have to deal with.

GS: It is unique for you to coach against your son, but it also has to be unique for our players to play against a son of a coach. I talked to one player who said they want to win both games for you, but also said that he would have no problem hitting the coach's son.

MG: Last year, I thought one of our guys at UNO almost ended his career running him from behind. You are certainly not going to have guys pull up. We have to play hard and we have to play the right way. These are big home games for us. We have lost the last two home games and we have to get back on the winning track at home. Our objective is to win Friday and to try and prepare to get ready on Saturday to hopefully win another game.

Gopher Uniform Player Reaction

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Most readers of this space probably know by now that Golden Gopher Football will be unveiling its new uniforms on Friday. That's not really news. 

But a few of our student-athletes got to see them and wear them for a photo/video shoot earlier this week. Please don't pressure our guys too much for information if you see them on campus, follow them on Twitter, etc. They are under strict orders not to talk about the uniforms until after Friday's unveiling.

Our friends over at GoldenGopherGridiron.com (the team's website) put together a video that gives you an idea of what the reaction was when these selected members of the team got their first look at their new game-day uniforms. 

Check out the video below. Don't forget to come back to GopherSports.com, follow @GoldenGopherFB on Twitter and Like Golden Gopher Football on Facebook to see all the photos, videos and coverage of the new uniform unveiling on Friday.

For now, enjoy the video ...

Jennie-O-Wrestler of the Week: Alex Daughtery

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This week Gophersports.com caught up with freshman Alex Daughtery. Alex is this week's Jennie-O-Wrestler of the week. Alex hails from  from Monaca, PA.  


Why did you first decide to become a wrestler? 

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Switch to Turkey
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Both my older brothers wrestled and they were very enthusiastic, talented, and dedicated; I had to join the family sport.

What made you want to come to Minnesota?

I chose Minnesota based on academic reputation.

What are you most looking forward to in college?

Definitely my classes; I can't wait to finally be in a college classroom environment.

Do you have any pre-match rituals?

I stretch and then, before I walk onto the mat, I slap my thighs and calves. My high school teammates made fun of it but it gets me a little extra hyped.

What is playing on your ipod right now?

Where are you going - Dave Matthews Band

What are your favorite movies?

Billy Madison, Friday Night Lights, and Tommy Boy are a few favorites.

What are some talents or skills you have outside of wrestling? 

I am pretty good at Calculus and NCAA Football for PS3.

What do you plan to major in?

Pre-med/Biology

If you had to pick one thing to eat the rest of your life what would it be? 

A potato, it's a pretty versatile food.

What are some of your goals for your first season as a Golden Gopher?

Learn what I can and improve my technique then finish the season with a winning record.


Favorite Sports Team?
Steelers

Favorite food?
Mashed Potatoes

Favorite T.V. Show?
          Family Guy

Favorite vacation destination?
Anywhere

Favorite Cereal?
 Cocoa Puffs

Morning Skate With Zach Budish

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Go Gophers! Zach Budish
Go Gophers!
Zach Budish has 21 points (6g-15a) in 25 games this year.
Go Gophers!
Redshirt sophomore Zach Budish is enjoying a solid year as he has 21 points in 25 games this season as the team's first line right wing. We caught up with the assistant captain and talked about returning to hockey after two significant knee injuries, his season so far, growing up the youngest of four brothers and about his brief stint as a goalie.

GopherSports: You have had two significant knee injuries in your career. How nice is it to be playing again?

Zach Budish: It is really nice. I missed pretty much two of the last three seasons with ACL injuries. I am lucky, happy and thankful to be back playing this year and am having fun playing with my teammates. It is a blast to be able to practice all week and then play games on Friday and Saturday. Playing college hockey is something I have always wanted to do, so it is fun to be playing again.

GS: You were named an assistant captain prior to this season. What does that mean to you?

ZB: It is definitely an honor to be voted by your teammates as one of the assistant captains. Ryan Flynn and Tony Lucia wore the captains my freshman year and I looked up to them. It is just an honor to wear a letter at Minnesota. Looking back at all the captains who have gone through the program it is pretty humbling to be named an assistant captain.  

GS: You play a big role in the dressing room, but you are also on the first line and looked upon as an offensive leader on the team.

ZB: I just wanted to come back and make an impact right away. I feel like I got off to a good start in the first seven games last year before I got hurt. I wanted to start off this year like I did last year. It probably took six to eight games before I got my timing back and was completely comfortable playing games again.

GS: You mentioned timing. Was that the hardest thing to get back? Harder than the physical rehab?

ZB: Fortunately for me I was 10 or 11 months out of surgery before our first game. I had a long time to build strength back and skated all spring and summer so the skating part was not too bad. It was the timing of live hockey that I had to get back, where players are coming at you full speed. It took a little while to get going. Game action is not something you can really simulate in the offseason. We get some pretty good skates going in the offseason, but it is not like a WCHA game or a college hockey game.

GS: It has to be nice to play with Kyle Rau and Nick Bjugstad as well.

ZB: It is a lot of fun to play with those guys. They both know how to score and we work well together and feed off one another. We all bring different elements to the game. I try to get them the puck and try to grind it out in the corners and play physical. I am trying to pass to them and trying to put a few goals in myself.

GS: Minnesota split last weekend at North Dakota and won the season series 3-1. How does it feel to win the season series against a big rival?

ZB: That is a great feeling, winning the regular-season series against those guys. There is a good chance we will see them again. It is a pretty big rivalry and was nice to come out on the better end of it this year. It was huge for us to rebound on Saturday because we had lost three games in a row. We had a team meeting on Saturday morning. That was a pretty big game for us to get back on track. It is always tough to win in their building and luckily we came out on the better side. We played a solid game from top to bottom.

GS: What are your thoughts on the rest of the season because it does not get any easier?

ZB: We have a tough schedule coming up. We have 12 regular season games left and they are all hard games, starting this weekend with Colorado College. Rylan and Jaden Schwartz are two of the best players in the country. It will be important to try and shut them down. We have been pretty good defensively all year, giving up about only two goals per game. We need to play good team defense this weekend and try to shut down their offense. But we also need to play our game and play fast, skilled and physical.

GS: You have three older brothers. Did they give you a hard time growing up?

ZB: They are all quite a bit older. They are six years, nine years and 11 years older than me. I always wanted to hang out with them and fit in. Whenever they were playing hockey in the basement or street hockey they would suit me up as the goalie. I actually grew up kind of wanting to be a goalie, but I also wanted to be like my brothers and they all played forward. I remember growing up and going to all their games. I was the annoying little brother that always wanted to hang out with them. They were pretty good to me though and did not pick on me too much. They have been great for my career.

GS: Do you still have any of those goalie skills?

ZB: Absolutely not. I am glad I did not play goalie. I do not know how they do it. There is a lot of pressure and a lot of equipment. I played goalie in a game when I was in fifth grade, and I realized then that there was no way I was going to play goalie. I gave up two goals though so my career goals-against-average is 2.00. That is not bad.

GS: You were an accomplished athlete growing up. Was hockey always your favorite sport?

ZB: I grew up playing hockey, football and baseball. Hockey was always first for me. I enjoyed playing the other sports and think they have made me a better overall athlete and helped me in different areas. My goal was to play college hockey and hopefully in the NHL one day, so hockey was always my top priority.

Gophers Inner Circle: The Wrestling Room Gets a New Look

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First off how about this past weekend for our Gopher wrestlers? Congrats on a clean sweep in Big Ten action and the big goose egg they put up on Purdue! 

This Sunday Minnesota will take on Wisconsin in the annual "Border Battle" at Noon at the Sports Pavilion. Make sure to come out to see some great college wrestling.

Now on to the good stuff...over the winter break the team's workout room got a new look. Below are some pictures of the teams workout facility. There are photos scattered of former Minnesota Golden Gophers who were either a two-time All American or National Champion. 

What do you think?

Weights area.jpg

Room 1.jpg

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By Garry Bowman
Director of Athletic Communications

The Golden Gopher football program showed signs of steady improvement on the field during the 2011 season, ending the year with several strong performances, including victories over bowl-bound squads Iowa and Illinois to go with a thrilling near-miss at Legends Division champion Michigan State.

But the program's improvements didn't end once the team stepped off the gridiron. The Gophers also produced as a team in the classroom during the fall semester, recording the squad's highest term grade point average in at least seven years.

Head coach Jerry Kill talked frequently during the fall about building the Gopher football program on concrete. And to a large extent that starts with academics.

A total of 68 Gophers posted GPAs over 3.0 during the fall of 2011, resulting in a team GPA of 3.01. It was not the only positive academic measuring stick turned in by the program. The strong performance also boosted the team's overall cumulative GPA and improved the program's Academic Progress Report (APR) numbers, a key academic measuring stick of the NCAA.

Monday, Coach Kill rewarded the McNamara Academic Center (MAC) staff and tutors with a luncheon for all their hard work.

"We have a lot of people that work in the academic area to help all of our student-athletes," Kill said. "They do a lot of work training our young men's minds and we really appreciate all the hard work they do."

Lynn Holleran, Director of the MAC, said that it meant a lot to the staff for coach Kill show his appreciation for their hard work.

"Coach Kill asked if there was a way he could thank our tutors for all their hard work, not just with the football players, but with all the programs," said Holleran. "We thought putting on a lunch was the best way to do that. We had a really successful academic semester, not just with football, but with student-athletes overall. A lot of that success is because of the hard work of (the MAC staff). So we thought it was a great way to thank them."

The Gophers are back to work in the classroom this week with the start of spring classes. The team has also begun its offseason conditioning program to prepare for spring drills, which get under way toward the end of March.

Skate With The Gophers Slated For Feb. 4

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The University of Minnesota men's hockey team will hold its annual Skate With The Gophers, sponsored by M&M's on Saturday, Feb. 4. The popular event will be held from 12-3 p.m. at Mariucci Arena. Fans can register in advance by calling 612-624-8080. Fans who wish to secure a specific time to skate are strongly encouraged to register by calling 612-624-8080 in advance.

Fans can also purchase tickets the day of the event, but specific skating times cannot be guaranteed.

Fans attending the event will be able to skate on the Mariucci Arena ice with the Gophers and will able to able to take pictures with and get autographs from members of the team. In addition, there will also be an area where fans can try on equipment, get their hair and face painted and play games.

Tickets for adults are $5, while youth tickets are $3. Attendees are asked to bring their own skates if they are able, as there are only a limited number of rental skates available. Rental skates are $2.

Gophers Excel in the Classroom

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The Minnesota women's cross country team received some good news over the winter break. This year's squad has excelled in the classroom with an impressive 3.5 GPA.

If you combine both the women's cross country and track teams the overall GPA is 3.45.

Minnesota's cross country team is full of some very bright student-athletes and this clearly shows that all the hard work they have put, had paid off,

Congratulations team!

Observations from Sunday's 80-66 Win at Penn State

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For the rest of the 2011-12 Gopher basketball season, look for these "Observations from the Game" blog entries.

Go Gophers! Coleman
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Joe Coleman led the Gophers with a career-high 23 points Sunday at Penn State.
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Back-to-Back
Minnesota is doing its best to shake off a tough 0-4 start to conference play. For the first time since last January, the Golden Gophers have won consecutive Big Ten contests, putting their record at 2-4. After winning at No. 8 Indiana, Minnesota followed up that success with an 80-66 win at Penn State. The Gophers' last consecutive conference victories came in a string of four between Jan. 13 and 26, 2011: No. 8 Purdue, No. 25 Iowa, at No. 15 Michigan, and No. 16 Northwestern.

This is also the first time in three years that Minnesota has won consecutive road conference games. The Gophers won back-to-back road games against Iowa and No. 17 Wisconsin in January of 2009.

The Joe Coleman Show
In the three games since Tubby Smith inserted him into the starting lineup, Joe Coleman has shown that he belongs there. The freshman has done a good job driving to the basket to score or draw a foul. Coleman carried the Gophers with a career-high 23 points against Penn State, eclipsing the 14-point mark he set in his first career start against Purdue. 

His points came in spurts today: Ralph Sampson III found Coleman on the baseline for easy two-pointers on consecutive trips down the floor in the first half. A little later in the half, he scored eight straight points for the Gophers. He added another eight-point streak extending from the end of the first half into the second half.

The free throw line has been important to Coleman's recent success. In today's game, he made an impressive 13-of-14 free throws, not missing until his final attempt of the game. That miss ended his streak of 17 that began during crunch time in the Indiana game. In his three starts so far, Coleman shot 23-for-25 from the line.

Go Gophers! Sampson
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Sampson now has 191 career blocks.
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Block Party
Although foul trouble hampered Ralph Sampson III's productivity, he was still able to make a move in the Gopher record book. His five blocks today put him in a tie with Damian Johnson (2006-10) for third place on Minnesota's career blocks list. Johnson finished his career with 191 blocks. Kevin McHale (1977-80) holds the school record with 235.

Close Call? Not This Time
With a double-digit differential today, nail biters among the Gopher and Nittany Lion contingents may have been able to take a break from their habit. Recent games between the two teams have been much closer than this one. Penn State won each of last year's meetings by a score of 66-63. Prior to today's game, the last four meetings in University Park had been decided by no more than five points.

Observations from Minnesota's 6-2 Win Over North Dakota

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Much-Needed Win
With the victory, Minnesota earned its first win of the 2012 calendar year, after starting off with losses to Notre Dame (Jan. 7) and North Dakota (Friday). In addition to halting a three-game losing streak, the triumph also moved the Gophers' record against UND on Jan. 14 to 3-3-0. Historically, UM has struggled in Grand Forks in the month of January. The Gophers earned their tenth win at North Dakota in 35 contests all-time and won the season series against North Dakota for the first time since 2005-06.

Over 30 Club
Nick Bjugstad had two goals tonight against North Dakota and now has 31 points (19g-12a) on the year. He is the first Gopher to record 30 or more points in one season since 2008-09 when four players accomplished the feat. That year Ryan Stoa lead Minnesota with had 46 points (24g-22a) in 36 games. He was followed by Jordan Schroeder (45 points), Jay Barriball (34 points) and Cade Fairchild (33 points). In 2010-11, Jacob Cepis led the Gophers with 29 points. In 2009-10, Schroeder and Tony Lucia each had 28 points to lead the team.

Making Their Points
Entering the night, Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau were the only Gophers to have a point-per-game average against UND. The duo made sure to quickly maintain that trend when Rau assisted on two Bjugstad goals in the first. Bjugstad now has four goals and three assists in seven games and Rau has two goals and three assists against North Dakota.

The only player on the UND roster with a point-per-game average against Minnesota is Rocco Grimaldi, who scored a goal in his only game against UM on Nov. 5, 2011. Grimaldi did not play this weekend.

The Drought is Over
With goals in the second period both Seth Ambroz and Nate Schmidt ended scoring droughts. Ambroz gave the Gophers a 3-0 lead 2:05 into the period with his first goal since Dec. 3 against Minnesota State and Schmidt tallied his first since Oct. 23 against Vermont.

Shorty!
With Tom Serratore serving an early-third-period penalty, Nate Condon gave the Gophers their sixth goal. Condon's second goal of the night, which came with 31 seconds left on Serratore's minor, was his third shorthanded goal of the season. Only Colgate's Austin Smith has more shorthanded goals nationally. He has five.

Condon, who also scored shorthanded against Northeastern and Alaska-Anchorage this year, is the first Gopher to have three shorthanded goals in one season since Ryan Stoa had four during the 2008-09 campaign.

The goal also gave Minnesota six goals against North Dakota for the first time since Jan. 13, 2006, when Minnesota won 6-1 at Mariucci Arena.

Better Late Than Never
After being victimized by a second-period last-minute goal on Friday, the Gophers responded with two last-minute goals of their own on Saturday. Nick Bjugstad put Minnesota up 2-0 with 20 seconds left in the first period and then Nate Condon made it 5-2 Gophers when he scored with 39 seconds left in the second period. Minnesota has scored 11 goals this year in the last minute of a period and have allowed only two.

Yanked!

Junior goaltender Aaron Dell had played arguably his best hockey against the Gophers entering Saturday, but after allowing five goals on 24 shots through two periods, Dell was pulled in favor of senior Brad Eidness. Eidsness let in one goal on eight shots in the third.

Tonight against North Dakota, Minnesota will look to successfully avoid being swept on the road for the third time this season. The Gophers will also be attempting to halt a three-game losing streak and prevent a UND sweep that would give North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol his 300th win at his current school. After a 2-1 loss last night UM will need to keep some things in mind head heading into tonight's rematch. Here are five of them:
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Get the inside scoop from the Gophers' trip to UND all weekend long in our GopherSports Travel Blog!
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1. Man Up
So far this year, the Gophers are 3-4-0 when failing to score on the power play. Yesterday, Minnesota came up empty on all four of its man-advantage opportunities and only outshot North Dakota 6-5 with UND down a man. The biggest opportunity UM had was on a five-minute chance that they received with 1:11 left in the first period when Danny Kristo was ejected for hitting Ben Marshall from behind. On that chance, North Dakota outshot the Gophers 4-1 and no goals were scored. Minnesota, who has converted on 23.7 percent of its power plays on the season is now 1-for-18 (5.6 percent) while a man up on UND.

2. Keep Killing Penalties
While UM's power play has not fared well against North Dakota, the Gophers' penalty kill has been excellent. The PK, which declined in December, killed off all three UND power plays last night and actually outshot North Dakota 3-1 in 4:29 of penalty killing. Minnesota's penalty kill is working at a 83.3 percent efficiency rate on the year. The Gophers will need to avoid unnecessary penalties and will need to kill off penalties when called upon.

3. No Odd-Man Rushes
Though Kent Patterson didn't allow a shorthanded goal for the second time in as many games last night, the Gophers afforded UND several odd-man rush opportunities last night, including multiple breakaways. Patterson can make the big saves, but the Gophers should rely on him to do it. 

4. Bear Down on D
Minnesota played well on defense and received strong goaltending from Kent Patterson, but uncharacteristically allowed their two goals against at bad times. Andrew MacWilliam's first career goal that tied the game with nine seconds left in the second period was the first goal the Gophers allowed in the final minute of a period all season. Brock Nelson's game-winning goal with 3:35 left in regulation was the second goal UM has allowed in final five minutes of regulation all year.

5. More Shots, More Goals
Yesterday marked the second time all year Minnesota's second-ranked offense was held to only one goal. The Gophers are averaging 3.92 goals per game on the season, but only have six goals in three games against North Dakota. You need to shoot to score and on Saturday, Minnesota took less than 30 shots for the first time in 13 games (since Nov. 11 at Wisconsin). UM also attempted less than 50 shots for the second time all year and missed the net on some of their best chances of the night.

Minnesota Notes For Jan. 14 at North Dakota

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Go Gophers! UND
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The Gophers will look to salvage a series split Saturday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
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About Last Night
Minnesota went up 1-0 at North Dakota when Kyle Rau scored his 13th goal of the season (leads all freshmen nationally) at the 6:29 mark of the second period. North Dakota tied the game 1-1 with nine seconds left in the second period when Andrew MacWilliam's shot from the blueline found the back of the net. North Dakota picked up its first win of the year against Minnesota when Brock Nelson scored at 16:25 of the third period. Kent Patterson made 23 saves in the 2-1 defeat.

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Get the inside scoop from the Gophers' trip to UND all weekend long in our GopherSports Travel Blog!
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Close Encounters
The Gophers are 15-8-1 on the season. Of their eight defeats, seven have been by one goal and one was in overtime. Minnesota's only loss of more than one goal was a 3-1 defeat at Wisconsin on Nov. 11. Minnesota is 4-7-0 in one-goal games this year. The Gophers beat North Dakota in a one-goal game (3-2 win) at Mariucci Arena on Nov. 5.  

Nothing Special
For only the second time all season a power-play goal was not scored by either team in a game that involved the Gophers. Minnesota took six shots on four power-play opportunities, while North Dakota had one shot during three power-play chances. The other game that did not involve a power-play goal for either team was Minnesota's 4-1 win at Wisconsin on Nov. 12. The Gophers were scoreless in four power-play opportunities, while Wisconsin did not convert on its three power-play chances.
 
Just One
Minnesota managed only one goal last night in a 2-1 loss at North Dakota. It was only the second time all season that the Gophers failed to score more than one goal. The other time was a 3-1 loss at Wisconsin on Nov. 11. 

Bad Timing
Minnesota allowed two goals to North Dakota last night at times when it does not typically allow goals. North Dakota scored with nine seconds left in the second period and that was the first time that an opponent scored in the final minute of any period against the Gophers this year. North Dakota then scored with 3:25 left in the third period to win the game. It was only the second goal that Minnesota allowed in the last five minutes of a game this season (Minnesota Duluth scored with two minutes left in a 5-4 win for the Gophers on Oct. 14)

Bjugstad, Rau On Board
Nick Bjugstad assisted on Kyle Rau's second-period goal last night. Both players are averaging one point-per-game against North Dakota for their careers. Bjugstad has five points (2g-3a) in five games, while Rau has three points (2g-1a) in three games.

Avoiding A Sweep
The Gophers will look to avoid getting swept for the first time this season against North Dakota tonight. Wisconsin, St. Cloud State and Michigan State all had the opportunity to sweep the Gophers this year, but Minnesota bounced back with wins against the Badgers and Huskies and tied Michigan State. The last time the Gophers were swept on the road and in the regular season was Dec. 3-4, 2010, at Minnesota State. 

Get to Know Joe Coleman

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At Hopkins High School, Joe Coleman often played in pressure-filled games, including in the state championship. Now a Golden Gopher, Coleman has already found himself in pressure situations as a freshman. He made four straight free throws in crunch time in Minnesota's road victory over No. 7/8 Indiana.


Learn more about Minnesota's 2011 Mr. Basketball winner in this Q&A and video. We asked him about his successful high school career, his older brother Dan (a Gopher from 2004-08), and more.

Q: With all your history at the University of Minnesota, did you ever really consider going anywhere else?
A: When I was younger, I never really thought about it, because I was still so young. I thought I'd probably go somewhere different. I never really thought about it. But after going other places, visiting other campuses, I really liked the feel here a lot better than other places, and that's when I realized I wanted to come here.

Q: Who wins in one-on-one, you or Dan?
A: Oh, that's me. Every time. Sometimes he'll get lucky, but other than that, it's definitely me.

Q: What does winning Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year mean to you?
A: They mean a lot, but without my team and without the success that my team had, I wouldn't have been able to get those. It's a personal award, but it also comes with your team, and your team helps you earn it. I appreciate that my team helped me out with everything.

Q: What is it like playing with another Mr. Basketball, Andre Hollins?
A: It's good. He's a top competitor. He knows what it takes to be a winner. It's fun to be with a great teammate.

Q: What are some of your favorite high school basketball memories?
A: Beating Eden Prairie in the state championship, that's probably one of my greatest moments. Or junior year when we won in double overtime against Henry Sibley.

Q: Talk about the first time you dunked.
A: The first time, I was a freshman. In the Hopkins back gym--the old gym they used to play in back in the day--that's the first time I dunked.

Q: Was it a pretty good dunk?
A: It was a legit dunk. When I did it, I shocked myself. People were like, "Just try. Just try." I was like, "I'm not going to be able to do it." And when I did, I shocked myself. I never really thought I could do it, but I was able to.

Q: You have been around the U for quite awhile, with your uncle and brother playing here, but have you noticed anything new around campus since you enrolled?
A: Obviously, TCF Bank Stadium, and a lot of the new apartments, like 412, FloCo, and Sydney Hall. None of that stuff was here when my brother played here, so it's nice to see something a little different.

Q: Do you have any pregame rituals?
A: I put my left sock on first and my left shoe on first. That's about it.

Q: What is your favorite sports movie?
A: That's a tough one. "Love and Basketball," I think that's pretty good. It's really all about sports, but that's a good one. Or "Hoosiers."

Observations from Minnesota's 2-1 Loss to North Dakota

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Close Contest(s)
Not surprisingly, after 2-0 and 3-2 decisions at Mariucci Arena in November, North Dakota and Minnesota played another tight affair on Friday. Friday's game marked the 99th game between the Gophers and UND that was decided by one goal or ended in a tie. Minnesota is now 44-41 all-time in one-goal games (11-6 under head coach Don Lucia) against North Dakota.
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Get the inside scoop from the Gophers' trip to UND all weekend long in our GopherSports Travel Blog!
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Point-Per-Game
Entering the night, Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau, and Travis Boyd were the only Gophers to have a point-per-game average against UND. Rau kept up his pace by scoring the game's first goal and Bjugstad did the same by earning a second assist on it. Freshman Boyd, who recorded assists in both games in November, was unable to do the same. The only player on the UND roster with a point-per-game average against Minnesota is Rocco Grimaldi, who scored a goal in his only game against UM on Nov. 5, 2011. Grimaldi did not play on Friday.

Tough Near the Top
The better you play, the more the target on your back grows, especially when you're playing a big rival. That has proven to be true for the Gophers against UND during Don Lucia's time behind the Minnesota bench. The Gophers are 4-2-0 as the No. 5 team in the nation (where they are currently ranked) and 10-11-1 as a top-five team against North Dakota under Lucia.

Not Our Night
Friday nights have given Minnesota a tough time in 2011-12. The Gophers dropped to 7-5-0 on Fridays with Friday night's loss. UM is 8-2-1 on Saturdays and lost its only Sunday contest of the year to Vermont on Oct. 23 by a 5-4 score. Though the Gophers are better on Saturdays, they will be looking to win snap a two-game losing streak on that day of the week tomorrow after losing to Northeastern and Notre Dame on their previous two Saturday games. Minnesota is also in search of its first win in 2012.

No Sweep This Time
Minnesota swept North Dakota at home for the first time since Nov. 8-9, 1996 and for the first time overall since Dec. 9-10, 2005 earlier in the season, but will not be going for one tomorrow after Friday's loss. Instead, the Gophers will try to avoid being swept by UND for the first time since Jan 9-10, 2009. Though Minnesota lost its opportunity to pull off its first four-game regular-season sweep of North Dakota since 1991-92, it can still win the regular-season series outright for the first time since 2005-06 with a win or tie on Saturday.

Travel Blog: Mid-Game Update, Gophers 1, UND 1

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Go Gophers! UND
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The Gophers and UND are tied up at 1 after two periods of play.
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It's been a tight, low-scoring affair here in Grand Forks between the No. 5 Gophers and No. 17 Team-Formerly-Known-As-The-Sioux. As I type this, the second period was just completed and the Gophers and North Dakota are knotted up at 1 apiece.
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Get the inside scoop from the Gophers' trip to UND all weekend long in our GopherSports Travel Blog!
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The Gophers got on the board on a beautiful goal by freshman sensation Kyle Rau 6:29 into the second period -- a second-chance goal made possible after a nice shot on net by Zach Budish.

Just when it looked like the Gophers would escape the period with the lead, however, the Fighting Dakotas struck back. With just 11 seconds remaining, a slapshot from near the blue line by Andrew MacWilliam tied the game at 1.

No doubt we're in for a wild third period -- don't leave your seats and be sure to chime in on our live blog! This is college hockey at its finest!

Travel Blog: Five Keys to the Game at North Dakota

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Just as many Minnesota-North Dakota series prove to be this weekend's matchup between two of the biggest rivals in college hockey could ending up being a turning point in the season. Of the 284 meetings between the schools all-time, 98 of them have either been decided by one goal or ended in a tie. Here are five things that Minnesota will have to do to be successful in what is likely to be a tightly-contested series:
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Get the inside scoop from the Gophers' trip to UND all weekend long in our GopherSports Travel Blog!
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Starting Strong
North Dakota has been one of the hottest teams in the nation in since the Gophers swept UND in early November. UND will be highly motivated after two frustrating losses at Mariucci Arena and will be backed by a rowdy home crowd and will look to take advantage of a Gopher team that has lost four Friday games (three on the road) this season. Minnesota will need to take the energy out of the building. If UM doesn't score first, it will need to weather what will surely be an energetic start by its opponent.

Physical Play

It is hard to think of a Minnesota-North Dakota series where the teams didn't rack up the penalty minutes. The Gophers will need to amp up their physical play, but do it in a responsible fashion that doesn't result in too many penalty kills.

Man Down
Minnesota's penalty kill got off to a very strong start to the season after ranking in the bottom 10 in the nation in that category last year, but has faltered recently. The Gophers have conceded a power-play goal in six of their seven games since the beginning of December, including two in each of their last two games. That will need to improve this weekend if Minnesota wants to earn some points.

Between the Pipes
The last time these two teams met, there were only seven combined goals scored in the two-game series. UND netminder Aaron Dell had struggled entering the series, but was very strong at Minnesota. Kent Patterson also played very well, only allowing two goals in the weekend and recording his fifth shutout of the year. If Patterson can replicate his November performance, the Gophers should go home happy.

UND's Injuries
One thing that has helped the Gophers have their best start to a season in a long time is their health. UND hasn't been as lucky injury-wise. Rocco Grimaldi, Brendan O'Donnell, Corban Knight, Mario Lamoureux, and Derek Rodwell (out for the season now) have missed multiple games this year due to injury. Grimaldi and Rodwell are out again on Friday and star defenseman Derek Forbort is a game-time decision. The Gophers will need to take advantage of UND not having these talented players in the lineup.

Gopher Hockey Travel Blog: Arrival at "The Ralph"

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Go Gophers! Ralph
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The Gophers have arrived at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks for tonight's game.
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JAN 13, 4:55 P.M.

It's a long, and somewhat boring drive from Minneapolis to Grand Forks, North Dakota -- a lot of cold, hard tundra in between -- but the GopherSports.com crew has finally arrived at Ralph Engelstad Arena for the first game of tonight's critical Gophers-UND series.
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Get the inside scoop from the Gophers' trip to UND all weekend long in our GopherSports Travel Blog!
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First impressions of Ralph Engelstad Arena can be summed up in one word: Wow. This place is truly a palace on the prairie -- it's like a mini Excel Energy Center in the middle of a small town. Marble floors, leather seats, great video boards -- this is quite the facility. That being said, it would look a lot better if the colors were maroon and gold instead of black and green, but that's another issue.

This is supposed to be the first home series where North Dakota is to have abandoned their "Fighting Sioux" moniker, but you certainly wouldn't know it by walking into the arena. "Fighting Sioux" still appears on many signs, merchandise, and the logo still adorns the middle of the ice. Digital signage, however, doesn't appear to make any reference to the former nickname. We're told the university has been given a grace period until the end of the year to remove logos from the arena - it's certainly going to be a tall order.

We'll be blogging from Grand Forks all series long -- be sure to check back early and often for more updates throughout the weekend, and follow us on Twitter at @GoldenGopherHky and @GopherAthletics. Go Gophers!

Daily Clips: Jan. 13

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Weekend Preview: North Dakota (GopherSports.com)

Video Preview of this weekend's series (YouTube)

Highlights from the first two games against UND this year (2-0 win, 3-2 win)

Travel Blog (GopherSports.com)

Minnesota and North Dakota meet again (GopherPuckLive, USCHO, FSN, Grand Forks Herald)

But could this be the last meeting in Grand Forks for some time? (Grand Forks Herald)

Minnesota needs production from the its second line (SBNation)

Chris Miller vs. The Emperor is weekly predictions (Star Tribune)

Kyle Rau looking forward to playing his first game at North Dakota (Star Tribune)

Erik Haula has impressed (Pioneer Press)

Travel Blog: North Dakota

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Get the inside scoop from the Gophers' trip to UND all weekend long in our GopherSports Travel Blog!
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Jan. 13 - 3:12 p.m.

The hotel room phones rang at 9 a.m. for a wake-up call, which was followed by a team breakfast 15 minutes later. After breakfast it was back on the bus for a quick ride to the rink.

The team hit the ice at 10:15 a.m. for a morning skate, which lasted around 25 minutes. After skate, Don Lucia did a radio interview with Judd and Phun on ESPN 1500 back in the Twin Cities while the team showered. Then it was time to head back to the hotel for about two hours of free time. The team then met at 1 p.m. to go over video and had a team pre-game meal after the brief session. Almost all hockey pre-game meals are the same and feature chicken, pasta, and everything else you would expect.

The team then headed back to their rooms after the meal where most players took a pregame nap in preparation of tonight's big game. The equipment staff is heading to the rink at 4 p.m. to sharpen skates and make sure the dressing room is all set up for when the team arrives. The players will arrive slightly after 5:30 p.m.

An SUV full of GopherSports.com staff is en route to Grand Forks as well. Be sure to follow our live in-game blog and check back here for complete postgame analysis, interviews and highlights.

Jan. 12 - 5:22 p.m.

The Gophers had a 9 a.m. practice today at Ridder Arena and were on the ice for about 90 minutes. The team then showered, packed and loaded the bus, which pulled out of the Mariucci Arena loading dock at 11 a.m.
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Get the inside scoop from the Gophers' trip to UND all weekend long in our Travel Blog!
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The team watched two movies - 30 Minutes or Less and Moneyball - before the bus rolled into Ralph Englestad Arena at 3:53 p.m. After quickly unloading the bus the Gophers hung up their gear in the spacious visiting dressing room. Equipment manager Lee Greseth turned on the fans in the room to help dry the still-wet gear from practice. There were a few photographers inside the arena waiting for the team to arrive and snapped some pictures of the guys walking off the bus (the Gophers are a big deal here).  

The team then hopped back on the bus and headed to the hotel where it was 1 degree Fahrenheit and -18 with the wind chill upon check-in. The players had two hours to settle into their rooms and relax before a team dinner at 6:30 p.m. The players are on their own after dinner. The team will gather with a 9:15 a.m. team breakfast on Friday morning and then head to the rink for a 9:45 a.m. morning skate.

Senior goalie Alyssa Grogan is one of 23 nominess for the 2012 BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award. The acknowledges the accomplishments of personal character, scholarship, and the giving of oneself off the ice to the larger community. The Humanitarian Award is meant to be seen as a true measure of a person's worth, not just as an athlete, but as someone who embodies those values that merit recognition.

In the last year, Grogan has recorded nearly 140 hours of community service through the University of Minnesota CHAMPS/Life Skills office. She has organized 11 outings with local youth hockey players to benefit the Toys for Tots holiday toy drive, and was the lead organizer for the team's Gopher Give Back Holiday Event last December. She has volunteered numerous hours with DinoMights, a youth development program in Minneapolis, and has organized several equipments drives for that organization. She has also volunteered for the HopeKids organization, and the Voices of Awareness suicide prevention program. Grogan has visited many local schools to participate in reading programs, and has spent time volunteering with food drives for Second Harvest Heartland.

"I've always thought that what you've been given, you should give back," said Grogan. I've been so fortunate and so blessed to be here, playing here and getting an education." 

Grogan was also a nominee for the award in 2011. She is one of three nominees from the WCHA.

Finalists for the award will be announced in late January, and the awward winner will be recognized at a ceremony on April 6 in conjunction with the NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla.

More information about the Hockey Humanitarian Award Can be found at hockeyhumanitarian.org.   

Get to Know Kiara Buford

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GopherSports.com recently sat down with senior guard Kiara Buford to learn a little bit more about how she got into modeling and what she thought the highlight of her summer was.

What is your major here at the U?
"My major is communications studies."

How did you first get into modeling?
"When I first got into modeling I was actually at a Gopher game watching as a recruit. I was probably around the middle of the court and halfway through a lady taps me on the shoulder. So, I turned around and she's like, "Hi. Have you ever modeled before?" And I was like,"No, I've played basketball my whole life." And she was like, "You should come to my agency, which is Moore Creative, which is downtown." So I went and I met her, and she is a big Gopher fan and she is very involved in Gopher sports, so I see her quite a bit. Ever since then I have been doing modeling stuff for her."

Who would win at HORSE: You or your mom?
"My mom played college basketball, but I would definitely beat her in HORSE. We played when I was in seventh or eighth grade and I think that is the first official time that I beat her. She claims it was when I was in ninth grade."

What was the highlight of your summer?
"The highlight of my summer was going to my family reunion. I don't get to see my family much, and I actually got to see my extended family, which I never get to see. I haven't seen them in years. So, I saw a lot of my cousins and my grandpa. I figured out where I got my skinny calves from. I saw my grandpa facing the other way and I was like, "Man, his legs look just like mine." So, there you go, there's my chicken legs."

Barnstorming with Grimm: Gophers in the NBA

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Playing Division I basketball is already a great accomplishment, but some college athletes even have the chance to pursue the sport as a career. The Golden Gopher basketball program has a history of players being drafted in the NBA. This week in "Barnstorming," Grimm shows us the place in Williams Arena where these talented Gophers--from Kevin McHale to Mychal Thompson to Trent Tucker--are honored.

View From North Dakota

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The Gophers head to rival North Dakota this weekend. Minnesota won both games against North Dakota in November at Mariucci Arena and leads the all-time series 142-128-14. To find out what North Dakota has been up to since it left Minneapolis we talked with esteemed Grand Forks Herald reporter Brad Elliott Schlossman. You can follow Brad on Twitter here.
Go Gophers! schlossman
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You can follow Grand Forks Herald reporter Brad Elliott Schlossman on Twitter here.
Go Gophers!

GopherSports: How has North Dakota fared since they played the Gophers earlier this year?

Brad Elliott Schlossman: When UND left Mariucci, it was 3-6-1. Since then, the team has gone 8-2-1. So, things have turned around a little bit. I would say the biggest difference is that the team started to find ways to win. Early in the season, it seemed they were finding ways to lose games. They lost 5-4 to Wisconsin, despite outshooting the Badgers 42-15. The next weekend, they lost 4-0 to St. Cloud, despite outshooting the Huskies 44-23. The weekend after that, they lost 3-2 to Minnesota in a game they led with 6:05 to go. Heading to Thanksgiving weekend, UND was 1-3 in one-goal games. Since then, UND is 3-1 in one-goal games. Early on, they lost a lot of very winnable games. Lately, they've been finding ways to pull them out.

GS: North Dakota has had a string of injuries this year. Is there a player who has stepped up once he was given an opportunity?

BES: Freshman forward Connor Gaarder (high school teammate of Zach Budish at Edina). He was a late addition to the roster in the summer as a walk-on and he was scratched in nine of the team's first 10 games, including both in Mariucci Arena. Since that series, he has been in the lineup every night and has even been on the second power-play unit in recent weeks. Gaarder has six points in the last six games. He's not going to take over a game and dominate or anything, but he's been very reliable, he makes good, strong plays with the puck and he can chip in offensively from time to time.

GS: Has North Dakota changed the way it has played or are they doing anything differently than from the beginning of the year?

BES: The biggest difference in the team between then and now is probably that they've been able to add more offense. You wouldn't expect that considering they've played without first-line center Corban Knight, preseason rookie of the year Rocco Grimaldi, first-round pick Derek Forbort, fifth-round pick Derek Rodwell and captain Mario Lamoureux for some or all of that stretch, but somehow, they've been getting it done. I don't expect them to make any changes to the way they play from the November series, but they certainly need to continue to produce more offensively.

Secondary Scoring Has Lifted Gophers Against North Dakota

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Go Gophers! Tom Serratore
Go Gophers!
Tom Serratore's third-period goal put Minnesota up 2-0 against North Dakota on Nov. 4 at Mariucci Arena.
Go Gophers!
One of the main reasons that Minnesota was able to sweep North Dakota (2-0 and 3-2) earlier this season at Mariucci Arena was because the Gophers received secondary scoring. Both Tom Serratore and Nick Larson tallied goals as the Maroon and Gold swept North Dakota at home in the regular season for the first time since Nov. 8-9, 1996.

In Friday's game, Serratore completed a breakaway goal with less than 10 minutes remaining in the third period to put Minnesota up 2-0. On Saturday, Larson scored at the 13:56 mark of the third period to tie the game 2-2, which Minnesota won when Kyle Rau scored a last-minute goal.

"They scored two of our five goals and without that we may not have won both games," said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. "We have been at our best when our secondary scorers contribute. You cannot rely on Bjugstad and Rau and those guys to score every night. The game becomes much easier when you get a forward, who may not contribute on a regular basis, to score a goal."

In Minnesota's two wins this year against North Dakota that is exactly what took place and the same scenario happened during Minnesota's last two wins in Grand Forks.

Last January 14, Nico Sacchetti scored the game-winning goal in the third period to beat North Dakota 3-2. The goal was Sacchetti's third of the season. On March 13, 2010, Seth Helgeson scored the game-winning goal and first goal of his career in the third period of a 4-2 win.  

"When we have been successful against them that is exactly what has happened," said Lucia. "Some guys who maybe are not your regular scorers stepped forward. A lot of times the top-end guys can neutralize each other and it depends on what secondary guys step up."

For Larson and Serratore it is a situation they enjoy.

"Anytime we can help out is big," said Larson. "Our main goal is not to score goals every night, but there is no reason we cannot put one or two in each weekend. It gives everybody else a little momentum."

The sight of seeing a non-traditional goal scorer light the lamp is also not lost on the rest of the team.

"You want all your lines to contribute during a WCHA weekend," said captain Taylor Matson. "Those guys had huge weekends the last time we played these guys. They work hard every day in practice and it is really good to see them get rewarded with goals during a game. It gets the bench excited as well."
Happy Wednesday Gopher Wrestling fans and welcome back to the Gophers Inner Circle Blog. Below we have another highlight video for you to check out from the Gophers 24-13 smashing over Ohio State. 

Once again we would like to thank Cole Schrupp on another great piece of work! 

Enjoy and Go Gophers!

Alumni Corner With Chris Harrington

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Go Gophers! Chris Harrington
Go Gophers!
Chris Harrington had 109 points (14g-95a) in 170 career games at Minnesota.
Go Gophers!
St. Cloud-native Chris Harrington started his collegiate career by being one of five players to appear in all 45 games for Minnesota's 2002-03 National Championship team. He went on to rack up 14 goals and 95 assists in his four years, becoming the ninth-highest-scoring defenseman in Gopher Hockey history. Harrington also sits in 14th in penalty minutes with 266. During his time on the blueline in Maroon and Gold, the team won two Broadmoor Trophies, a MacNaughton Cup, and reached two Frozen Fours, in addition to the 2003 National Championship. Harrington took some time to catch up with GopherSports.com and look back on his time at the University of Minnesota:

GopherSports.com: Being from St. Cloud, how did you end up playing for Minnesota? Did you grow up rooting for the Gophers?
 
Chris Harrington: Well, I definitely didn't grow up rooting for the Gophers. My father coached at the University of Denver and then SCSU, so the Gophers were always "the bad guys" growing up for me.

I took official visits to a few other schools in the WCHA, but when I visited the U, it was like comparing apples to oranges. The atmosphere around campus and the feeling you get when you look up and see all of the championship banners hanging in the rafters is a feeling that I cannot describe.  At that moment I knew that the University of Minnesota was the place I wanted to go to school and play hockey. The best part of the whole story was when I called my father to tell him my decision. He kind of laughed and said, "Chris, that is the best decision you will ever make." He obviously knew something that I did not at the time!

GS: What was your time like at Minnesota and what is your favorite memory from playing at Mariucci Arena?

CH: My four years at the U was undoubtedly the best time of my life. It was an honor to be a student-athlete at Minnesota and I am forever grateful for the opportunity. My favorite memory - that is a difficult question. There are so many: my first home game,  Senior Night, the 2003 and 2005 NCAA Regionals, not to mention all of those battles in the WCHA week in and week out. It seemed like every weekend we were in a heavyweight fight!

GS: Where was your favorite place to eat on campus at the University of Minnesota?

CH: We loved going to Bobby Z's--which isn't there anymore--on Wednesday's for 10-cent wings, as well Campus Pizza, The Big 10, and The Library (the old one) - not as much for the food, though!

GS: Minnesota has produced many accomplished defensemen. How does it feel to be one of 12 defenseman in school history with over 100 points?

CH: You are right--the U has produced so many great D-men. I had the opportunity to play with three of the best: Paul Martin, Keith Ballard, and Alex Goligoski. It is a true honor to be one of 12 defenseman with 100 points. I was lucky to have the chance to be on teams that had so many great players. I would not be on this list without them. Being in a category with guys like Bill Baker, Joe Micheletti, Todd Richards, Jordan Leopold, Travis Richards, and my all-time favorite, Mike Crowley, is something that I cannot believe.

GS: What was it like joining a UM team that was the defending national champion as a freshman? Did you expect to pull off a repeat in your first year?

CH: I know a lot of people were not expecting us to win a championship in 2002-2003, especially after losing Jordan (Leopold), Johnny Pohl, and Jeff Taffe. When Grant (Potulny) hurt his leg at the beginning of the year, I think that a lot of people had shoved us to the side in terms of championship contenders, but we had great leadership from our upperclassmen who kept us afloat until Grant returned. After he got back into the lineup, it was like we were shot out of a cannon. Travis Weber and Justin Johnson were great for us in the second half of the season and we felt almost invincible towards the end of the year. It didn't hurt that we had Thomas Vanek on our side, either.

GS: What is your most memorable hockey moment outside of college?

CH: Outside of college, my most memorable moment would be winning the Clark Cup (playoffs) and Gold Cup (national championship) with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL.  We had an unbelievable team that included my future teammates Keith Ballard, Jake Fleming, and Dan Welch.

GS: What is the one team you looked forward to playing the most? Which visiting arenas had the best atmosphere?

CH: We played so many great teams over my four years, and had so many great rivalries within the WCHA, but the best games were always against Wisconsin and North Dakota. Practices the week of those games were always a little more spirited.

GS: Who was the best player you ever played with and/or against (at any level)?

CH: No question the best player that I have ever played with or against would be Thomas Vanek. He was at another level on the ice. He did things in practice that you would have to see to believe, and some of the goals he scored in games were unbelievable. We called him "Teen Wolf" because he would do things on the ice that an ordinary player couldn't do.

GS: What have you done since you left Minnesota and what are you doing today?

CH: After I graduated from Minnesota, I played for two years with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. After that I left to go play in Dusseldorf, Germany in the DEL for two years, and now I am in my second season playing for the Oji Eagles in Japan.

GS: To what extent do you follow Gopher hockey today? Do you still keep in touch with the players you played with at the U?

CH: I have followed the Gopher hockey program religiously ever since I graduated. There is a sense of pride watching all of the new guys continue the tradition of "Minnesota's Pride On Ice".  This year has been great watching the team get back to the championship-level caliber of play. They have a great team this year and hands down the best staff in college hockey. The future of Gopher hockey is in great hands, and will continue to be the premier college hockey program in the country.

I keep in close contact with my former teammates. Many of us are scattered all over the world playing, so it is a little more difficult keeping in contact during the season. But, when summer rolls around, it seems like there is a magnet pulling us all together and we see each other all the time. Thomas Vanek has started an annual street hockey tournament at his house, and we have a blast. My best friends are guys that I played with at the U. We share a common bond that will forever link us together. I am grateful for the chance to play with those guys and to forge lasting friendships with them all.

Former Gophers US Times in 2011

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Former Minnesota Golden Gopher runners  Heather (Dorniden) Kampf, Gabriele Anderson, Jamie Cheever and Emily Brown top times for 2011 have been released by USA Track/Field.

Kampf: Ranked #11 in the US in the 800m (2:00.41), and had the 25th-fastest US time in the 1500m (4:12.09).

Anderson: Had the 6th-fastest US time in the 1500m (4:06.77).

Cheever: Had the17th-fastest US time in the steeple (10:02.18).

Brown: Had the 16th-fastest US in the 10K (33:00.74)


Gopher Football News and Notes

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Numerous news and notes related to Gopher Football have come across my desk/screen the last couple days, so I'm throwing them all together in a blog. It's one-stop shopping here on the Golden Gopher Football Blog.

The college football season officially ended last night with the BCS National Championship Game. So, now we have to wait through the long 234 days before the Gophers will kick off the 2012 season Sept. 1 at UNLV.

But there are a few important dates and events coming up to keep our minds on Golden Gopher Football in the coming weeks and months.

I know many of our fans are very interested in what the Gophers' uniforms will look like when they take the field next season. That answer will come by late next week. We'll have an announcement on the unveiling of our new uniforms soon.

Shortly after the new uniforms are revealed, a new crop of Gophers will be unveiled as well. National Signing Day is set for Feb. 1. There will be plenty of coverage here on GopherSports.com, as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

In the news, ESPN.com Big Ten Blogger Brian Bennett listed Gopher quarterback MarQueis Gray as one of his five offensive players to watch in 2012, saying he is trying to identify "breakout players - guys who had good seasons in 2011 but could be primed for greatness in '12." See what Bennett had to say by clicking here

Sticking with the MarQueis Gray theme, he was chosen as one of the Star-Tribune's 12 for 2012 who could make a positive impact on the local sports scene in the coming year. The University of Minnesota was heavily represented in this list, as new U of M President Eric Kaler, women's basketball player Rachel Banham and hockey player Kent Patterson were also included. 

There is good academic news leaking out regarding the Gopher Football program. Sid Hartman had a jotting in a recent column about this and there have been mentions of the Gophers' grades on Twitter and elsewhere. We should have full details here in the blog very soon. 

How much is the Gopher Football program worth? According to a researcher from Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, the answer is $148.3 million. That would rank the Gophers in the top one-third of all Football Bowl Subdivision schools. For more information on the study, click here

Lastly, if you ever wondered about some of the folks who work behind the scenes in college football, you might want to give a listen to an interview with Matt Schilling, the Gophers' Director of Video Services. Schilling was contacted by Ted Bauer, who's blog and podcast are called All In A Day's Work. Bauer writes and posts podcasts about people with interesting professions. Click this link to read the blog and listen to the podcast. 

 

VIDEO: 2012 Southern Scuffle Highlights

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Wanted to pass along highlights from the 2012 Southern Scuffle. Another great piece of work put together by Cole Schrupp! Highlights from the dual this past Sunday should be up later today, please check back for more! 



Gophers Inner Circle: Monday's Press Clippings

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Good day Gopher fans! I hope you all enjoyed yesterday's win, what an exciting way to begin Big Ten action! 

Below you will find some press clips from the dual. The Gophers will be back in action this Friday when they travel to face Illinois and Purdue on Sunday. 

Check back for more details later in the week. 

Minnesota Daily (No. 3 Gophers Defeat No. 6 Ohio State)

Star Tribune (Gophers win Big Ten dual over Buckeyes)

InterMat (Storley sets tone as Minnesota tops Ohio State)

NCAA (No.3 Minnesota downs Ohio State) 

UPDATE (Jan. 9):

The University of Minnesota Athletic Department collected more than $10,600 combined for the Jack Jablonski Fund this weekend at Saturday night's men's hockey game vs. Notre Dame and Sunday evening's men's basketball game against Purdue.


Minnesota student athletes collected more than $7,700 for the Jack Jablonski Fund at Saturday's men's hockey game. A crowd of 10,242 made donations as they entered Mariucci Arena and in two different locations on the concourse. In addition all proceeds from the postgame chuck-a-puck promotion were donated to the Jack Jablonski Fund.
Go Gophers! Jablonski
Go Gophers!
Over $7700 was raised for the Jack Jablonski Fund at Saturday's game.
Go Gophers!

Student athletes will also be collecting donations at the entrances to Williams Arena at Sunday's 5 p.m. men's basketball game against Purdue. 

Jablonski, a 16-year-old sophomore at Benilde-St. Margaret's, was severely injured last week when he was checked from behind in a local high school hockey game.

According to a post on Jablonski's CaringBridge.com site he had successful surgery on Wednesday to fuse his vertebrae, but "... has limited mobility and no movement in his lower body. As we feared, he will not be able to walk or skate. This news is devastating to Jack and everyone who loves him. Our hope and dream is that he will be able to prove this prognosis wrong."

Fans can also donate online at Jabby13.com or can also able to send a donation to the Jack Jablonski Fund, P.O. Box 16387, St. Louis Park, MN 55416-2618. In addition, fans can also make a donation at any Wells Fargo Bank and should mention the "Jack Jablonski Fund" when doing so.

Observations from Minnesota's 4-3 Loss to Notre Dame

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Jack Jablonski Fund
Though Minnesota lost its first game of 2012, the Gopher fans (a top-10 Mariucci Arena crowd of 10,242) stepped up, raising over $7,500 for the Jack Jablonski Fund at Mariucci Arena on Saturday. To make a donation of your own online, visit www.jabby13.com.

Notre Dame in the Hall of Fame Game
Minnesota played Notre Dame in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game for the second time on Saturday. The last time the two teams played in a Hall of Fame Game was on Oct. 7, 2000 and the Gophers won that game 7-3. Tonight's contest was UND's first-ever visit to the current Mariucci Arena and the loss by the Gophers dropped them to 13-6-0 in Hall of Fame Games. Minnesota also fell to 8-2-0 in non-conference games and 22-13-3 overall against the Fighting Irish. Both teams were in the WCHA from 1971-1981. Also of note, UM head coach Don Lucia lost for the first time in three meetings against his alma mater in three meetings.

Two Losses in Row
After losing to Northeastern and Notre Dame, Minnesota has lost back-to-back games for the first time all season and for the first time since being swept by Alaska-Anchorage to end the 2010-11 season. The last time the Gophers lost two straight in the regular season was on Feb. 5 and 11, 2011 against Minnesota-Duluth and Denver.

New Student
Sophomore defenseman Chris Student played his first game as a Golden Gopher on Saturday night. A transfer from Northeastern of Hockey East, the game was Student's first in 672 days. He last played on March 6, 2010 against Boston University as a Husky. The former Benilde-St. Margaret's star is one of two former Red Knights on the Minnesota roster. Backup goaltender Mike Shibrowski also went to BSM. Student also became the first player to wear No. 3 for the Maroon and Gold since Sam Lofquist wore the number on Nov. 6, 2009.

Extra Attacker
For the second game in a row, Minnesota pulled goaltender Kent Patterson as part of a last-ditch comeback effort. Though they came up empty in both games, the Gophers drew within one goal in each game thanks in large part to a Taylor Matson goal last Saturday and a Nick Bjugstad tally this Saturday. The two goals with the extra attacker were UM's first with the extra man in 2011-12.

UND-filled Schedule
The Gophers only played Notre Dame once this weekend, but will face a different UND team next weekend when they travel north to take on North Dakota. Minnesota swept its WCHA rival for the first time in Don Lucia's tenure in early November. UM will be looking for its first win of 2012 after a loss to the Fighting Irish on Saturday.

Live Meet Blog: No. 22 Minnesota vs. No. 18 Ohio State

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The University of Minnesota women's gymnastics team kicks off the 2012 seaosn at home today against Ohio State. Follow along with all the action through tonight's interactive live blog. Everyone is encouraged to ask questions and provide additional input about the meet, the teams, the 2012 season and anything gymnastics related.

Bjugstad, Rau Back With Gophers

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Nick Bjugstad (video highlights) and Kyle Rau (video highlights) played for the United States at the recent World Junior Championship. Bjustad had six points (4g-2a), while Rau had five points (3g-2a) for Team USA. Both are now back with the Gophers and will be in the Minnesota lineup tonight against Notre Dame. We caught up with them upon their return to the Twin Cities.

Nick Bjugstad

Go Gophers! Bjugstad
Go Gophers!
Nick Bjugstad
Go Gophers!

GopherSports: It always has to be an honor to play for your country.

Nick Bjugstad: It was an honor making the team and playing, but it did not go as well as we wanted it to. But it was still a great experience to play and to play in Canada.

GS: How nice was it to have Kyle there with you?

NB: It was good. He was my roommate most of the time and we hung out a lot. We got to play with each other a little bit as well, so that was nice.

GS: You said it did not go as well as you wanted it to, but you still had six points and four goals and were up there in the team lead in both categories.

NB: I thought I played average. We were looked as leaders, the returning guys, and we did not really come through when we needed to so it was disappointing. It is a quick tournament and they are all good teams.

GS: Can you talk about how big the event is. You have played in the state high school tournament and for the Gophers, but the World Juniors is on a totally different level.

NB: Gopher hockey and high school hockey are huge here in Minnesota, but when you get in Canada everyone knows what the World Juniors is and everyone is in town for that tournament. It is great to be in that setting and is a little different. The fans are hostile as well and that makes it fun too.

GS: How nice is it to be back in Minnesota?

NB: It is great. We were really excited to get back and to be with the Gophers again. Hopefully we can have a good second half, like we had in the first.

GS: You got back on Thursday and practiced Friday. How did it feel?

NB: I was a little rusty and people were making fun of me, asking me if I left my mitts in Edmonton. But we will be ready to go against Notre Dame.

GS: You played with T.J. Tynan and Stephen Johns from Notre Dame on Team USA, but now you face them in a big game. What will that be like for you after being their teammates for three weeks?

NB: We are pretty close with them now after that trip. We were together for almost three weeks. They are great guys and good players and it should be a good matchup. But now we are playing them, and Johns is a big boy and said he is going to come after me. We will see what happens.

GS: You just played two weeks of intense games, but it is going to be another intense game against Notre Dame.

NB: Obviously this game is huge for us in all the rankings. It is good to come back to a good game like this.

Kyle Rau


GopherSports: It had to be an honor to play for Team USA.
Go Gophers! Rau
Go Gophers!
Kyle Rau
Go Gophers!

Kyle Rau: It was fun and was a great honor to play for the United States. But it is good to be back and I cannot wait to play Notre Dame.

GS: Can you talk about the overall experience?

KR: It was a lot of fun. You get off the airplane when you first get there and there are people taking photos of you. It was such a big deal there. There were people waiting outside the hotel asking for your autograph. It was on SportsCentre every night and was such a big deal there. It was an awesome experience.

GS: You have played in the high school tournament here and for the Gophers, so you have been in some big-time settings, but how did playing in the World Juniors compare to those?

KR: It was just such a big deal. It was like their Super Bowl. It was on the front page of every paper and there were huge billboards everywhere with Go Canada on them. It was a bigger deal there than anything else I have played in.

GS: How does it feel to be back and see all the guys?

KR: It was fun to see all the guys and listen to all their stories about break and practice and all the gag gifts everyone got. It was fun to see all the guys again and will be fun to play with them again.

GS: Is it nice to come back and have to play in a big game against Notre Dame after playing in a big game for two straight weeks?

KR: It is nice to not have a break and to get back into it right away. We had one day off, then one practice and a game. That is perfect.

GS: You played with Stephen Johns and T.J. Tynan on Team USA, but now will be facing them. How is that going to feel?

KR: We were with them for three weeks, so you become friends with them, but things change when you are back home.

Gophers To Raise Money For Jack Jablonski Fund

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Donate Online at Jabby13.com l Jack's CaringBridge Page

The University of Minnesota men's hockey team is helping raise money for the Jack Jablonski Fund in two different ways at tomorrow night's U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game sponsored by Verizon against Notre Dame. A sellout crowd is expected at Mariucci Arena as the No. 3 Gophers face the fifth-ranked Irish.
Go Gophers! Jablonski
Go Gophers!
The Gophers will be collecting donations for the Jack Jablonski Fund at Saturday's men's hockey and Sunday's men's basketball games.
Go Gophers!

Gopher student athletes and Minnesota representatives will be at the main entrances to Mariucci Arena collecting cash donations as fans enter the building. In addition, all proceeds from the postgame chuck-a-puck will be donated to the Jack Jablonski Fund.

Jablonski, a 16-year-old sophomore at Benilde-St. Margaret's, was severely injured last week when he was checked from behind in a local high school hockey game.

According to a post on Jablonski's CaringBridge.com site he had successful surgery on Wednesday to fuse his vertebrae, but, "Has limited mobility and no movement in his lower body. As we feared, he will not be able to walk or skate. This news is devastating to Jack and everyone who loves him. Our hope and dream is that he will be able to prove this prognosis wrong."

Fans are also able to send a donation to the Jack Jablonski Fund, P.O. Box 16387, St. Louis Park, MN 55416-2618. In addition, fans can also make a donation at any Wells Fargo Bank and should mention the "Jack Jablonski Fund" when doing so.

UPDATE: Donations for the Jack Jablonski Fund will also be collected at Sunday's Gopher men's basketball game vs. Purdue (5 p.m. at Williams Arena).

Morning Skate With Nate Condon

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Go Gophers! Nate Condon
Go Gophers!
Nate Condon has six goals and 10 assists this year.
Go Gophers!
The Gophers host Notre Dame this weekend in a game that could pit brother against brother. Sophomore forward Nate Condon's older brother, Nick, is a senior defenseman for the Irish. We caught up with Nate and asked him about potentially playing against his brother, if her prefers playing center or wing and what it feels like to score a goal against his hometown school Wisconsin.

GopherSports: Your bother Nick plays for Notre Dame, who just happens to be your opponent this week. What is his style of game?

Nate Condon: He is a little guy, a scrapper. He has always been a lot quicker than me. He also has a little bit of the Jacob Cepis syndrome - if you mess with him he is going to mess with you right back. He won't put up with anything. We have always been competitive growing up, but at the end of the day we are still going to be brothers and really good friends.

GS: You have played both center and wing at Minnesota. Do you have a preference?

NC: It really does not matter to me as long as I am not playing right wing. Growing up I always played a little bit of both here and there, so it is not a big deal to me. Switching back and forth sometimes gets hard because you have to make sure you have your defensive responsibilities right, but other than that it is not too much of a problem for me.

GS: Did you guys play against each other a lot growing up?

NC: No, not really. I have never really played competitively against him - just fun stuff here and there.

GS: But you guys have played on the same team together?

NC: The last time we would have played together was when I was a freshman forward in high school and he was a senior defenseman. It was great and a lot of fun. I grew up with him and a lot of his friends and they made it a lot of fun for me. I was also the kid brother, so I got harassed a bit too, but it was a great time. He really looked out for me my freshman year and helped me out a lot.

GS: You are from Wisconsin and have had success against the Badgers, especially in their building with a couple of goals. How nice is that for you?

NC: It was great going back to Madison like that and having the success that I did. It was really awesome. I had a lot of family there and they all graduated from Wisconsin, but even they were happy for me. I got a lot of positive feedback from it from a lot of Wisconsin people.

GS: How would you describe your freshmen year last season?

NC: I think it went well. I really started to find my groove in the middle of the season. I was able to play with a lot of the older guys as well. I played with Cepis a lot and I think that really helped me come into my own at Minnesota.

GS: You also had that impressive five-point game at Colorado College.  

NC: That was early in the year and I was playing with Cepis and Zach Budish. The next weekend is when Budish got injured, so you never know what could have happened with that line. There is always the chance that we could have done a lot of good things. We sort of clicked that game, but the entire team did as well. We had nine goals that game. Budish is a big guy and went into the corners and dished it out to Cepis. Then Cepis and I danced around with the puck a little bit and luckily found each other a couple times during that game.

GS: Do you remember your last five-point game?

NC: That has not happened in a long time. Back in high school there were a couple of games, but nothing in juniors or anything.

GS: What do you think you need to get better at?

NC: I worked hard to put on some size before this season started and I think that has been helping me. I wanted to be a little more physical on the ice and throw my weight around more because that has always been one of the knocks against me. I have been trying to work on that this year. I feel like I have a pretty good touch on the puck and I can skate pretty well, so I have been trying to get a little more mean.

GS: What do you like to do off the ice?  

NC: Well, last year living in the dorms we played a lot of video games. During the summer, a lot of guys like to hang out on the lakes and get in the water and do that kind of stuff.

GS: Do you golf?

NC: I love to golf and try to play as much as I can in the summer, but the problem is that my clubs are back home in Wisconsin. So I only get to play when I go home. For how much some of the guys on our team play golf I would like to put some of our players up against our golf team.

Daily Clips: Jan. 6

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It is a big game for the Gophers this weekend (Star Tribune)

Notre Dame coming to town (FSN) to start a busy month for Minnesota (INCH)

Zach Budish did an interview with the Big Ten Network yesterday (TwitPic)

Lots of similarities between Notre Dame and Minnesota (GopherPuckLive)

AHL All Star Cade Fairchild is on an NHL recall (Peoria Journal Star)

Jordan Leopold is Buffalo's unsung hero (Tonawanda News)

Q&A with Mike Carman where he pays homage to Minneapolis (Cleveland.com)

Daily Clips: Jan. 5

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Weekend preview: Notre Dame (GopherSports.com)

Lucia shares Notre Dame memories (GopherSports.com) and fondly recalls Lefty Smith, his coach at Notre Dame who passed away on Tuesday (Star Tribune)

Lots of good stories this weekend (GopherSports.com)

Notre Dame is an elite program (1500 ESPN)

Despite the team finish, Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau impress at World Juniors (FSN)

Get to Know Andre Hollins

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This cold January weather is a little different from what Tennessee native Andre Hollins is used to experiencing. But the Gophers' freshman guard has learned to make himself at home in Minnesota. Learn more about Hollins in the video above and in this written Q&A:

Q: How much does it help you to have an experienced junior guard like Julian Welch on the team?
A: It's a great help. I get to learn from him, because I haven't played college basketball, and he has. The way you get to learn, and pick up new things, and battle each other in practices--that's a great help.

Q: Talk a little bit about your state championship you won in high school.

A: It was one of the greatest feelings I've ever had. It was a magical run. It definitely boosted everyone's confidence on the team. We kind of got better after that. We made it to three state championships. My senior year we made it to the state tournament. We lost in the semifinals to the eventual state champions. It was a good tradition at White Station. I think that's part of the reason I'm here, because it was such a great tradition, playing with great people and a great coach.

Q: What did it mean to you to be named Tennessee's Mr. Basketball?
A: It was great. It was a great honor. Even though we didn't win the state championship, (the award) kind of took the sting off the loss a little bit, being named as one of the best players in Tennessee. I just take that as an honor. It kind of made me even hungrier to come into college and do better, because it's just a testament to what I can do. I just need to continue to work hard.

Q: Your fellow freshman Joe Coleman is also a state champion and Mr. Basketball. Talk a little about your similar backgrounds.
A: I think our state championships and our two Mr. Basketballs, that shows what kind of people we are. We work hard, and that's why Coach Smith recruited us. I think that brings a lot to the team.

Q: Gopher fans know that you and Austin Hollins are not related, but how often do other people get confused about you two?
A: Now that we play on TV, the announcers say that we're not related. So I think people know now, but there are still a few people who are confused.

Q: Are you and Austin close enough that you feel like you could be brothers?
A: Yeah, we're close enough to be brothers. We got really close in the summertime. It's like we're brothers now.

Q: What is your favorite thing about the state of Minnesota?
A: It would have to be the summertime. I love the lakes, going out on boats. And everybody's nice here. I'm enjoying it.

The Gophers met with the media today and here is what some of them had to say about playing Notre Dame this Saturday in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game.

Zach Budish

Q: What do you know about Notre Dame?

ZB: They are a good team. Their record speaks for itself. They played in the Frozen Four last year and returned pretty much all of their guys from last year's team. They are a good team and we except a good challenge on Saturday.

Q: What are your thoughts about playing only one game this weekend?

ZB: I have never played a one-game series since I have been here, so it is kind of unique in that sense. But that just makes it that much more important and we are playing a top team from the CCHA, who is going to be right there at the end of the year. It is a huge game for us.

Q: You played with Anders Lee in high school, but have you ever played against him?

ZB: We did in high school. He played at St. Thomas eighth through tenth grade, so we played against each other his sophomore year, but not a whole lot really.

Q: What will it be like playing against him?

ZB: He is one of my good friends. We hang out quite a bit over the summer so it will be fun to play against him. But once we get on the ice I don't think we will be friends. We will probably talk a after the game and say hi to each other. But I think he would say the same thing, we are good friends off the ice, but once we get on the ice Saturday night we will act like we don't know one another.

Nate Condon

Q: Your older brother Nick plays for Notre Dame. What would it be like to play against him?


NC: If it happens it will be great. It has always been really competitive between us. Him being a defenseman, hopefully I can get the chance to go down there and plow him into the end board. That would be great. It would be a lot of fun to be out there against him.

Q: Last Saturday against Northeastern, the penalty-killing unit got a lot of work. Despite giving up two five-on-three goals, the unit was pretty good.

NC: The penalty kill was really good. That has been one of our strong points all year, how many penalties we have killed off. Then we got a couple of shorthanded goals and that is never a bad thing either. The only problem is that five-on-three we have let in way too many goals this year. We have button that up and take control of that.

Taylor Matson

Q: What are your thoughts on playing Notre Dame? This is a big non-conference game for you guys.


TM: Notre Dame has been a great team the last couple of years. They have been in the Frozen Four and were the preseason No. 1 team. They have a lot of great top-end talent and we are looking forward to them coming into our building. This is a huge game when it comes down to the end of the year. We are looking forward to it. You want to have a good non-conference record and ours is kind of .500 right now, so we really want to clean that up. With playing only one game this week, we can put all our energy and effort into that game.

Lucia Shares Notre Dame Memories

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Go Gophers! Don Lucia
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Minnesota head coach Don Lucia played four years of collegiate hockey at Notre Dame.
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Minnesota head coach Don Lucia played four years (1977-81) at Notre Dame. As a defenseman, he skated in 124 games and totaled 30 points (7g-23a) and 48 penalty minutes. We caught up with Lucia this morning and talked about his time at Notre Dame and what it is like to coach against his alma mater.

GopherSports: What is it like for you coaching against your alma mater?

Don Lucia: It is always special when you get to play your alma mater, but more than that it is an opportunity to play one of the top teams in the country this year. They were in the Frozen Four a year ago and are a very good team again this year. It is a great matchup for our players and a great matchup for our fans.

GS: You are 2-0-0 against Notre Dame as head coach at Minnesota and knocked them out of the NCAA tournament. Does it mean anything more to you to beat your alma mater?

DL: It probably means less in a lot of ways because you want them to have success. But when you are playing against one another you are more worried about your own team than you are about your alma mater in that situation. They are in a different stage in their program today. They have a renewed commitment and Jeff Jackson and their staff have done a terrific job since coming there the last five years. They have been in the Frozen Four a couple times and with their new facility they have really committed to having a top-notch program.

GS: Can you talk about the four years you spent at Notre Dame as a student athlete?

DL: Back when I played, we were all part of the WCHA. It was a great league and was a fun time to be a member of college hockey. I had a great experience. You did not have the top-notch facilities like you see today around college hockey. They were a little more primitive back then, but you did not know any different. For me personally, I had a great educational experience and that is where I grew up. I spent 18 to 22 there and after graduation I was on my path. I got in my car and drove up to Alaska to meet my future wife and start a family and get involved in coaching. It certainly started the path to where I am today.

GS: You played against the Gophers at the old Mariucci Arena. Can you share a memory of playing at Minnesota from your college days?

DS: We had a bunch of Minnesota kids on our team back then, so it was always special to come back and play in the old Mariucci Arena. You always remember that click-clack sound walking up those wooden stairs from the basement and getting onto the ice. Herb (Brooks) was coaching the Gophers then and we had some great games. We won our share and it was a fun time. It was fun for our coach Lefty Smith as well because he was from South St. Paul. I know for him it was a little extra special coming back here as well.

GS: You mentioned your coach Lefty Smith, who we just found out passed away yesterday. What can you tell us about him?

DL: He coached Doug Woog in high school and certainly knew Herb Brooks very, very well and John Mariucci and everyone associated with our program. He went to Notre Dame in 1968 and started the hockey program and built it up to being members of the WCHA. He coached there 19 years and just retired from the university on New Year's Eve. He was running the indoor football facility and was a great man and was somebody that I respected a lot and kept in close contact with over the years. I spoke with him last week and was trying to arrange tickets for a lot of his family members to come to the game on Saturday. It will be a sad day on Saturday that he will not be able to be at the game. Anybody that knew Lefty, loved him.

Jennie-O-Wrestler of the Week: Zach Sanders

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Each week of the season Gophersports.com will feature a Jennie-O-Wrestler of the week. This week's wrestler is senior Zach Sanders from Wabasha, Minn.


1.     Why did you choose the sport of wrestling?

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I was born into a wrestling family.  I'm thankful it matches my abilities and personality.

2.     What was the biggest adjustment you had to make when moving from high school wrestling to college wrestling?

I had to be more physical to make up for a lack of strength/size and learning how to escape from bottom, which is what most freshman struggle with.

3.     What is the feeling like after a big takedown or scoring a pin?

It depends on the situation but here at Minnesota we take pride in dominating our opponents the best we can. 

4.     What team or individual performance are you most proud of?

It is yet to come.

5.     Where is your favorite place to eat on campus? 

Tony's Diner

6.     What is your favorite Minnesota tradition?

I am proud to be part of the program I grew up watching and dreaming of wrestling for in my home state.  I remember watching all the past "Gopher Greats" and getting goose bumps.  I like being part of the winning tradition. 

7.     What is the best part of being a member of the Minnesota wrestling team? 

The culture here is excellent.  We have awesome resources in our coaches, training partners, boosters, and fans.  My teammates are my best friends and its fun being part of it all.

8.     Why did you choose Minnesota?

It worked out well for me.  I knew I had to go to a good wrestling school to reach my potential and I saw myself fitting into the line-up.  I really liked the coaching staff and their system.  I had a lot of good friends and training partners here at Minnesota already.  Looking back now, I could not have imagined going anywhere else.

9.     Who on the team is the team prankster? 

I would have to say Coach Eggum.  He is always joking around and is hilarious.  He does a good job at keeping things loose when they need to be.

10.  What have you learned from wrestling that has helped you in other aspects of your life? 

I would say wrestling has helped me in almost every aspect of my life along with giving me a lot of opportunities. 

11.  What is your favorite sports movie? 

Probably For Love of the Game or Without Limits.

12.  What are you listening to on your iPod right now?

I listen to pretty much everything but lately I have been on a country music kick.    Teammate Joel Bauman produced a cool song in "Wonder That." Check it out on iTunes.

13.  Do you have any pre-match superstitions? 

Not really other than that I usually eat the same things before matches.

14.  What are your goals for this season? 

NCAA Champion.

15.  What is your favorite sport outside of wrestling? 

I liked to play a lot of sports like baseball, football, and golf.   I am also interested in sports that have a toughness factor to them such as MMA, triathlons, and marathons.

16.   What has been the best memory in your Gopher wrestling career? 

Earning All-American status as a freshman.

17.  If you had the choice to travel either forward or backward in time, which would you choose? Why?

I wish I was a freshman so I could have five more years living the dream.

18.  Where do you like wrestling at more the Pavilion or Williams Arena?

The NCAA Championships.  The atmosphere is second to none.

19.  What is your favorite TV show?

Prison Break

20.  What is your favorite food?

Chocolate

 

 

Blog: Grimm's Top 10 Calls of 2011

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As I sit here in the office on Jan. 2, it feels like New Year's Day. There are four bowl games (that are normally played on Jan. 1) on television right now. Of course, the end of one year and the beginning of another are prime times for Best Of and Top Ten lists, etc.

Things are no different here in the Golden Gopher Football Blog. I talked with Voice of the Gophers Mike Grimm last week about his favorite radio calls of the 2011 Gopher Football season. We decided a top 10 could be an interesting blog post and be something fun for people to listen to and enjoy some of these moments one more time.

So, even though we're now two days into 2012, we proudly present Grimm's list of his top 10 favorite radio calls from the 2011 Gopher Football season:

10. MarQueis Gray's Touchdown vs. Illinois
MarQueis Gray put the finishing touches on a 27-7 victory over Illinois in the season finale with this 14-yard touchdown run. Gray rushed for 167 yards and two scores, while also passing for a touchdown vs. the Illini.

#10: Gray's TD vs. Illinois

9. Coach Kill's First Big Ten Win vs. Iowa

MarQueis Gray rushed for a first down, giving Minnesota the opportunity to kneel out the clock as the Gophers knocked off Iowa for the second straight season. The win was Minnesota's first in Big Ten play under head coach Jerry Kill. It also kept Floyd of Rosedale at home in Minneapolis for a second consecutive year.

#9: Game-Ending Call vs. Iowa

8. Brandon Green TD vs. USC
Minnesota trailed USC 19-3 at halftime in the season-opener at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Gophers scored in the third quarter to make it 19-10, but starting quarterback MarQueis Gray was unable to play the fourth quarter due to cramps. True freshman Max Shortell, playing in his first collegiate game, came on in relief and engineered a scoring drive midway through the fourth quarter to pull Minnesota within two, 19-17. The Gophers were unable to pull off the comeback, but Shortell's fourth-quarter TD pass to Brandon Green was one of the more exciting plays of 2011.

#8: Green's Catch at USC


7. Duane Bennett Kickoff Return vs. Wisconsin
Minnesota trailed eventual Big Ten Champion Wisconsin 28-6 at halftime. But the Gophers got a big boost to start the second half, when senior Duane Bennett returned the kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to pull Minnesota back within two scores.

#7: Bennett's TD Return


6. Coach Kill's First Minnesota Victory vs. Miami (Ohio)
After a rough start to the season, including losses to USC and New Mexico State, Minnesota got in the Win column on Sept. 16, when Kim Royston knocked down a Miami (Ohio) pass in the end zone as time expired to secure a 29-23 victory and give head coach Jerry Kill his first win as the head coach of the Golden Gophers.

#6: Coach Kill's First Win

5. Da'Jon McKnight's Third TD vs. Michigan State
McKnight finished the day against the Spartans with nine receptions for 174 yards and three touchdowns, nearly leading the Gophers to an upset victory over then-No. 15 Michigan State. For McKnight, he became the only player in Gopher history to have two three-touchdown receiving days in his career. He also had three scores in 2010 vs. Penn State on Oct. 23, 2010.

#5: McKnight's 3rd TD at MSU


4. Da'Jon McKnight's Second TD vs. Michigan State
Da'Jon McKnight spotted Minnesota to a 7-0 lead early in the game against eventual Leaders Division champs Michigan State. And that was just the beginning of a huge day for McKnight. Here, his second score of the day gave the Gophers a 14-7 lead.

#4: McKnight's 2nd TD at MSU


3. Duane Bennett Blocked Punt/TD vs. Miami (Ohio)
In the Gophers' first victory of the season, it was a special teams play by senior running back Duane Bennett that sealed the victory for Minnesota. With Minnesota leading 23-16 early in the fourth quarter, the Redhawks were forced to punt. Bennett sprung through Miami protection, blocked the punt, pulled it out of the air at the 4-yard line and took it into the end zone to give the Gophers a two-touchdown cushion, which ended up being the final margin of victory. This play earned Bennett a Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week award.

#3: Bennett's Blocked Punt


2. Kyle Henderson Sack/Forced Fumble vs. Iowa
Gopher fans will remember the onside kick, MarQueis Gray's game-winning touchdown run (more on that later) or Duane Bennett's strong running with 101 yards and a score. But a defensive play made it all possible. Iowa led 14-7 and was knocking at the door with a third-and-4 at the Minnesota 14-yard line. But Kyle Henderson came on a corner blitz, hit Iowa QB James Vandenberg on the blind side and caused a fumble. The fumble was recovered by Brandon Kirksey and returned out near midfield. The Gophers took advantage of the turnover for a field goal to make it 14-10 instead of 21-7 and keep Minnesota in the game.

#2: Henderson's Play vs. Iowa


1. MarQueis Gray Game-Winning TD vs. Iowa
Iowa led 21-10 early in the fourth quarter. But the Gophers scored with 8:22 remaining to make it 21-16. Coach Kill then dialed up an onside kick the Gophers had been working on the entire season. Jordan Wettstein hit it perfectly and Minnesota recovered. 12 plays and nearly six minutes later, Gray gave the Gophers a 22-21 lead on a three-yard run on fourth-and-goal. The Gopher defense held to secure the victory, but Gray's fourth-down scamper was perhaps the biggest play of the 2011 season.

#1: Gray's Game-Winning TD vs. Iowa


Gophers in the Pros - Week 17

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Denver Broncos' wide receiver Eric Decker is the only former Gopher on an NFL active roster that will play in the 2012 postseason.

The Broncos played their final game of the regular season at home against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Decker had a career-long 56-yard touchdown catch in the Broncos' last game against the Chiefs in November. But yesterday he recorded just one reception for five yards and was targeted only twice.

"The safeties are playing low, there's eight (defenders) in the box, that should open up some opportunities to go 1-on-1," Decker reported to the Denver Post. "We just have to do a better job of executing out of the passing game."

Despite losing the game 7-3, the Broncos advanced to the playoffs thanks to an Oakland loss. Denver finished the season at the top of the AFC West with an 8-8 record.

Decker and the Broncos will face the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend in an AFC wild card matchup.

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

  • Vikings' cornerback and return specialist Marcus Sherels recorded two kickoff returns for 58 yards in Minnesota's 17-13 loss to the Chicago Bears.
  • Matt Spaeth, tight end for the Chicago Bears, was active but did not record any statistics in the Bears' victory at Minnesota. The win snapped Chicago's five-game losing streak.
  • Running back Marion Barber, also with the Chicago Bears, was inactive Sunday with a calf injury.
  • Nate Triplett, linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, was active but did not record any statistics in San Diego's 38-26 win over the Oakland Raiders.
  • Dominique Barber, safety for the Houston Texans, is on injured reserve with a knee injury. Houston came up short against the Tennessee Titans, losing 23-22. However, the team will make their first playoff appearance in franchise history this weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals.
  • New York Jets' wide receiver Logan Payne is on injured reserve as well as he recovers from wrist surgery. The Jets lost to the Miami Dolphins 19-17 and were eliminated from the playoffs. 
  • In addition to those who were on active rosters, four former Gopher players spent week 17 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 practices with the Denver Broncos, and fullback Jon Hoese is with the Green Bay Packers.