February 2012 Archives

Wednesday Roundup: Gophers Talk Wisconsin

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Members of the Minnesota men's hockey team met with the media today and talked about this weekend's series against Wisconsin. You can listen to everything they had to say here.

Don Lucia, head coach

Don Lucia addresses the media in advance of this weekend. Has a Bjugstad update. (mp3)

Taylor Matson, senior forward

Taylor Matson previews the upcoming weekend against Wisconsin (mp3)

Jake Hansen, senior forward

Jake Hansen previews this weekend against Wisconsin. (mp3)

Nate Schmidt, sophomore defense

Nate Schmidt previews this weekend. (mp3)

Kent Patterson, senior goaltender

Kent Patterson talks to the media to preview this weekend. (mp3)

Banham Reaches Goal at Home

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Only the second Gopher to be named the Big Ten Conference Women's Basketball Freshman of the Year, Minnesota's Rachel Banham is happy that she was able to achieve her goal while playing in her home state and in front of her family and friends.

In recent years, it seems more of a rarity than the norm for elite-level prep stars to loyally represent the state in which they grew up, whether to experience new surroundings or just to get a little bit more freedom, but for Banham, the choice seemed to be an easy one.

"I think it was an easy decision because I knew that I always wanted to play at Minnesota. Even though I had a lot of options, it didn't really matter to me because I knew from a younger age that this was where I wanted to be. That's why I verbally committed decently early. It is also nice because I am only about 20 minutes from home, and I really like that."

A native of Lakeville, Minn., Banham committed to the Gophers early in her junior year at Lakeville North High School, where she led the Panthers to the Class AAAA State Championship in 2010 and ended her career with numerous prestigious accolades, including the coveted 2011 Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year Award and was also named 2011 Minnesota Miss Basketball.

When she started her rookie season at Minnesota, Banham had a personal goal clearly in her mind, and wasn't afraid to let that goal be known, and that was to be the Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Year. And the hometown hero, with the support of her family, friends and the amazing fanbase that has followed her career for years, did just that.

Gophers Are 5-0-1 All-Time On Leap Day

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Go Gophers! Craig Falkman
Go Gophers!
Craig Falkman scored a hat trick on Feb. 29, 1964 as Minnesota beat North Dakota on the road in overtime.
Go Gophers!
Minnesota is undefeated all-time on Feb. 29. The Gophers are 5-0-1 when playing games on Leap Day.

Minnesota won its first every Leap Day game way back in 1924 when it shutout rival Wisconsin 4-0 at home. The Gophers next played on Feb. 29 in 1952 and won 5-3 against Michigan Tech.

Twelve years later in 1964, Minnesota bounced North Dakota 5-4 in overtime on the road when Craig Falkman completed a hat trick at 3:16 of the extra session.

In 1980, Minnesota traveled to Notre Dame and beat the Irish 3-2. Gopher head coach Don Lucia was a member of the Notre Dame team that year and assisted on Notre Dame's first goal of the game. It was one of his nine assists on the season and came in front of 3,897 fans at the Notre Dame Athletic and Convocation Center.

In 1992, the Gophers improved to 28-8-0 with a 4-1 at St. Cloud State. Scoring for the Maroon and Gold were Justin McHugh, Travis Richards, Larry Olimb and Craig Johnson. Tom Newman made 16 saves in front of 6,514 fans.

Minnesota's most recent Lead Day game came four years ago when the Gophers tied 2-2 at Alaska Anchorage. Derek Peltier scored both goals for Minnesota. Oddly enough, Tony Lucia assisted on his second goal. 

Morning Skate With Joey Miller

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Go Gophers! Joe Miller
Go Gophers!
Joe Miller was voted an alternate captain by his teammates prior to this season.
Go Gophers!
GopherSports: You had the opportunity to go to a few different schools and play different sports as well. What made you decide to come to Minnesota and play hockey?

Joey Miller: I have always had a passion for Minnesota sports and wanted to be part of a program that hangs banners and wins championships. That was my biggest reason for coming here and my motivation.

GS: How would you describe your career?

JM: It was up and down, especially individually. I thought I might get a little bit more ice time from working hard, but I wanted to stick with it. I have such a close relationship with all the guys and wanted to stay with them. The team has had better years, but this year has been a lot of fun. We have been winning and it has definitely been my favorite year by far.

GS: When you do get in the lineup, people always seem to notice No. 15 out there working hard and hitting people. How would you describe your style of play?

JM: I think I am a high-energy guy and like to do all the small things. I like to block shots, hit people and kill penalties. I will do anything I can to try and help and contribute. I like doing all those things because it can help lift up the team and give them some more energy and get the team going to where we start scoring some goals. I will do anything I can to help the team.

GS: Talking about goals, you scored against Michigan Tech this year and that was your first goal since January 2009. The rest of the team was obviously pretty happy when you scored. How did you feel when you put that in?

JM: It had been awhile since I scored. That was my first game of the year and I was pretty jacked to play. Then I scored and I was pretty excited. I think we rolled after that with a couple more goals. It felt good to help the team contribute on the scoreboard and to do something a little bit more than the little things. It was a good feeling and I was pretty pumped.

GS: Your teammates voted you an alternate captain this year. What did that mean to you?

JM: It is one of the biggest honors I have had, probably the biggest honor I have had since I have been here. To be part of that history of the captains who have been here is a tremendous honor. It is even more special because it is from my teammates. That is probably the biggest compliment I can get. Those guys are the best and I love those guys.

GS: How would you describe your leadership skills? Are you a vocal leader or do you let your work ethic and actions serve as your leadership styles?

JM: I like to talk. I like to talk a lot. It helps me to concentrate if I can keep talking. I feel like if you are communicating then that is when the team is at its best and everyone is into the game. So I like to talk as much as possible, but not too much. If I am playing well then I am talking to my linemates and talking to the team and getting a feel for the game. I think that helps. I like to be verbal off the ice as well and that kind of continues in my leadership style.

GS: You said you like to talk. Do you talk to the opposition as well on the ice?

JM: I am always talking. I have some great one-liners for some guys in our league. They call me out for not playing a lot, but I have some good comebacks.

Go Gophers! Seth Helgeson
Go Gophers!
Is Seth Helgeson Joey Miller's penalty box host replacement? Miller calls him the frontrunner.
Go Gophers!
GS: This year you have hosted the incredibly popular "In the Penalty Box with Joey Miller," video feature. You seem like a natural in front of the camera. How did that segment come to be?  

JM: It is awesome. I love doing that stuff. It is fun because it started with Mike Hoeffel in the front yard of the old hockey house and we have all the guys sit together and I would interview him. Then I would interview the rest of my roommates. It is kind of funny to see where it has gone over the years and is a lot of fun, especially getting coach Guentzel in there last week. It is always cool to see where the interview goes and has been a great opportunity. I appreciate all the guys helping me out.

GS: This is your last year as a Gopher, but hopefully your penalty box segment lives on. Who would be a good host to replace you next season?

JM: We need to get guys in front of a camera and I need to start interviewing potential hosts and see how they handle it. I am going to start taking applications soon and we need to get on this. I will figure it out, but I think Seth Helgeson may be the inside frontrunner right now.

Rodney Williams' Best Dunks of 2011-12, Part One

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Gopher power forward Rodney Williams has enjoyed a stellar junior season in 2011-12, leading the Gophers in numerous categories, including points (10.7/game), rebounds (5.3), blocks (1.4) and steals (1.4).
Go Gophers! Rodney
Go Gophers!
Go Gophers!

But even in the midst of a good all-around year, anyone who has ever watched Williams play knows he "rises above" his peers in one area in particular: Raw dunking ability. Slam, jam, throw-down, high percentage bucket -- however you want to say it, Rodney does it better than almost anyone else in college basketball.

According to Gopher basketball communications director Matt Slieter's "Dunk-O-Meter," Rodney has amassed 91 dunks during his Gopher career, including a whopping 41 in 2011-12 alone (through Tuesday).

As we near the end of the basketball season, we're asking Gopher fans -- what was your favorite Rodney dunk of 2011-12? We've collected highlights from 10 of Rodney's best, and want YOU to decided the ultimate champion. We'll reveal five dunks today (Wednesday, Feb. 29), five more tomorrow (Thursday, March 1) and then pit the top two vote-getters against each other Friday and Saturday (March 2-3), and announce our winner on Sunday (March 4).

So watch the videos and vote for your favorite, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next round of voting!

Which of these five Rodney Williams dunks is your favorite?

Observations from Tuesday's 52-45 Loss at No. 14/15 Wisconsin

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Hollins vs. Wisconsin
Andre Hollins scored 38 points in the Gophers' two games against Wisconsin this year. He set a career high with 20 against the Badgers at Williams Arena, and he again led the team in scoring at the Kohl Center with 18 tonight. Hollins scored eight of Minnesota's first 13 points, including two three-pointers. Later in the half, he was fouled by Jordan Taylor shooting a three, and made all three free throws. The freshman point guard outscored Wisconsin's senior point guard, 13-5, in the first half.
Go Gophers! RS3
Go Gophers!
Sampson is the 37th Gopher to reach 1,000 career points.
Go Gophers!

Join the Club
With eight points tonight, Ralph Sampson III added his name to a small list of Golden Gophers who have amassed 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 150 blocks over their careers. Mychal Thompson, Kevin McHale, Randy Breuer, and Michael Bauer are the others to reach those numbers.

Sampson's career totals now stand at 1,004 points, 625 rebounds, and 201 blocks heading into his final regular season game as a Gopher. His 1,000th point came on a free throw in the second half. Sampson is just the third Gopher to reach 200 blocks, which he eclipsed by swatting away five shot attempts today.

Minnesota Misers
Although Minnesota did not compile large point totals in either half, the Gopher defense was even stingier than the Badgers' in the first. Minnesota tied its lowest point total allowed in a half by limiting Wisconsin to 16 points in the first, tying the season mark they set against USC in December.

Hot and Cold
Neither team shot well tonight, and the Badgers did not make a single field goal for the last 12:32 of the half. They went on a six-plus minute scoring drought during that time, from the 8:27 mark to the 2:08 mark. When the scoring drought began, it was 13-13. During the scoring drought, the Gophers scored 10 points, including eight free throws.

Minnesota went on a drought of its own, stretching from the 3:08 mark of the first to the 16:55 mark of the second half. That drought helped the Badgers to tie the game at 25 early in the second.  Each team held a 10-point lead at one point in the game.

Schmidt, Rau Earn WCHA Honors

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Sophomore defenseman Nate Schmidt was named the Red Baron WCHA Defensive Player of the Week for Feb. 28, while Kyle Rau repeated as the Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the Week.

Schmidt assisted on three of Minnesota's six goals this past weekend as the Gophers became the first team to sweep Nebraska Omaha at home in the regular season since January 11-12, 2008. Schmidt's lengthy and accurate backhand pass to a streaking Sam Warning was the only assist on Warning's goal as Minnesota jumped out to a 1-0 lead against the Mavericks on Friday.

On Saturday, with Minnesota trailing 1-0, Schmidt assisted on both goals that gave the Gophers a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period.

Schmidt was on the ice for four of Minnesota's six goals last weekend and was on the ice for only one goal against (Nebraska Omaha's shorthanded goal on Friday). He also blocked five shots on the weekend, which was the most among any Minnesota player.

This is the first time that Schmidt has been honored by the WCHA.

Rau had another three-point weekend at Nebraska Omaha as he repeated as the league's rookie of the week. The freshman had the primary assist on Nick Bjugstad's third-period, game-tying goal on Friday, which Minnesota won 3-2 in overtime. The Gophers trailed 2-1 entering the third period and Rau helped Minnesota win for only the second time this year when trailing after two periods.  

On Saturday, Rau scored two power-play goals--including the game-winner--as Minnesota clipped the Mavericks 3-2. Rau was involved in three of Minnesota's six goals this weekend. He leads Minnesota with six game-winning goals and is tied for first on the team with seven power-play goals. Rau is also tied for second in the nation with a +23 rating.

This is the third time that Rau, who is on a seven-game point streak, has been named WCHA Rookie of the Week, as he also received the honor on Oct. 18 and Feb. 21. He was also the National Rookie of the Month for October.

In addition, Nick Bjugstad (Nov. 22) and Mark Alt (Dec. 13) were previously honored earlier this year as the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week. Senior goaltender Kent Patterson was named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 11, Nov. 1 and Feb. 21.
Here you go Gopher fans, one of if not the best highlight video put together by Cole Schrupp. Check out some extra special effects he added to make it a more thrilling video. 

The video is below and check back later this week for more inside coverage of Minnesota wrestling!

Behind the Scenes in Golden Gopher Basketball

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The final buzzer sounds, the score of the game goes final, and the band plays one last fight song as the crowd begins filing out of the arena. Many fans will spend the rest of the night winding down, but for those involved in the basketball program, there is still work left to do. Steps to wrap up this game and get ready for the next one begin immediately after the game clocks hit zero.

After a road game, managers Adam Bates, Tony Clemons, Tony Emanuel, Aaron Katsuma, Eric Lutz, Tom Giesen, and Dan Kurtzweil collect everything they brought with them to the arena--from laundry to dry-erase boards to chairs. They make sure it is all there, pack it up, and load it on the team bus to go to the airport. After loading and unloading the plane and bus and finally returning to Minneapolis, they ensure that everything makes it to its proper place back in Williams Arena.

There are a few different things to take care of after home games, but no packing and unpacking. Managers will likely leave Williams Arena an hour to an hour and a half after the game ends. They must clean up the bench areas, the locker rooms--including the officials' locker room--and the water coolers. And, of course, they must collect the laundry and take down the team's filming equipment.

Even for televised games, the team films each game on its own, too. It is video coordinator Bryan Bender's job to deal with all the footage. Before he gets to the team's version, he first makes DVD copies of the TV version right after the game and distributes them to the opposing team and to the Gopher coaches and players. Then the Gopher staff has a meeting to discuss not only the game that just ended, but also the upcoming schedule of games, practices, and meetings.

Go Gophers! Bender
Go Gophers!
Video coordinator Bryan Bender prepares all the film the Gophers watch.
Go Gophers!
Next, Bender goes back to the team's video. He uploads it onto a server and spends a few hours working on it--still on game day. Using a program called XOS Thunder, he breaks it down by possession and by personnel and cuts out the dead time between plays. The program allows Bender and anyone else watching the film to sort clips by situation, play, and player. For example, Rodney Williams could watch all the plays in which he drove down the baseline and scored.

Bender also obtains film of Minnesota's future opponents. For most Big Ten teams, this is fairly easy because the games are usually televised and Bender can record them. He also uses Synergy Sports Technology's online database of televised games. Like the Gophers' film Bender has broken down, the games in the database can be sorted. This digital filtering technology is a major step up from the VHS tapes the Gophers used when Bender started six years ago.

The most difficult time to find copies of opponents' games is the non-conference season. Some of the smaller schools rarely (if ever) play on TV. Bender may trade for film if other teams agree to it. Early-season tournaments present another challenge. The Gophers do not know who they will play each round, so they have to prepare for all possible teams. This means Bender had to find film of all seven teams in this season's Old Spice Classic, and prepare multiple scout tapes for one day.

During the Big Ten season, the schedule is set and film is easier to find. Even before the Gophers face a conference opponent they have already played during the year, Bender still gives the coaches copies of that team's last few games.

"We kind of know what they're going to do, but it's still good to see new things that they're doing," he said.

The day after, the team usually watches at least portions of last night's game to see what did and did not work. Players can also decide to go in on their own and watch clips of only their playing time. Once they have watched their last game, they move on to their next opponent. Bender makes a scout tape with a summary and highlights of each opposing player, one of the assistant coaches writes a scouting report, and the team does on-floor scouting of what the opponent does and what the Gophers can do to stop it.

"The guys have three ways of learning: It's on paper for them, we watch it on video, and we actually do it on the court," Bender said. "We cover all the different learning styles."

On those practice days, head manager Bates and his fellow managers usually stay at the Barn for five to seven hours. Bates was there for 13 hours two days before the Ohio State game because the team practiced twice that day. During practice, the managers help with the clock and drills and keeping things running smoothly. Afterwards, they put away all the equipment and do more laundry. After a few days of practice, it will be time to set up for the next game.

"Getting ready for a home game isn't really hard because everything's here, and if we don't have anything ready, we can go find it," Bates said. "But for road games, we have to make sure that we have everything. We'll double-check the players' bags and the bags that have all the gear in them. We have a big checklist to go through. We always pack extras of everything just in case someone needs something. That's definitely the most important part."

Soon the next game is over, and they all repeat the cycle again--more meetings, film sessions, clean-ups, and practices. Bender and the managers spend a lot of time and energy doing work that might not be recognized by those outside the program. But they see payoffs in their jobs that make it all worth it.

"Seeing something on film, we implement it on the floor, and you see it happen in the game--that's kind of the most rewarding thing," Bender said. "You can see some applied knowledge from what you do in what they are doing on the floor."

For Bates, the role of manager offers a chance to gain valuable experience and connections that could help him reach his future goal of becoming a high school athletic director. But more simply, it offers an opportunity to be involved in something big.

"Personally, the most rewarding thing is just being a part of the team when you win," he said. "Once you don't play (varsity) sports anymore...it's cool to still be a part of the team even though we're not out there playing. All of the managers, we take pride in being a part of the team."

Weekend Rewind: Gophers Sweep Nebraska Omaha

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Go Gophers! Jake Parenteau
Go Gophers!
Jake Parenteau scored the overtime game-winner on Friday.
Go Gophers!
Friday, Feb. 24, 2012

Minnesota 3, Nebraska Omaha 2 (OT)

Video Highlights l Final Stats l Game Story

Postgame Audio: Parenteau l Bjugstad l Lucia

Sam Warning put Minnesota up 1-0 early in the game, but Nebraska Omaha took a 2-1 lead into the third period. Nick Bjugstad tied the game with his 23rd goal of the season to set up overtime where Jake Parenteau became the hero. Parenteau scored his first career goal 1:46 into overtime to lift the Gophers to a 3-2 road win. The goal came in Parenteau's 38th game as a Gopher. Kent Patterson made 22 saves in the win.

Friday's win was only the second time all season where the Gophers won despite trailing while entering the third period. Their previous victory was a 3-2 win against North Dakota on Nov. 5. Minnesota was behind 2-1 entering the final period, but prevailed 3-2 after Nick Larson and Kyle Rau scored.

Go Gophers! Kyle Rau
Go Gophers!
Kyle Rau scored two power-play goals on Saturday.
Go Gophers!
Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012

Minnesota 3, Nebraska Omaha 2

Video Highlights l Final Stats l Game Story

Postgame Audio: Alt l Rau l Lucia

Like Friday, the Gophers had to battle back to secure the win as the Mavericks raced out to a 1-0 lead just 6:05 into the game. Their lead was short-lived though as Mark Alt tied the game 41 seconds later and then Minnesota went up 3-1 on a pair of power-play goals. The Gophers withstood a shorthanded goal by Nebraska Omaha to hold on and win 3-2. Kent Patterson made 27 saves.

The game was the 1,000th of Don Lucia's career as a college hockey coach. It was also the first time that Nebraska Omaha was swept at home in the regular season since Jan. 11-12, 2008, when Miami beat the Mavericks twice.  

Observations from Minnesota's 3-2 Win Over Nebraska Omaha

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Game No. 1,000
Gopher head coach Don Lucia recorded a win in his 1,000th game on Saturday. Lucia now has a 592-325-83 overall record after spending six seasons as head coach at both Alaska Fairbanks (113-87-11) and Colorado College (166-68-18) before coming to Minnesota. Since taking over the Golden Gophers, Lucia has led Minnesota to two national titles and a 313-170-54 record. 

WCHA Update
By winning in Omaha to complete the sweep, the Gophers clinched a top-two spot in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. With two points against Wisconsin next weekend or a Minnesota-Duluth loss, Minnesota will capture its first MacNaughton Cup since 2006-07. 

Winning in Omaha
For the first time since the Mavericks swept Alaska-Anchorage at home on Oct. 21-22, Nebraska-Omaha had the same result on both nights of a two-game series. By taking four points, the Gophers became the first team to sweep the Mavericks at the CenturyLink Center in a WCHA regular-season series. Bemidji State swept Nebraska Omaha in Omaha last year in the playoffs and did the same thing in Bemidji, Minn. in the regular season. The last time UNO was swept at home in the regular season was on Jan. 11-12, 2008 against Miami of Ohio.

The Gophers have won seven Friday games in the WCHA, have completed the sweep all seven times. Minnesota leads the all-time series against the Mavericks 3-2-0. The visiting team has won each game.

Rau Streaking
With two goals on Saturday and an assist on Friday, Kyle Rau is now on a seven-game point streak. In his last seven contests, the freshman forward has three goals and six assists. Rau had a team-high eight-game point streak early in the season. Sophomore Erik Haula is the only other player on the team with a streak of seven or more games.

Five With 30
One night after Nate Schmidt became the fourth Gopher to hit the 30-point mark this season, Jake Hansen reached the same plateau by recording a secondary assist on Kyle Rau's game-winning goal.Nick Bjugstad (38), Erik Haula (37), and Kyle Rau (34), and Schmidt (32) each hit 30 prior to Saturday's game. Just shy of the 30-point mark are Zach Budish (28) and Nate Condon (26).

That Was Short
Two goals by Minnesota in the first 9:20 of the game, caused Nebraska Omaha to change netminders, inserting senior John Faulkner for freshman Ryan Massa. The last time the Gophers had an opponent pull its goalie was on Jan. 14 when UM forced North Dakota to pull Aaron Dell in favor of Brad Eidsness after 40 minutes in a 6-2 win in Grand Forks, N.D.

Minnesota Notes For Feb. 25 at Nebraska Omaha

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About Last Night: Minnesota extended its win streak to three games with a come-from-behind 3-2 overtime victory at Nebraska Omaha. Jake Parenteau scored his first career goal as a Gopher in his 38th game 1:46 into overtime to lift Minnesota to the win. Sam Warning got Minnesota on the board early in the first period to give the Gophers a 1-0 lead. Nebraska Omaha then led 2-1 after two periods, before Nick Bjugstad scored his 23rd goal of the season in the third period at the 4:17 mark. Kent Patterson made 22 saves as Minnesota improved to 22-11-1 overall and 18-7-0 in the WCHA.

WCHA Update: Minnesota can claim at least a stake of the MacNaughton Cup tonight if it wins and Minnesota Duluth does not record a point at home against Colorado College.

1,000 Games: Don Lucia will coach in his 1,000th game tonight when the Gophers take on Nebraska Omaha. Lucia, who has a 591-325-83 overall record, spent six seasons as head coach at both Alaska Fairbanks (113-87-11) and Colorado College (166-68-18) before coming to Minnesota. Since taking over the Golden Gophers, Lucia has led Minnesota to two national titles and a 312-170-54 record. Lucia, who is nine wins shy of 600 for his career, earned his 300th win as Minnesota's head coach in a 4-1 victory at Wisconsin on Nov. 12, 2011.

Bonus Hockey: Minnesota played in its fifth overtime game of the season last night and improved to 2-2-1 in such games when Jake Parenteau scored the game-winner 1:46 into the extra session. Minnesota also beat Minnesota Duluth, tied Michigan State, and lost to Michigan Tech and Denver in the extra session. Nate Condon, who had the primary assist on Parenteau's goal, scored the game-winning goal at Minnesota Duluth on Oct. 14.

Need Three: Minnesota has scored three or more goals in its last six games and is 4-2-0 in those games. The Gophers, who are second in the nation with a 3.65 goals-per-game average, are 19-6-1 when scoring three or more goals this year. Conversely, they are 3-5-0 when scoring less than three goals. In the seven games prior to Minnesota's six-game streak of scoring three or more goals, the Gophers scored three or more goals only twice and were 3-4-0 during that stretch.

What Gives?: Nebraska Omaha has not been swept in WCHA play this season and has not had the same result in both games of a weekend series since sweeping Alaska-Anchorage on Oct. 21-22. The Gophers are 12-3-1 in Saturday games with an 11-1-0 mark in the WCHA. Minnesota has won six Friday games in the conference and has finished the sweep each time.

Road Advantage: Minnesota has played Nebraska Omaha four times and the home team has lost all four games. On Oct. 11, 2003 when the Gophers beat UNO 7-3 in Omaha in the Mavericks' second-ever game at the CenturyLink Center (then called the Qwest Center). Last season, Nebraska Omaha returned the favor by sweeping Minnesota at Mariucci Arena in its first-ever WCHA series. That weekend marked the last time Minnesota was swept at home in the regular season. The Gophers made the road team a perfect 4-0-0 with a win on Friday.

Jim Brewer, 1972 U.S. Olympic Teammates to Reunite This August

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Forty years after suffering a heartbreaking and controversial loss to the Soviet Union in the gold medal game of the Olympics, the 1972 U.S.A. basketball team will reunite to commemorate its accomplishments. Former Golden Gopher forward/center Jim Brewer played on that team and is expected to attend the reunion activities.
Go Gophers! Brewer
Go Gophers!
Minnesota retired Brewer's No. 52 jersey in 1973.
Go Gophers!

In three varsity seasons at Minnesota (1970-73), Brewer scored 1,009 points and pulled down 907 rebounds. He led the team in rebounding in each of his three seasons. Brewer was a member of the "Iron Five" lineup that led the 1971-72 Gophers to a Big Ten title. Following his time at Minnesota, Brewer played nine years in the NBA, ending his career with a championship for the 1982 Los Angeles Lakers.

A release about plans for the reunion is provided below, courtesy of Amy Dedman of Preston-Obsorne.

--Thursday, members of a planning committee gathered in Davis-Reid Alumni Gymnasium on the campus of Georgetown College to announce the reunion of the players of the 1972 Men's National Basketball Team during a celebratory weekend this August.

The celebratory event will take place Thursday-Sunday, Aug. 23-26 in Central Kentucky and include both public and private events.

"Those of us alive in 1972 will remember the significant impact that the controversial men's basketball gold medal game had (and continues to have) on international competition," said Billy Reed, executive scholar in residence at Georgetown College and founding member of the planning committee. "As our world witnessed the first act of terrorism in the modern era with the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes at the hands of Palestinian gunmen, the courage of these 12 young men's convictions in Munich does not go unnoticed."
Go Gophers! Brewer
Go Gophers!
Brewer and his 1972 U.S.A. teammates have never accepted their silver medals after the controversial loss.
Go Gophers!

The planning committee is working closely with Kenny Davis, captain of the 1972 team and Georgetown College alumnus, to coordinate the event. Currently, Davis is an account executive at Converse, the founding sponsor of the anniversary celebration.

"I look forward to reuniting with my entire 1972 team for the first time this August," said Davis. "It'll be nice to share all that Kentucky has to offer with my teammates, and in turn, share my teammates with the people of Kentucky."

On Friday, Aug. 24, the public will be invited to Georgetown College for a series of academic seminars and panel discussions focused on the historic impact of the 1972 Games and more specifically, the men's basketball gold medal game. All members of the team will be participating.

"Georgetown College has the privilege of calling Kenny Davis one of our own," said Dr. Bill Crouch, president of Georgetown College. "We're honored to host Kenny and his teammates for this reunion event."

The capstone event will occur on Saturday, Aug. 25, at the Griffin Gate Marriott after the players take in the sights and sounds of the area. They will join other notables and appear at a public banquet dinner benefiting Georgetown's Academy for Character in Sport.

"Converse is honored to be a sponsor of this extraordinary event," said David Allen, vice president and general manager for North America at Converse. "Kenny [Davis] has been with Converse since 1972, and we are proud to pay tribute to such a dedicated member of the Converse family and his teammates."

Gov. Steve Beshear was unable to attend the press conference, but sent the following statement:

With the rich history of basketball success associated with this state, Kentucky is an appropriate backdrop for an event of this magnitude. On behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth, we are proud to host and honor such a special group of men on the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Games. We look forward to welcoming this outstanding group in August and celebrating the courage they displayed in Munich.
Mayor Jim Gray agreed. "Central Kentucky is rich in educational opportunities, and we can always count on Georgetown College to expand our horizons," Gray said. "Congratulations to Dr. Crouch and his colleagues on a thought-provoking program."

For more information about the reunion event, visit www.Courage in Munich.com.

Barnstorming with Grimm: Behind the Bench

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No players like to sit on the bench during a game, but when the Golden Gophers are out the game, they do have some pretty nice chairs to sit on. In this week's episode of "Barnstorming," radio play-by-play man Mike Grimm pays a visit to the Gopher bench to show us who sits where on game night.

Better Late Than Never
After being the top-scoring defensemen (tied) in the NAHL prior to joining the Gophers last season, it took now-sophomore Jake Parenteau 26 career games to get his first collegiate point, an assist against Niagara on Dec. 30. On Friday night, Parenteau scored his first goal in his 38th game as a Gopher and it couldn't have come at a better time. The Franconia, Minn.-native scored 1:46 into overtime to lift Minnesota to a crucial 3-2 win. Parenteau now has four points (1g-3a) in 30 games this season.

Road Advantage
Minnesota has played Nebraska Omaha four times and in each game, the home team has lost. It all started on Oct. 11, 2003 when the Gophers beat UNO 7-3 in Omaha, Neb. in the Mavericks' second-ever game at the CenturyLink Center (then called the Qwest Center). That win came in the consolation game of the early-season Maverick Stampede tournament. Last season, Nebraska Omaha returned the favor by sweeping UM at Mariucci Arena in its first-ever WCHA series. That weekend marked the last time Minnesota was swept at home in the regular season. The Gophers made the road team a perfect 4-0-0 with a win on Friday.

Something's Gotta Give
Nebraska Omaha has not been swept in WCHA play this season and has not had the same result in both games of a weekend series since sweeping Alaska-Anchorage on Oct. 21-22. The Gophers are 12-3-1 in Saturday games with an 11-1-0 mark in the WCHA. Minnesota has won six Friday games in the conference and has finished the sweep each time.

Back to .500 in the Extra Session
For the fifth time in the 2011-12 season, the Gophers couldn't settle a game in 60 minutes. With Jake Parenteau's game-winning goal, Minnesota improved to 2-2-1 in overtime games. UM also beat Minnesota-Duluth, tied Michigan State, and lost to Michigan Tech and Denver in the extra session. Condon, who assisted on the OT-winner on Friday, scored the game-winning goal against UMD on Oct. 14. UNO has gone to overtime a WCHA-high 10 times and is now 2-2-6 in those games.

New D Pairings
With Ben Marshall out of the lineup for the first time in his collegiate career, the Gophers needed to mix up their defensive pairings. Justin Holl and Seth Helgeson remained together, but Mark Alt, who had skated with Marshall in all 33 of the team's games this season prior to Friday, played with Nate Schmidt. Jake Parenteau, who normally plays with Schmidt, was paired with hulking freshman Blake Thompson. The four defensemen who had new partners combined for a goal, an assist, and a +4 plus/minus rating.

Fourth to 30
By assisting on Sam Warning's first-period goal, Nate Schmidt became the fourth Gopher to hit the 30-point mark this season. Nick Bjugstad (37), Erik Haula (35), and Kyle Rau (32) each surpassed 30 prior to Friday's game. Schmidt is the first Minnesota defenseman to reach 30 points sicne Cade Fairchild did it in 2008-09 and his 28 assists are the most for a defenseman since Alex Goligoski (30) and Mike Vannelli (29) in 2006-07. Just shy of the 30-point mark are Jake Hansen (29), Zach Budish (28), and Nate Condon (26).

UPDATE: Rain Delay at Carolina Classic

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The tarp has been pulled off the field, and the grounds crew personel are tending to the field. Each team will get a full warm up, so we are looking at a 7 p.m. CST first pitch for the Gophers first game of the Carolina Classic against James Madison.

Check Facebook and Twitter for periodic updates on tonight's game against the Dukes along with the rest of the weekend's contests.

Gophers Inner Circle: Press Clippings (2/24)

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Senior Zach Sanders leads the way for top-ranked Minnesota (TheMat.com)

Twins have sights set on winning Big Ten, NCAA titles (InterMatwrestle.com)

Get to Know Oto Osenieks

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Get to know redshirt freshman Oto Osenieks. The Riga, Latvia, native talks about his home country, his redshirt year, and even Ricky Rubio in these Q&As.

Q: What are some things that you learned during your redshirt year?
A: On the basketball court, I learned a lot. I learned what Coach Smith wants from defense. I learned his system offensively, too. I worked a lot on my game individually. Off the court, I adjusted to American culture more. I learned the language the language more, and learned in classes.

Q: How did it feel the first time you came into a game this year?
A: It felt awesome to be able to step out on the court after the year that I waited. It was hard (waiting), and I was really happy to go out there with Elliott (Eliason) and Chris (Halvorsen), who also redshirted.

Q: When you are in the game, do you specifically look for three-pointers, or do you just take them when they come to you?
A: I'm always trying to spot up for an open three-pointer, but if it's not there, then I just screen somebody and move without the ball and try and make opportunities for other players.

Q: How did you develop your shot?
A: I remember when I was a little kid I used to shoot every day. I just love shooting. I used to play point guard, and I always shot threes. I love three-pointers.

Q: When was the last time you were home in Latvia?

A: Last summer, the year before, in June.

Q: How does your family follow the games?
A: When the games are on ESPN, they can see it in Latvia, too. On Big Ten Network, when the games are live, they stream them. But if the games are not live on TV, they cannot see them. They just follow the live stat updates.

Q: Do you talk to your family on the phone a lot?
A: We have an eight-hour difference, so it's hard to get on the same page time-wise. But we talk a lot on Skype on weekends.

Q: People probably get your last name wrong all the time, but how often do people spell your first name incorrectly (with two "T"s)?
A: Yeah, it actually happens. I don't know if they have the name Oto with one "T" in America. It's kind of rare. I understand the mistake.

Q: What do you like to do for fun outside of basketball?

A: I like to go to movies and play video games with teammates. But you don't get a lot of time off, usually.

Q: Have you chosen a major yet?
A: Business management. And a minor in sport management.

Q: How do you like your major so far?
A: It's good. I'm taking all my classes next semester that are required. The first years were just general requirements.

The Golden Gophers line up on the sideline of the Williams Arena court. Clad in their maroon and gold practice gear, they are ready to get started. For the next several minutes, they go through a series of warm-ups--from slow lunges to straight-legged kicks to calf stretches. The Gophers go through this sequence of dynamic and static stretches before each practice.
Go Gophers! Elliott Eliason
Go Gophers!
The Gopher strength & conditioning program has helped Eliason put on 43 pounds.
Go Gophers!

While head coach Tubby Smith and his assistants run most of the practice, Kevin Kocos is the man in charge of those first few minutes. Kocos is now in his second season as director of the men's basketball team's strength and conditioning program, and his fourth season overall with the program. He earned his Bachelor's Degree at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and before earning his Master's Degree at Minnesota, he was an intern with the Chicago Bulls strength and conditioning program.

During the season, the Gophers lift in the weight room with Kocos twice a week. Out of season, they train with him Monday through Friday, incorporating more agility, speed, and conditioning drills as well as weights. The volume and nature of the work depends on the time of the year.

"In the beginning of the season a lot of times, it's getting them prepared for the volume of work they're going to be doing on the court," Kocos said. "We do a lot of conditioning in the preseason. Then after that, I can progress them to getting stronger, more explosive, and doing the things that are going to transfer more on the court--getting them faster, playing better defense and everything."

Now that Minnesota is most of the way through its Big Ten schedule, the team's strength and conditioning needs are different from way back in the nonconference season. At this point in the season, Kocos has the Gophers lifting lighter weights, but with quicker repetitions.

"The speed in the weight room will transfer over onto the court and be very fast, and power output will be a lot higher that way," he said.

Workouts must not only be tailored to where the team is in the season, but also to where each individual player is.

"You need individualization, because all these guys come from different training backgrounds," Kocos said. "Some guys will still benefit from doing heavy weight training and getting stronger. Other guys are already strong and they need to work on their speed and explosiveness more. It depends on every individual. Some guys are so fast already, but they're not even strong enough to put on the brakes, so to say, and stop themselves and make cuts."

In his time at Minnesota, Kocos has been particularly impressed with the improvement of guard Austin Hollins. He has been in the starting lineup for nearly every game of his sophomore season, and he is averaging more than eight points per game. Kocos would attribute a portion of that success to Hollins' added body weight and increased lifting capacity in the weight room.
Go Gophers! Austin Hollins
Go Gophers!
Austin Hollins has significantly increased his lifting capacity since arriving at Minnesota.
Go Gophers!

"I believe he's put on about 25 pounds of body weight and he's put on about 75 pounds on his back squat, 50 pounds on his bench, about 50 pounds on his power clean," Kocos said. "You can see it in the way he moves on the court--how he jumps, and how he makes cuts--that it's really helped him."

To make those types of gains with each player--to successfully individualize each player's training program--Kocos collaborates with the basketball coaching staff as well as team athletic trainer Roger Schipper.

"We're always in daily communication, finding out, 'This guy might need a little more conditioning because he didn't play that many minutes the other night,'" Kocos said. "Or, 'This guy's ankle's very sore because he rolled it the other day, so we might need to modify that to do only single-leg stuff.' Or things of that nature. So injuries, conditioning--it's changing every day."

To limit those injuries as much as possible, the Gophers must do their stretches correctly. Those slow movements might not seem as exciting as lifting hundreds of pounds or increasing a vertical leap, but really, the two functions of the program--preventing injuries and building better athletes--work toward the same goal.

"Everything we do here is geared towards injury prevention," Kocos said. "The stronger I make them, the more efficient they're going to be on the court, the less likely they are to be injured. It's not all completely separate--injury prevention and performance can be one and the same. As long as they're becoming better at these movements, they're going to be safer athletes."

While safety is always important, all competitive athletic programs have aspirations beyond keeping their players healthy. To win games in one of the top basketball conferences in the country, the Gophers need to have the physical tools to stay in the game against other Division I players who have worked just as hard. Experience, basketball-specific skills, and smarts all play a role. But sometimes, it is strength and conditioning that can determine who has the edge.

"The difference maker between elite athletes and anonymous athletes is speed and explosiveness," Kocos said.

View From Nebraska Omaha

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Minnesota heads to Nebraska Omaha this weekend so we caught up with Matthew Semisch, who covers the Mavericks. You can read more of Semisch's work at radiofreeomaha.com and follow him on twitter @matthewsemisch. Semisch also covers the Mavericks for USCHO.com so be sure to check out his work there this weekend as well.

GopherSports.com: Matthew, can you give us a scouting report on Nebraska Omaha?

Matthew Semisch: Nebraska Omaha has experienced some bad results in recent weeks, including getting only one point from a possible four against Bemidji State in the Mavericks' last home series back at the start of this month, but the Mavericks have looked better lately.

UNO just ended a four-game road trip against Michigan Tech and Colorado College with a 2-1-1 record over that stretch. The Mavericks were unlucky not to pick up a point in last Friday's game at CC, where they saw a late potential game-tying goal waved off as it was decided that freshman forward Dominic Zombo had intentionally redirected the puck into the Tiger net with his right skate.

The visitors avenged the loss the following night, though, coming back from 3-1 down to win 5-3. Funnily enough, it was Zombo that scored the Mavericks' first goal of the night - and the first of his collegiate career - in the rematch.

UNO is now 14-12-6 and 11-8-5 in the WCHA, but anyone who overlooks the Mavericks after just looking at their record does so at his or her own risk. Nobody wants to be hovering around .500, but UNO is playing with a lot of confidence at the moment, and the Mavericks are in pretty good shape health-wise at this point in the season.

The power play has been UNO's biggest issue lately, just as it has throughout the season. The Mavericks have only run on a 19.2 percent clip with the man advantage - second-bottom in the league - and they would do well to bump those numbers up in these last two weeks before postseason play begins.

GS: Who is one player that Minnesota fans should pay close attention to?

MS: UNO forward Matt White - the team's consistent assist machine and the Mavericks' current leading point-scorer - seems the obvious answer, but I think freshman goaltender Ryan Massa may have a bigger impact on this weekend's series.

He hasn't always had tons of help in front of him, but he has come in as a true freshman and really performed well. Head coach Dean Blais went most of the season experimenting in games with three of his four goaltenders, but Massa has finally assumed the No. 1 role in recent weeks. Now-junior goaltender John Faulkner was Blais's go-to goalie last season, but Massa has taken over for him.

A perfect case in point took place on Saturday at CC, where Blais pulled Faulkner after the game's second period. UNO was down 3-2 after 40 minutes, but Massa came in and stopped all 15 shots he faced in the third frame while the skaters in front of him put together three goals for a total of four unanswered to run out winners on the night.

GS: What does Nebraska Omaha need to do to win this weekend?

MS: UNO is entering its four biggest games of the season over the next two weeks, with Minnesota and ninth-ranked Denver coming to CenturyLink Center. Adding to that the fact that UNO is in the middle of a three-way tie for fourth place in the league, the importance of these upcoming games surely can't be lost on anyone in the Maverick camp, and the team will need to rise to the occasions.

A positive attitude and confidence go a long way in this sport, but mental attributes on their own can't and won't see you through against the quality of opposition UNO has coming up.

UNO will need big contributions from throughout its lineup. White, junior Terry Broadhurst and freshman Jayson Megna are the Mavericks' big danger men up front, and they will need to find their way onto the scoresheets. The Maverick defense has looked better recently, too, and that will have to continue, and Massa will have to keep putting in solid performances in the UNO nets.

For me, any success UNO gets this weekend and next week against DU will come down to whether the team plays to its potential. That hasn't always been there this season, but things have looked better for the Mavericks lately. It will be interesting to see if that upswing continues.
Here are the highlights from Minnesota's 16-15 win over Iowa in the National Dual Semifinals. It was the first win over Iowa since Feb. 18, 2007 when the Gophers won 29-13. 

Below you will see the latest creation from Cole Schrupp. As always we want to thank Cole for all the hard work and dedication he puts into making this amazing highlight videos. Thanks Cole!

Observations from Wednesday's 66-61 Loss Against Michigan State

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Back and Forth
In the first half of the game, there were four ties and 16 lead changes. No team led by more than five points. In the Gophers' and Spartans' last meeting, Michigan State led by 10 at halftime. The second half tonight never saw a lead larger than nine points. Tonight's meeting was much more competitive than the 68-52 loss on Jan. 25 in East Lansing.
Go Gophers! Austin
Go Gophers!
Austin Hollins made four three-pointers on his way to 17 points.
Go Gophers!

Back on the Scoreboard
Starting guard Austin Hollins was held scoreless at Northwestern on Saturday, but came back with a 17-point performance tonight. He posted eight of those points in the first half, including both of the team's first-half threes. He was 4-of-6 from three for the game. Elliott Eliason scored four points after a scoreless game in Evanston. Previously, Joe Coleman had been in a four-game stretch without a basket. He broke that slump with 12 points at Northwestern, and had four tonight.

May I Be of Assistance?

Julian Welch has been distributing the ball well lately. He established a career high with nine assists against Ohio State, followed by five at Northwestern. Welch dished out eight assists tonight. He is now averaging 3.2 assists per game on the year.

Spartans Continue to Roll
With this win, Michigan State retained sole possession of first place in the Big Ten standings. The Spartans have won six straight games and sit at No. 6 in both polls.

Wednesday Roundup: Gophers Talk UNO, Season Winding Down

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The Gophers met with the media today and talked about traveling to Nebraska Omaha to face the Mavericks. Here are some quotes from Don Lucia, Nick Bjugstad and Zach Budish. You can also listen to their full interviews below.

Don Lucia

On playing at Nebraska Omaha

"It's a very difficult place to play--they'll have good crowds and great energy. Everyone's playing for something at this time of the year."

You can listen to Don Lucia's entire interview below.

Don Lucia talks to the media in advance of this weekend"s series at Nebraska Omaha. (mp3)

Nick Bjugstad

On how the Gophers are playing

"I think we can keep improving. We've got to put together a few good weekends here to end the season on a good note."

You can listen to Nick Bjugstad's entire interview below. 

Nick Bjugstad previews playing Nebraska Omaha this weekend. (mp3)

Zach Budish

On playing against Nebraska Omaha

"Nebraska Omaha's been a solid team all year. They're a good team and they'll be tough to play against. They play a similar style to North Dakota."

You can listen to Zach Budish's entire interview below. 

Zach Budish previews playing Nebraska Omaha. (mp3)

New Gopher Q&A - Isaac Fruechte

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Fruechte Isaac.jpg

GopherSports.com will be posting interviews with many of the newest Gophers from the 2012 signing class throughout the remainder of the winter and spring. The next profile in our series is a conversation with receiver Isaac Fruechte of Rochester Community and Technical College in Rochester, Minnesota.

Fruechte enrolled in school in January so he could participate in spring practice. Fruechte red-shirted last season at RCTC and will have three full years of eligibility as a Golden Gopher. Both Scout.com and Rivals.com rated Fruechte as a two-star prospect.

GopherSports.com: How does it feel to officially be a gopher?

Isaac Fruechte: That's kind of a tough question to answer. It feels great to be with the U of M and be a Gopher finally.

GopherSports.com: When did you know you wanted to be a Gopher?

Isaac Fruechte: Probably when I was pretty young, before I was 10 because my dad was a football coach at Caledonia and he's been very supportive of Minnesota athletics. He always taught me to be loyal to your state and to the people that work and live in Minnesota, so I always wanted to be a Gopher.

GopherSports.com: What do you think the transition will be like going from Rochester Community and Technical College to the Big Ten?

Isaac Fruechte: Hopefully smooth. So far it's been pretty smooth. The speed of the game and the game will be more difficult, more fast-paced and more physical but hopefully I can make the transition pretty quickly. I'll do my best to try and help the team win next year, whether it's on special teams or offense.

GopherSports.com: Why did you decide to enroll early?

Isaac Fruechte: Coach Kill wanted me to get ahead, get workouts done and learn the offensive playbook and things of that nature and be with the team.

GopherSports.com: What are you planning for a major?

Isaac Fruechte: I'm not sure right now. Maybe Sport Management or Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies.

GopherSports.com: You committed very early on, why was that?

Isaac Fruechte: I was being recruited by other schools but I knew in the back of my mind that if I got that call from Minnesota, that's what I wanted. As soon as I got that call I knew that this is where I wanted to be.

GopherSports.com: What are your goals for next season?

Isaac Fruechte: Next season would be to play as much as possible. Hopefully we can get to a bowl game and just win as many games as possible.

GopherSports.com: What are your goals for your college career and where do you want to be when it's all said and done?

Isaac Fruechte: I don't know a person that plays football who does not want to be a professional football player, so to say that I wouldn't want to be a pro would be a lie. Otherwise, hopefully win a Big Ten Championship and really just help the program and make an impact in the community. Also, I want to help return the passion for Minnesota football that has sort of been lost in recent years.

GopherSports.com: Is there a particular athlete that you try to model yourself after?

Isaac Fruechte: My favorite wide receiver would probably be Jordy Nelson or Tim Dwight. I just try to watch those guys -- or Larry Fitzgerald -- and try to mimic what they do because they're professional athletes, which means they're the best in the world.

GopherSports.com: How do you feel about the new uniforms?

Isaac Fruechte: The new uniforms are amazing. I think they're crazy awesome. I don't really know that much about them, but I like them a lot.

GopherSports.com: What is your favorite TV show?

Isaac Fruechte: Probably Seinfeld.

GopherSports.com: Who is your favorite musician?

Isaac Fruechte: I'm not a big music guy, but I like 70's and 80's music and country music.

-Interview by Mitch Praxl, Athletic Communications Student Assistant

Alumni Corner: Judd Stevens

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Go Gophers! Judd Stevens
Go Gophers!
Judd Stevens won two national titles at Minnesota and played in three Frozen Fours.
Go Gophers!
In his first two seasons at the University of Minnesota, former Gopher defenseman Judd Stevens and his teammates won two NCAA championships. Stevens went on to register 11 goals and 34 assists in 172 career games at Minnesota and captained the team to its third Frozen Four appearance in four years as a senior in 2004-05. The Wayzata, Minn. native recently caught up with us to talk about his time at the U and what he's doing now:

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

Judd Stevens: My time at Minnesota was so special and times that I won't ever forget. There is nothing like the feeling of running out from the tunnel with the rouser playing in front of a packed Mariucci Arena on game day. I get the chills just thinking about it. It was so special to play in front of and for the state of Minnesota and all the rich hockey tradition that we have. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to wear the "M" and be a part of the Gopher Hockey family.

There are so many awesome memories from playing at Mariucci Arena that it's hard to pick just one favorite. One of my favorites is the 2005 West Regional at Mariucci. We beat Maine and Cornell on consecutive nights in overtime to advance to the Frozen Four.  The building was electric and it was a pressure-packed, fun two games.

GS: Where was your favorite place to eat on campus at the University of Minnesota? What did you do in your spare time?

JS: My favorite place on campus to eat is either Campus Pizza or Manning's. Both have awesome food and a great atmosphere.

In our spare time we were normal college kids. We played video games, played poker, did homework and just hung out. I am still best friends with all of my roommates (and teammates) as you develop a special bond during your four years of living on campus.

GS: As a Minnesota-native, did winning the national championship in your hometown make the memorable moments from that experience more special?

JS: Having the Frozen Four at the Xcel and playing in front of our fans was simply amazing. The feel in the building that night is one that I'll never forget. It had been so long since Minnesota had won a national championship that it just felt like it was our time. It was great that so many people got to witness the game and be a part of the awesome experience. Not to take anything away from the 2003 national championship in Buffalo, but the one in St. Paul was an experience like no other.

GS: Before your teams' back-to-back championships, there hadn't been a repeat NCAA champion in more than 30 years. Going into the 2002-03 season, did you think you would win another national title? How did it feel once you accomplished it?

JS: Coming off the 2002 national championship, we lost a lot of very good players and leaders so it took us a while to come together as a team. Early in the year we took our lumps and went through some tough stretches. Once the second half of the year began we came together and started to play like a team. Once playoffs began, we were playing so well that it almost took some of the butterflies or nerves away because we knew if we played the way we were capable of playing no one could beat us. It was an awesome feeling to win back-to-back national championships and put Minnesota back in its place as the premier college hockey program in the country.

GS: What made the 2001-02 and 2002-03 championship teams different from each other? Was your role different as a sophomore than it was as a freshman?

JS: The first national championship felt like destiny. We knew we were a good team, but there were a lot of other very good teams so it took some luck and hometown magic to help us. The second national championship season was different because by January we knew we were the best team in the country and couldn't be stopped. That's not to say it was easy, but it just felt like a freight train that no team could get in the way of.

For both years, I was asked to be a reliable defenseman that could play strong in our own end and not make any big mistakes. We had so many great playmakers that us role players knew if we did our job we would win most nights.

GS: How did it feel to be named team captain in your senior year and help lead the team to its third Frozen Four appearance in your college career?

JS: I was honored to wear the "C" at Minnesota and humbled by the list of captains that were before me. We had a young team my senior year and to ultimately make it to the Frozen Four for a third time in four years was something that we were all very proud of.  The regional tournament was at Mariucci that year and was one of the more fun weekends of hockey I have been apart of. We ultimately didn't win a national championship, but were proud to make it back to the Frozen Four with such a young team.

GS: Who was the best player you ever played with?

JS: Tie between Paul Martin and Thomas Vanek. I am biased toward Paul because I spent a good amount of time with him as my defensive partner and I saw every day how gifted he was. He is an incredibly intelligent hockey player with instincts that cannot be taught.  Thomas is a pure goal scorer. He would do things in practices and games that the rest of us dreamt of being able to do. Ultimately, I was very fortunate to be able to play with both of them and so many other great players.

GS: What have you been up to since your college career ended?

JS: I spent some time playing professionally over in Sweden, but ultimately decided to put my finance degree to work. I am currently an associate with TripleTree Investment Bank where I have been for just over four years. I coach in the High School Elite League and find other ways to stay involved in hockey.

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?

JS: I follow the program very closely and am excited about how well they're playing this year. I am still very close to my teammates from my four years. That's part of what's so special about Minnesota--most guys live around the area and we all get to see each other quite a bit. I have also stayed close with the coaches. Being a coach in the High School Elite League, I now have a chance to talk to them about some of the players that I coach who may be future Gophers. 

GS: How was it returning to Mariucci to celebrate the 10th anniversary of your team's 2002 national championship?

JS: It was very fun to return to Mariucci and see all the boys again. The University did an excellent job bringing us back and putting on the ceremony. It was fun to see the fans and hear them talk about how well they remember our times at the U. Many of us players joked that it felt good to sign our names as autographs rather than signing our names to pay cable or cell phone bills like we've been so accustomed to doing! Overall, the University did a very nice job of bringing us back and it was great to see everyone and celebrate with the best fans in college hockey.

GS: You opened the 2003-04 season by playing in the Maverick Stampede in Omaha, Neb. Your game that weekend was against this week's Gopher opponent, Nebraska Omaha, marked the only time Minnesota has ever played the Mavericks on the road and the only time the Gophers have beaten UNO. Do you remember that game?

JS: I do remember that game fairly well because I scored two goals. I was not much of a goal scorer and that was the only multi-goal of my college career. I remember it was an ugly game that we ended up winning 7-3. The UNO program has come a long way since then. This weekend will be a fun one for the Gophers.

Patterson, Rau Honored By WCHA

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Go Gophers! Kent Patterson
Go Gophers!
Kent Patterson recorded his seventh shutout of the season this past weekend.
Go Gophers!
Goaltender Kent Patterson was named the Red Baron WCHA Defensive Player of the Week for Feb. 21, while Kyle Rau was named the Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the Week.

Patterson stopped 34 of 35 shots in two wins against Bemidji State last weekend and did not allow an even-strength goal as he picked up his 20th and nation-leading 21st win of the season. On Friday, Patterson made only 13 saves, but several of them were of the spectacular variety.  The shutout was Patterson's seventh of the season, as he extended his school record for shutouts in one season.

Patterson, who dating back to last season has played the last 3252:27 in net for the Gophers, is the first Minnesota goalie to record more than 20 wins in one season since Kellen Briggs went 21-6-2 in 2005-06. Patterson has started and finished the last 54 games for Minnesota.

This is the third time that Patterson has been name the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week. He was the Co-Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 11 and Nov. 1. He was also the National Player of the Month for October.
Go Gophers! Kyle Rau
Go Gophers!
Kyle Rau had three assists last weekend against Bemidji State.
Go Gophers!

Rau helped Minnesota sweep the Beavers, as he assisted on three of Minnesota's seven goals last weekend. On Friday, he assisted on Zach Budish's game-winning goal. He also picked up power-play assists on Friday and on Saturday. Rau took five shots on the weekend and was a combined +2 as Minnesota secured home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

Rau, who has 31 points (14g-17a) this year, is the first freshman to hit 30 points since Jordan Schroeder had 45 points (13g-32a) in the 2008-09 season.

This is the second time that Rau, who is on a five-game point streak, has been named WCHA Rookie of the Week, as he also received the honor on Oct. 18. He was also the National Rookie of the Month for October.

In addition, Nick Bjugstad (Nov. 22) and Mark Alt (Dec. 13) were previously honored earlier this year as the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week.

WCHA First Round Playoff Tickets On Sale Thursday

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The University of Minnesota men's hockey team clinched home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs after sweeping Bemidji State this past weekend.

The Gophers will host the first round of WCHA playoffs from March 9-11. Minnesota will host a soon-to-be-determined opponent on March 9 and 10 in the best-of-three series. If a Game 3 is needed, it will be held on March 11. Every game will begin at 7 p.m. at Mariucci Arena.

Fans can purchase tickets to the first round of the WCHA playoffs starting at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23. Fans can purchase tickets online at MyGopherSports.com, by calling 612-624-8080 or in person at the Mariucci Arena box office. Tickets are $21 for reserved seating and $18 for standing room only.

The Gophers lead the WCHA by two points with four regular-season games remaining. Minnesota heads to Nebraska Omaha this weekend, before ending the regular season with a home series against Wisconsin.

GWH Blog: WCHA Tournament Pairings Set

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With the conclusion of the WCHA regular season last weekend, the first round of the women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association Playoffs, a best-of-three series format, get underway next Friday (Feb. 24) at No. 1 tournament seed Wisconsin, No. 2 seed Minnesota, No. 3 seed North Dakota and No. 4 seed Minnesota Duluth. Game two of each series will be played on Saturday (Feb. 25) while any game threes, if necessary, will be contested on Sunday (Feb. 26).

The games at Ridder Arena will be played at 7:07 p.m. on Friday (Feb. 24), 4:07 p.m. on Saturday (Feb. 25), and if a third game is needed, it will be played at 4:07 p.m. on Sunday (Feb. 26). Tickets are available here.

WCHA regular season champion Wisconsin (29-3-2) will host No. 8 seed Minnesota State (7-26-1) at Eagle's Nest in Verona, Wis. Regular season runner-up Minnesota (27-5-2) will entertain No. 7 St. Cloud State (5-27-2) at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, North Dakota (20-10-3) will host No. 6 Bemidji State (17-15-3) at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, and Minnesota Duluth (18-13-1) will go up against No. 5 Ohio State (16-14-4) at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth.

Following next week's four first-round playoff series, the four winners will advance to the 2012 WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF championship, set for March 2-3 at AMSOIL Arena.

The full press release from the WCHA is available here

Click here for WCHA Standings.

Weekend Recap: Bemidji State

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Minnesota swept Bemidji State this past weekend to improve to 21-11-1 overall and 17-7-0 in the WCHA. Here are all the highlights and videos you need to see from this past weekend.

Feb. 17, 2012

Complete Coverage: Minnesota 3, Bemidji State 0

Zach Budish scored 60 seconds into the game and Minnesota never looked back as the Gophers beat Bemidji State 3-0. Budish would add second-period goal as well to record his second two-goal game as a Gopher and his first since Nov. 7, 2009, at Wisconsin. Nick Bjugstad scored his team-leading 22nd goal and seventh power-play goal in the second period. Kent Patterson made 13 saves in the shutout, as he increased his program record for shutouts in a season to seven. Patterson also won his 20th game of the year to become the first Minnesota goaltender with 20 wins in a season since Kellen Briggs went 21-6-3 in 2005-06.

Feb. 18, 2012

Complete Coverage: Minnesota 4, Bemidji State 1

Like Friday, the Gophers scored early when Erik Haula beat Dan Bakala 77 seconds into the game to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. Bemidji State then scored a power-play goal--its only goal of the weekend--to tie the game 1-1 after 20 minutes. Jake Hansen tipped in a Justin Holl shot from the point for the game-winning goal before Haula added his second of the night. Seth Ambroz capped the scoring for the Gophers with an empty-net tally. Kent Patterson made 21 saves in his nation-leading 21st win of the season.

On Saturday, the University of Minnesota also honored the 2002 NCAA national championship team. The championship team members and staff were recognized with an on-ice presentation during the first intermission. Members of the 2002 team who were present were: Nick Anthony, Adam Hauser, Justin Johnson, Matt Koalska, Pat O'Leary, John Pohl, Grant Potulny, Jerrid Reinholz, Chad Roberg, Judd Stevens, Jon Waibel, Erik Wendell and Dan Welch. Eight members from the championship team--Nick Angell, Keith Ballard, Matt DeMarchi, Jordan Leopold, Paul Martin, Troy Riddle, Jeff Taffe and Barry Tallackson--are still playing professionally and were not able to make it back to campus.


Get to Know Katie Loberg

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GopherSports.com recently sat down with junior forward Katie Loberg to learn a little bit more about why she came to the U, what she would like to do after graduation and how she got involved in horseback riding.

Why did you choose to come to Minnesota?
"I chose to come to Minnesota because, well it's kind of a long story, but I basically promised my grandpa that I would come here. We've always been Gopher fans and before he passed away I promised him I'd come here."

Tell us about your grandmother...
"My grandma comes to all of the games, including road trips. She really likes to travel with my mom and dad to come see me play."

What would you like to do after graduation?
"When I graduate, I'm not really sure exactly what I want to do, but I really like sports and I like news, so, you know, anything in front of the camera would be really interesting to explore. Sideline reporter for the NBA?...for the WNBA?...possibly."

How did you get involved with horseback riding?
"I got into horseback riding, because ever since I was a little girl I have always loved horses and I was lucky enough to be able to move to a farm with my family and they bought me my first pony when I was about four or five."

What is your nickname?
"My nickname is Loberg or Lo. I'm the only one on the team that gets called by my last name. It's kind of interesting."

Blog: The Barnyard Travels to Evanston

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Normally, I work as a communications student assistant at Golden Gopher home games. But for the second year in a row, I traveled with almost 100 other students on a Barnyard Road Trip for a Gopher away game. This year's destination was Evanston, Ill., for the Gophers' Feb. 18 tilt against Northwestern. The annual excursion was sponsored by the Golden Dunkers and the College Licensing Company. The Barnyard Board and Gopher marketing department planned the trip.

Photo Gallery

On Saturday morning, we could check in at the Williams Arena lobby starting at 6:00. Our game tickets, trip t-shirts, and itinerary sheets were ready for us when we arrived. Our two buses' departure from the Barn -- which was scheduled for 7 a.m. -- was delayed by about 20 minutes while we waited for one straggler who had accidentally overslept.  To her credit, she was really hustling carrying all her gear.
Go Gophers! bus
Go Gophers!
The bus leaves the Barn on Saturday morning.
Go Gophers!

The bus ride was pretty quiet at first while some people tried to go back to sleep. Around 11:15, we got off of I-94 for a bit to grab lunch at a mall in Madison. It was fun walking around Badger country with all our Gopher gear on. We watched "Happy Gilmore" for the next stretch of the bus ride. I used the bus's wireless Internet to check on early college basketball games as well as the Gopher baseball team's tournament.

When we finally got off the freeway, we drove through some business and residential areas to get to our hotel in Evanston. We discovered that no one's keycards worked, so the nice people at the front desk reprogrammed them for us. Then my roommates and I watched -- what else -- more basketball before leaving for our own game.

On the way to Welsh-Ryan Arena, people on my bus started an impromptu rendition of the "Rouser" and then "Gametime" by Mac Irv (former Gopher player Lawrence McKenzie), the song played before Gopher home games. We arrived at the home of the Wildcats about an hour before the 6:00 game. It was cool to see the football stadium -- Ryan Field -- before going into the gym.

This was my first time in Welsh-Ryan. It is a pretty small arena. To get to our upper-level seats, we almost had to go outside -- the stairway was kind of separate from the concourse and we had to go through a door to get to it. We found our spots in the wooden bleachers and got ready to cheer on our Gophers.
Go Gophers! Barnyard
Go Gophers!
The Barnyard waits for the action to start.
Go Gophers!

When the team came back out on the court for more warm-ups, we cheered and sang the "Rouser." The team definitely noticed us--I could see Andre Hollins smiling his signature smile at us. Northwestern's student section -- the Wildside -- looked up at us, too. The Wildside's seats are located behind both baskets. We were in the upper corner by the Gophers' bench.

We stayed loud and stood throughout the game. We tried to pump up the Gophers' defense and encourage the offense. (We also like to believe that our noise was the reason behind any missed Wildcat free throws.) Some sweet dunks and Julian Welch's five three-pointers got us extra loud.

Unfortunately, it was a rough game for the Gophers. Our yelling could only do so much to disrupt the Wildcats' offense, and Northwestern ended up with a win. But even when it got to the point where we knew the loss was coming, our group -- though
outnumbered--was as good as or better than the Wildside. After the buzzer sounded, we stayed in our seats for one more "Rouser" and even an off-key singing of our alma mater. Despite the loss, "to thy colors true we shall ever be." 

Following the game, most of us found something to eat, and many decided to explore Evanston. I was really tired from waking up at 5 a.m., so I decided to stay in after dinner, watch the end of the Michigan-Ohio State game, and go to bed.

The next morning as I was walking down the street to church, I heard some people who were out walking their dog having a conversation about the Wildcats-Gophers game. After I got back and we loaded our stuff on the bus, my co-worker/trip roommate (Kelly Kleine) and I took a walk of our own around our hotel's neighborhood. Evanston is a cool area, and it was nice to move around a bit before the ride home.

We again stopped in Madison for lunch, at the same mall. Kelly and I could not resist going to Culver's. A post-lunch viewing of "Dodgeball" made the trip seem to speed up for a while, but when the movie ended, most of us were anxious to be home. It was a fun trip -- well worth the $35 and 14 or so hours on a bus -- but it was nice to get back to the good old Barn.

Thanks again to our sponsors, planners, bus drivers, and everyone else who made the trip possible. Hats off to thee.

--Justine Buerkle, Athletic Communications Student Assistant

Observations from Minnesota's 4-1 Win Over Bemidji State

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A Night to Remember
In the second-highest attended game of the season at Mariucci Arena, the Gophers were able to complete a night full of celebrations with their 21st victory of the season. Prior to the game, the team honored 29-year administrative assistant Patti Bjorklund at the first intermission, the 10,202 fans in attendance celebrated the 10th anniversary of the program's fourth national championship.

The win moved the Gophers three points ahead of second-place Minnesota-Duluth and four points ahead of third-place Denver. UMD tied Minnesota State 4-4 and the Pioneers lost 5-2 to Wisconsin. Minnesota is seeking its first MacNaughton Cup since 2006-07.
Home Ice
With Saturday's win, Minnesota clinched a top-six spot in the WCHA standings and home ice for the first round of the playoffs from March 9-11. It is the second year in a row the Gophers will start the postseason at Mariucci Arena after traveling to North Dakota for the first round two years ago. Alaska-Anchorage became the first team to knock UM out on its own ice last year with a two-game sweep. Minnesota placed fourth in 2010-11 and has a 14-5-0 home ledger this year.

State of Gophers
Minnesota has fared well against teams within the State of Hockey this season. The Gophers finished 9-1-0 against other teams from Minnesota, including a 6-0-0 mark at home. UM now has a 10-1-1 all-time record against Bemidji State and is 7-1-0 at home against the Beavers. All but two of those wins have come by more than one goal.

Battle Hymn of the Republic
The Gophers' win on Saturday sealed their seventh sweep of the season and fifth at home. Six of their seven sweeps have come in WCHA play. Minnesota has won six Friday games in conference action and has completed the sweep each time. The Gophers are 12-3-1 on Saturdays and are 11-1-0 in the second game of the series against WCHA opponents.

Quarter-Century Mark
With an assist on the Gophers last goal of the game, Nate Condon became the seventh Gopher to reach 25 points on the season. Last night Kyle Rau (31 points) notched two assists to make him the third player on the team with 30 points and tonight, Jake Hansen and Nate Schmidt inched within a point of that landmark with two points and one point, respectively. Nick Bjugstad (36 points), Erik Haula (35 points), and Zach Budish (27 points) all surpassed 25 prior to Saturday. Of those three, Haula was to only one to get on the scoresheet in the series finale against BSU. He picked up two goals and an assist.

Tribute Video: '02 National Champs

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Tonight, the current Gopher men's hockey team pays tribute to one of the greatest teams in Minnesota history -- the 2001-02 NCAA champions. Several members of that team will be in attendance (click here for more details on the pre-game ceremony and other festivities, including an autograph signing) and fans in attendance will receive a commemorative poster.

GopherSports.com has spent the past week collecting memories from members of that unforgettable team, including current coaches Don Lucia, Mike Guentzel and Grant Potulny, as well as former standout Johnny Pohl. We hope you've enjoyed this look back -- be sure to watch the official in-arena tribute video above!

John Pohl: 2002 National Championship Memories

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Go Gophers! John Pohl
Go Gophers!
John Pohl helped lead Minnesota to the 2002 NCAA National Championship.
Go Gophers!
Minnesota Honors The 2002 National Championship Team Tonight

John Pohl is one of nine Gophers to score more than 200 points in his time at Minnesota. His illustrious career ended with a dramatic 4-3 overtime win against Maine in the national championship game. We talked with the Red Wing, Minn., native about that unforgettable game and weekend.

GopherSports: The Frozen Four was obviously in St. Paul in 2002. Was that something you guys were keenly aware of from the beginning of the season and did you make it a goal to get there and to play in front of your fans?

John Pohl: It was not like, "Oh, we have to play in St. Paul." Over the four years we were there we kind of got better every year and that was the next step. The year before we made the NCAA tournament for the first time and then the next step was to go to the Frozen Four. That was definitely the goal all year, but we never talked about having to get to St. Paul. We just wanted to win the national championship.

GS: Can you talk about your season in general? You did not win the WCHA regular season and did not win the Final Five, but won the national championship.

JP: That just shows you how strong the WCHA is. We finished third and I think at the end of the season we were ranked third in the country. I remember starting out really hot. I think we were 6-0-0 and then did not lose until late November. We had a rough patch like everyone does in the middle of the year. We were relatively injury free all year and began to play our best hockey at the end of the year, which is what you have to do.

GS: What do you remember about the semifinal game against Michigan?

JP: I do not even remember much of it. I know we won 3-2. We were kind of in control the whole game and they made it closer than it should have been at the end. Honestly, it is all a blur. That whole weekend is pretty much a blur.

GS: Is the championship game a blur too or do you remember that?

JP: I remember we called timeout with around 50 seconds left. I know we were up by one goal and everyone knew what was at stake and then they scored two on us in the third. I have only watched the game once, so I do not remember much of it. I do remember during the player introductions that you could not even hear the introductions because the fans were yelling so loud. The starters just kind of guessed when they were announced and went out one after another. Then they got the Hobey Baker chant going and it was just insane. It was a pretty awesome game.

GS: Is that the loudest game you have ever been a part of?

JP: Yeah, for sure. I have been in some other ones that have gotten loud. But if you are playing in an NHL game and it is not a playoff game then there is nothing really on the line. But to have everything on the line, basically at home and with a 23-year title drought and to win it the way we did was amazing. You could not write a better script or make it up as a story.

GS: So what happened during that timeout with less than a minute left? Take us through that.

JP: If I remember right, Bob Motzko tried to draw something up. He had something drawn up, but I did not even really win the draw. If I remember right, the puck kind of sat behind their forward and then their defenseman kind of chipped it to the middle. I saw it go to Matty (Matt Koalska) and I remember thinking I can get a rebound here so I went to the net. But he just put it right in.

GS: That had to be an emotional swing after Koalska scored...

JP: I am a positive person, but I remember the timeout with 50 seconds left thinking, "I cannot believe we came all this way and did not do it. This is the ultimate letdown." I think everyone on our team thought we would win the game. Keith Ballard brought us all together and we did our chant and then we go out and score the goal. It is so funny how quickly things can turn because I honestly thought we were going to win in regulation. I thought we were going to score again. In a matter of three minutes I went from thinking, "Our season is over and we blew this opportunity to thinking we are going to win in regulation."

GS: Then Grant Potulny scores the game-winning goal in overtime. You were right there too and would have put it in if Grant did not.

JP: Yeah, maybe. That would have been nice because then I could get free drinks the rest of my life. It was a good goal. It was simple. We just threw it on net. Grant did a great job all year with that. And if the puck would have bounced the other way Jeff Taffe was right there and he had 30 goals that year. We did a good job and had the right people on the ice.

GS: You did score in the championship game. Take us through your goal.

JP: I remember the goal. I remember coming down and being kind of tired. Honestly, I just threw it on the net and I remember looking down and seeing the pads and hoping that the shot did not get blocked. To be honest, there could have been six goalies in the net and I would not have known. I did not even look at the net. I just tried to throw it on net and thought he would catch it and we could get a whistle. But it went in and was pretty lucky.

GS: Some people say that Maine players had taped rings on their fingers before the game to signify a championship ring. Where you guys aware of that?

JP: I think they did and after they scored the guy quieted the crowd. They ended our season the year before. They were not necessarily a rival, but they gave us plenty of motivation.

GS: It had to be an unbelievable feeling winning a national championship in your home state and just a few miles from campus. It still has to be a great feeling.

JP: Obviously, they won it again the next year, but now it has been 10 years. It is not like these things happen all the time. Unfortunately, they do not occur enough. Obviously, I am biased, but it is probably the greatest game in Gopher history. To be part of that, winning a championship at home and to do it in dramatic fashion ... it is cool to be part of that. I remember talking to Erik Wendell during the week of the Frozen Four. We were at Xcel and I asked him, "Have you ever really won a championship?" He said his baseball team made it to the state tournament once. I said, "Yeah, this would be bigger." There were a handful of us that had won state championships in high school, but that was nothing--nothing--compared to the magnitude of the Frozen Four and the way we won.

GS: You tossed your gear into the stands after Minnesota won the title.

JP: I threw off my helmet and my gloves too. I don't even know if they made the stands, I just threw them.

GS: Has anybody ever approached you and said they have your helmet or gloves?

JP: No idea where they ended up. If somebody has them then they can keep them. We have all the memories we need. 

Minnesota Notes For Feb. 18 Against Bemidji State

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Go Gophers! Jake Parenteau and Kent Patterson
Go Gophers!
Jake Parenteau congratulates Kent Patterson on his seventh shutout of the season.
Go Gophers!
Minnesota To Honor 2002 National Championship Team Tonight

About Last Night
Minnesota snapped a two-game skid with a 3-0 home win against Bemidji State. Zach Budish scored two first-period goals and Nick Bjugstad added a power-play strike in the second frame. Kent Patterson made 13 saves to earn his seventh shutout of the season.

20 Wins
Minnesota won its 20th game of the season last night. This year is the first time that the Gophers have won 20 games since the 2006-07 season (finished that year with 31 wins). Minnesota won 16 games in 2010-11, 18 games in 2009-10, 17 games in 2008-09 and 19 games during the 2007-08 season.

Adding To The Record
With 13 saves last night, Kent Patterson recorded his seventh shutout of the season, adding to the single-season school record he set with a 5-0 win against St. Cloud State on Nov. 19 for his sixth of the year. Patterson passed Shane Madolora of RIT for the national lead in shutouts, as well. The senior netminder also improved to 20-11-1, making him the first Gopher goalie to reach 20 wins in a season since Kellen Briggs went 21-6-3 in 2005-06. Patterson, who dating back to last season has played the last 3192:31 in net for the Gophers, has made 20, 20, 17, 22, 24, 30 and 13 saves in his seven shutouts this year.

Minnesota Nice
With its win last night, the Gophers are now 8-1-0 against other schools from Minnesota this season. They are now 1-0-0 against Bemidji State, 3-1-0 against St. Cloud State and 2-0-0 against Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State.

Youth Movement
Minnesota's three goals and six assists last night were all recorded by a player who has freshman or sophomore eligibility (redshirt sophomore Zach Budish had two goals). The Gophers have 312 points this year (117g-195a) and the freshmen (66 points) and sophomore (181 points) classes have combined to score 247 points (79.2 percent) of those points. They have also scored 91 goals (77.7 percent) dished out 156 assists (80.0 percent).

Stingy D
Minnesota held Bemidji State without a shot on goal for the first 11:35 of Friday's game. After conceding just two shots on goal in the first period, the Gophers allowed just three shots in two combined periods of play a home dating back to a 2-1 win over St. Cloud on Jan. 27. At Mariucci Arena, Minnesota allowed one shot over a 33:27 time span that included the final 21:52 of the game against SCSU and the opening 11:35 of Friday's game against the Beavers. The Gophers also allowed 20 shots or less for the tenth time this season after allowing more than 20 in every game in 2010-11.

Three With 30
Freshman Kyle Rau had two assists last night and now has 30 points on the season. He is the third Gopher to hit the 30-point mark, joining Nick Bjugstad (36) and Erik Haula (32). The last time Minnesota had three 30-point scorers was the 2008-09 season when Ryan Stoa (46), Jordan Schroeder (45), Jay Barriball (33) and Cade Fairchild (33) all eclipsed the mark. Rau is the first freshman to hit 30 points since Schroeder had 45 points (13g-32a) in the 2008-09 season.

Observations from Minnesota's 3-0 Win Over Bemidji State

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Against the Beavers
By beating Bemidji State, Minnesota improved to 9-1-1 all-time against the Beavers, including a 7-0-0 mark as a team ranked in the top ten and 7-1-0 ledger at Mariucci Arena. Friday marked the Gophers' first all-time shutout of BSU. The win also help UM maintain its' slim lead in the WCHA standings over rivals Minnesota-Duluth (one point back) and Denver (two points back). The Gophers are also now 9-7-0 on Fridays and have won consecutive Friday home games for the first time since Dec. 2. That night, Minnesota beat Minnesota State 4-2 after beating North Dakota on Nov. 4.

Adding to the Record
With 13 saves on Friday, Kent Patterson recorded his seventh shutout of the season, adding to the single-season school record he set with a blanking of St. Cloud on Nov. 19 for his sixth of the year. Patterson passed Shane Madolora of RIT for the national lead in shutouts, as well. The senior netminder also improved to 20-11-1, making him the first Gopher goalie to reach 20 wins in a season since Kellen Briggs went 21-6-3 in 2005-06.

Penalty Kill Takes a Rest; Breaking Through the Beavers
For the first time all season, the Gophers went a full game without taking a penalty. Minnesota took only one penalty against Michigan State on Nov. 26, but has afforded its' opponent at least three man advantages in every other game in 2011-12. UM scored on one of four power-play opportunities against Bemidji State's WCHA-leading penalty kill. Nick Bjugstad's five-on-four tally was just the 15th power-play goal the Beavers' allowed in 23 conference contests.

Six in Double Digits
By scoring twice in the first period on Friday,  Zach Budish became the sixth Gopher to reach the 10-goal mark in 2011-12. Through 32 games, Nick Bjugstad (22), Kyle Rau (14) Erik Haula (12), Nate Condon (10), and Jake Hansen (10) also each have 10 or more. Going back to last Friday's game at Denver Budish recorded four goals in a six-period span.

Stingy D
Minnesota held Bemidji State without a shot on goal for the first 11:35 of Friday's game. After conceding just two shots on goal in the first period, the Gophers allowed just three shots in two combined periods of play a home dating back to a 2-1 win over St. Cloud on Jan. 27. At Mariucci Arena, Minnesota allowed one shot over a 33:27 time span that included the final 21:52 of the game against SCSU and the opening 11:35 of Friday's game against the Beavers. The Gophers also allowed 20 shots or less for the tenth time this season after allowing more than 20 in every game in 2010-11.

Barnstorming with Grimm: From Locker Room to Court

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This week, watch Mike Grimm as he follows the route that the Golden Gophers take each game. Walk in the team's shoes--past the pictures of Gopher basketball history, and up the stairs to the raised floor. After the tour, Grimm talks about the Gophers' upcoming game against Northwestern.

GWH Blog: Finalists for 2012 Ms. Hockey Award Announced

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The five finalists for the 17th annual Ms. Hockey Award are Hannah Brandt of Hill-Murray, Hanna Brodt of Roseville, Jonna Curtis of Elk River/Zimmerman, Milica McMillen of Breck and Lee Stecklein of Roseville.

Together, the finalists would be a formidable starting lineup with Brandt, Brodt and Curtis at forward and McMillen and Stecklein on the blue line. Four of the five finalists have committed to a WCHA school next season, including three future Golden Gophers (Brandt, McMillen and Stecklein).

The Ms. Hockey Award is presented to the top senior girls' high school hockey player in Minnesota. The winner will be announced at the Ms. Hockey Awards Banquet on Sunday, Feb. 26, at 11:30 a.m., at the RiverCentre in St. Paul.

To read the full article from Let's Play Hockey, including bios on all five of the finalists, please click here.

Get to Know Ralph Sampson III

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Through 18 games this season, Ralph Sampson III's career scoring total stands at 980 points. With 20 more points, he would become just the fifth Golden Gopher ever to amass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 150 blocks. He currently has 605 rebounds and 193 blocks.

The  Gophers' senior day is coming up in a few weeks. In the meantime, get to know more about Sampson--one of only two Minnesota seniors--with these Q&As. 

Q: Could you talk a little about your role as the veteran on the team?
A: My role as a veteran would be to give my experiences and my words of wisdom to the team and try to guide the team as best as I can, to try to get them ready for the upcoming games and upcoming battles that we're going to face in the Big Ten season.

Q: What were some of the major things you took away from your summer workouts with Michael Jordan's trainer?
A: Some of the major takeaways that I got from it are that I can always push myself harder--that's definitely one thing I learned--and just how to take care of myself, take care of my body. And when things aren't going a certain way or going the way I want them to go, how to figure out ways to change them or how to adapt to those situations that come up.

Q: Elliott Eliason filled in for you in the starting lineup for a few games while you were injured. How would you assess his performance?
A: He redshirted last year, so it was his first time out there kind of going through the ropes. I think he handled it fairly well. The whole team had to step in and take on that role once I went down. When Trevor went down and when we both were out, I felt that the team came together a lot. We're still able to pull out wins. From that, I kind of found out what kind of heart our team had and what kind of fight we had in us, which is definitely beneficial now.

Q: Coach Smith and your teammates have said you are a good communicator on the court. Is that a skill you have always had, or have you had to work to develop it?
A: I think I developed it my freshman year coming in here. Back in high school, I didn't really understand the meaning of talking on the court and how to communicate. It really was not until I got here around the seniors and upperclassmen who taught me how to communicate and how to talk on the court. Now I do it all the time and try to get my teammates to do it. Coach is always harping on communication and talking on the court, and how we'll be a better team.

Q: You--one of the tallest guys on the team--won the three-point contest at All-Star Friday Night. Talk a little about your outside shooting ability.
A: Outside shooting is one of the main things I tried to work on over the summertime--trying to extend the range on my jump shot and just being more comfortable taking it. Everybody saw that when I came back here and won the three-point contest. I really don't think anybody was expecting me to win. I think it was a shocker to see me out there taking it all.

Q: What would it mean to you to reach 1,000 career points?
A: It would mean a lot, just to join the greats here at Minnesota. To be in the 1,000-point club would be a wonderful honor. I'm close. I'll just keep grinding it out and just take it one step at a time.

Q: What do you like better: a sweet dunk, or a sweet hook shot?
A: Nothing really beats the feel of a sweet hook shot, but in terms of getting the crowd into it, getting your team into it, a dunk is better.

Q: What are some of your favorite classes you have taken at Minnesota?
A: My favorite class that I took was an art class called Time and Interactivity, where you got to create sound bites and got to alter video clips and do video editing. We got to put our own thoughts and our own creativity into each project. ...I got to explore different things and hobbies that I liked.

Q: You are from Duluth, Ga. Have you ever been to Duluth, Minn.?

A: No. I haven't been there yet. I actually didn't know there was a Duluth, Minn., until I got here. People were telling me about, and I thought they were talking about Duluth back at home, but really they were talking about Duluth, Minn. It was a little confusing at times.

Minnesota To Honor 2002 National Champions

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Go Gophers! 2002 National Champions
Go Gophers!
John Pohl (left) and Jordan Leopold led Minnesota to the 2002 NCAA title.
Go Gophers!
Coaches Recall Title: Lucia l Guentzel l Potulny

Q&A With John Pohl | Official In-Arena Tribute Video

The University of Minnesota will honor the 2002 NCAA men's hockey championship team this Saturday during Minnesota's 7 p.m. game against Bemidji State.

The 2002 team won Minnesota's fourth national championship and ended a 23-year title drought with a dramatic and unforgettable 4-3 overtime win against Maine at Xcel Energy Center.

Members of the championship team and staff will gather for dinner before Saturday's game and then the former players will sign autographs for fans on the Mariucci Arena concourse from 6-6:45 p.m. Commemorative posters will be available at the autograph signing and a limited number of posters will also be distributed to fans as they leave the game.  

Members of the 2002 team who will be at Mariucci Arena this Saturday are: Nick Anthony, Adam Hauser, Justin Johnson, Matt Koalska, Pat O'Leary, John Pohl, Grant Potulny, Jerrid Reinholz, Chad Roberg, Judd Stevens, Jon Waibel, Erik Wendell and Dan Welch.

The championship team members and staff will be recognized with an on-ice presentation during the first intermission.

Eight members from the championship team--Nick Angell, Keith Ballard, Matt DeMarchi, Jordan Leopold, Paul Martin, Troy Riddle, Jeff Taffe and Barry Tallackson--are still playing professionally and will not be able to make it back to campus.

2002 National Championship Memories: Mike Guentzel

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Go Gophers! 2002 National Champions
Go Gophers!
Gopher hockey celebrates the 10th anniversary of the 2002 national champions Feb. 17-18 at Mariucci Arena.
Go Gophers!
This weekend, Gopher hockey will celebrate the 10th anniversary of one of the greatest seasons in Minnesota athletics history. Several members of that unforgettable 2002 NCAA championship team will be in attendance at this weekend's Gophers vs. Bemidji State series, with the formal recognition ceremony during Saturday's game.

We talked with now Associate Head Coach Mike Guentzel about the 2002 championship team. Guentzel was an assistant coach that year and helped the Gophers end a 23-year championship drought.

Guentzel, who played defense for Minnesota from 1981-85 and served as an assistant coach for the Gophers from 1994-08, rejoined the Gopher staff this year.

Guentzel, who captained the 1984-85 Gophers, tallied 87 career points (12 goals, 75 assists) in 143 games at Minnesota.

View From Bemidji State

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Minnesota hosts in-state rival Bemidji State this weekend in a key WCHA matchup. The surging Beavers have been playing some of the best hockey in the nation during the last few months and will bring a three-game win streak into Mariucci Arena. We talked with Bemidji State beat writer Eric Stromgren about the Beavers.

Stromgren is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer and writes the UpNorth Sports Report blog on the AreaVoices network. He can be followed on Twitter at @estromgren.

GopherSports: Eric, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you give a scouting report on Bemidji State?

Eric Stromgren: The Beavers are on a three-game winning streak after sweeping No. 10 Colorado College in Bemidji at the Sanford Center last weekend by 4-2 and 4-1 scores. It was the second WCHA sweep of the season for BSU and the Beavers are 4-1-1 in the last six games.

BSU is 11-4-2 since a Nov. 20 win against North Dakota and have achieved that mark by playing a defensive brand of hockey. The Beavers are finding ways to score off turnovers and are making the most of opponent's mistakes.

Patience and hard-working are two good ways to describe Bemidji State's playing style. The Beavers will take calculated risks on offense and it's rare to see a BSU player take himself out of a play in the defensive zone.

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

ES: Junior captain Ben Kinne has seven points in the last seven games (2 goals, 5 assists) and the St. Paul native is finding ways to score at key moments.

The former Cretin-Derham Hall standout assisted on last-Saturday's game-winning goal against Colorado College, scored the game-winning goal in a 6-4 road win at Nebraska-Omaha two weeks ago and assisted on a game-winning goal three weeks ago against Minnesota State.

His recent offensive production overshadows his defensive abilities as he matches up against top players on opposing teams. Kinne plays left wing on BSU's top line with versatile centerman Aaron McLeod and playmaker Jordan George.

GS: What does Bemidji State need to do to win at Mariucci?

ES: Bemidji State will win if goalie Dan Bakala is on top of his game.

The senior has turned his game around in the second half of the season after an inconsistent first half. The Calgary native is 6-1-1 in his last seven starts and has 125 saves in the last four games to go with a .939 save percentage.

There are times where BSU has struggled in the defensive zone in recent games and Bakala has bailed the team out with routine and spectacular saves.

Those kind of saves spark BSU and the team feeds off of that energy on both ends of the ice. Bemidji State seems to play at its best in close games this year and Bakala is a big reason why.
The Minnesota men's hockey team met with the media before practice on Wednesday afternoon. After being swept for the first time all season last week in Denver, the Gophers have an important series against in-state rival Bemidji State. Here is what head coach Don Lucia and players Zach Budish had to say about last week, this week, and about playing teams from the State of Hockey:

On being swept at Denver and the team's situation within the WCHA Standings and the PairWise Rankings...

Don Lucia, head coach:
"It's so close with everybody right now. The system was meant to be looked at when the final game has been played and there's still a lot of hockey to be played. We all have six regular-season game to go and we have playoffs to be had. We're in a good position right now. I like where we are in the league and overall. We control our own destiny and you have to continue to win."

"You feel a sense of urgency all season long and nothing changes. There's three weeks to go and we're in first and we're sitting in a good situation. When the year began, we'd take where we're at in a heartbeat and now we just have to finish."

Nate Schmidt, sophomore:
"It happens. It comes with the territory and playing a good team like Denver. Stuff like that happens, but it's more about how we handle it. It's this week, it's how we take on Bemidji State this weekend, and how we finish off the year against Nebraska-Omaha and Wisconsin. It's how we finish off these last six games that's going to determine how well we are as a team and how we can play moving forward into the playoffs. For me, it's where we are at the end of the year." 

Zach Budish, redshirt sophomore:
"We didn't do too well in our non-conference games and our conference as a whole didn't do too hot either. That's just how it works and now we're not only fighting to win the league, but make the NCAA Tournament."

"You look (at the PairWise Rankings) after every weekend. I'd be lying if I said we weren't concerned about that too. We just have to take it one week at a time."

On the Bemidji State series...

"Everyone has tough games against them. They have one of the top goalies in the league and they have very much a junior/senior team. They play mistake-free hockey. They're going to make you beat them. They're not going to beat themselves and that's why they're one of the most difficult teams to play in our league and we saw that last year. We had two great games against them and both were overtime games and I wouldn't be surprised if that happened again this week."

"We got a good, hot Bemidji State team coming in this weekend. They're playing really good hockey and a big four points are on the line this weekend."

"We played them at the end of last year and tied and won the next game in overtime, so we know they're a good team. They started a bit slow this year, but over their last 15 games or so they've been one of the top team in the league and nationally, too."

"They're one of those teams that plays better as the year goes on. They're one of those teams that waits for you to have mistakes and they capitalize off your mishaps. We have to control the puck really well this weekend. We can't have a lot of turnovers. If we have a lot of turnovers against a team like Bemidji State, it's going to equate to a tough weekend."

On playing against another in-state rival:

"We put a big emphasis on reestablishing ourselves within the state of Minnesota and we've done a pretty good job of that so far. We've won seven out of eight in our in-state rivalries and we've got two more this weekend against Bemidji State. That was emphasis coming into the year--beating teams within our own state, then in the conference, and then nationally."

New Gopher Q&A - Briean Boddy

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GopherSports.com will be posting interviews with many of the newest Gophers from the 2012 signing class throughout the remainder of the winter and spring. First up in the series is a conversation with defensive back Briean Boddy, who transferred to Minnesota from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.

Boddy enrolled in school in January so he could participate in Spring Practice. He was named 2nd team All-Jayhawk Conference as a freshman. Scout.com rated him as a two-star prospect while Rivals.com ranks him with three stars.

GopherSports.com: How does it feel to be a Gopher?

Briean Boddy: It feels amazing. It's everything I thought it would be. I love it up here.I love the coaching staff, the program and the city of Minneapolis, just everything.

GopherSports.com: When did you know that you wanted to be a Gopher and what was the experience like when you informed the coaches you'd be coming to Minnesota?

Briean Boddy: I realized I wanted to become a Gopher when they offered me, actually. I did have some offers still when I was down in Coffeyville. It was down to Toledo and Minnesota. Once I told the coaches, everything was just uphill from there. There was a whole lot of excitement and they couldn't wait for me to get up here and I felt that way as well.

GopherSports.com: Most junior college players stay for two years, why did you decide to transfer after only one?

Briean Boddy: I wasn't going down there for grades. I'm from Delaware, and players aren't very highly recruited out of there, so my whole deal with going to junior college was to get recruited, not to get my grades up. The whole deal for me was to go down there and try my hardest to make the team. I knew that I could transfer after one year, but I was able to transfer after just one semester, so that was a blessing. I never planned on staying in junior college for two years unless I had to.

GopherSports.com: Why did you decide to enroll early?

Briean Boddy: I wanted to be able to get a feel for things during the spring and be able to go through spring ball. I can see how my classes will be and how hard the academics will be, so I can get a feel for that early. That way I can work on playing immediately and also keep my grades up to par. It feels like a good thing for me to come in the spring and get established with the grades and the team.

GopherSports.com: What are you planning to declare as a major?

Briean Boddy: I'm planning on mathematics. I want to be a high school math teacher and that corresponds with being a coach as well.

GopherSports.com: Do you plan on playing safety or corner?

Briean Boddy: Cornerback. I'm definitely more of a cornerback. Coach Kill and I both feel that I fit in better at corner than safety.

GopherSports.com: What are your goals for next season?

Briean Boddy: If we're talking about team goals, I want to win. I think Coach Kill and everyone here are ready to do that, so that's my main goal. Personally, I want to get some time on the field. But I just want to learn the game and get comfortable in the system. Once you get that established, you can work on your skill on the field and excel. If you're not comfortable in a system, you won't excel. So my main thing is to know the system so I can get better.

GopherSports.com: What are your goals for your college career?

Briean Boddy: I just want to be successful. I want to leave here with a degree in mathematics and my teaching license. Career-wise, that is my main goal. On the field, I want to get to see myself in the NFL, so awards and stuff like that may come into play. All in all, I just want to make it to the NFL.

GopherSports.com: Is there a particular athlete you try to model yourself after?

Briean Boddy: I wouldn't say I try to model myself after anyone. But I like the athletes who do well, try to stay out of the media and stuff a lot. I wouldn't narrow it down to one athlete. I just admire the ones who do well.

GopherSports.com: How do you feel about the new uniforms?

Briean Boddy: I think they are amazing. I was one of the first to see them when I went on my recruiting visit. It was amazing. I love them. My favorite combination would probably be the all-white look.

GopherSports.com: What is your favorite TV show?

Briean Boddy: ESPN. You can't do better than that.

GopherSports.com: Who is currently your favorite musical artist?

Briean Boddy: Wiz Khalifa is my favorite musical artist right now.

-Interview by Mitch Praxl, Athletic Communications Student Assistant

Jake Deitchler Talks with Takedown Wrestling About his Career

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Many of you will recall 2008 Olympian Jake Deitchler.  After returning to the University of Minnesota following his Olympic pursuits Jake was forced to end his career at 22 years old.  From a very early age Jake has suffered headaches stemming from head injuries sustained in motocross riding and wrestling. Doctors and specialists weighed in and the talented young man from Anoka, Minn. had no choice but to walk away from competition in the sport he loves.

Take a look at this special interview  with Jake from Takedown Wrestling. The end result was assembled from over 3 hours of interviews. The conversations took place the afternoon of January the 14th 2011.

GWH Blog: Four Gophers Selected to USA Hockey Roster

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Twenty-seven players have been selected to the U.S. Women's National Team preliminary roster in preparation for the 2012 International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship, which takes place April 7-14 in Burlington, Vermont. Three current Gopher players and a Minnesota alum are included on the roster: defensemen Megan Bozek, Anne Schleper and Gigi Marvin, and forward Amanda Kessel.

The athletes will take part in a training camp at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, N.Y., from March 25 - April 3, with the final 21-player roster set to be announced on April 1. The U.S. will travel to Ottawa, Ont., for an exhibition contest against Canada on March 31, before playing Finland in a pre-tournament game on April 3 at 7 p.m. EST at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y.

The U.S. squad will arrive in Burlington on April 4, where Team USA will look to defend its back-to-back-to-back world titles from 2008, 2009 and 2011 (a world championship was not held in 2010 due to the Olympic Winter Games).

Twenty-one members of the U.S. Women's National Team that captured first place in the 2011 Four Nations Cup in November are vying for roster spots. There are a total of 17 Olympians on the preliminary list and 19 players who helped Team USA to the world title in 2011.

In addition to the Gopher players on the roster, former Minnesota head coach Laura Halldorson will serve as an assistant coach for Team USA at the IIHF Women's World Championship.

See the full roster here.

Morning Skate With Nick Larson

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Go Gophers! Nick Larson
Go Gophers!
Nick Larson, who is recovering from a broken wrist, has three goals this year.
Go Gophers!
GopherSports: You grew up in Minnesota and as a Gopher fan. What does it mean to you to be able to play for the Gophers?

Nick Larson: It means a lot to me. My dad has had season tickets for as long as I can remember. I grew up going to games and looking up to the players and idolizing them and having that hope that one day I would be able to put on the M. Being able to do it the last four years will definitely be something that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

GS: What do you remember about going to games growing up?

NL: I just remember all the games being so fast and so many of those guys are playing in the NHL now. Guys like Thomas Vanek and Alex Goligoski. It was just so much fun to watch them put up highlight reel goals and watch them score like six or seven goals a game.

GS: As your Minnesota career winds down, what games do you think you will remember most?  

NL: The series that stick out in my mind are the North Dakota series, both here and at North Dakota. There was one game at Mariucci a couple of years ago where we were doing really well against them and scored two goals in about eight seconds and the crowd just went nuts. This year we were able to sweep them at home, which was awesome. I was able to score the game-tying goal in one of those games and that was one of the best moments I have had here so far.

GS: You also got injured at North Dakota this year. Can you tell us what happened to your wrist?

NL: It was kind of a fluke hit in the open ice and my wrist kind of bent in and snapped. It is an unfortunate event, but is one of those things you have to deal with and move on. Hopefully it will make me better in the long run.

GS: How is the injury progressing?

NL: It is getting better and better each day. It is healing well and I am hoping to get back pretty quickly and get a couple of series in before the playoffs.

GS: What is it like to have to watch games from Mariucci or on television when the team is on the road?

NL: It is hard. You want to be out there with the guys and experience the highs with them. You feel for them when there is a tough play or a tough game. So it is tough, but I am behind them 100 percent and I am just looking forward to getting back.

GS: After three tough years, the senior class has helped lead the Gophers back and the team was ranked No. 1 earlier this year. What does that mean to you and your class?

NL: We just want to contribute. We want to make a name for ourselves and leave a lasting impression on Gopher Hockey and this is our last chance to do that. We all have the confidence in our team and the players to do it and it is just a matter of execution and finishing the year strong. Everything we have done so far up to this point has made us better and I think it will make us better for the playoff run and hopefully do something great. I have had a great time here, but it has been tough sometimes. Obviously you are kind of defined by your successes and your failures. More than anything that is what our senior class it shooting for. This is our last chance. We are taking everything for what it is worth and going out there and giving it all we have.

GS: A big part of your college experience has been hockey, but you have also excelled academically at Minnesota.

NL: I have already finished all the requirements for my major am just finishing up my minor now. We have a great staff here and a great academic committee. It is tough for them as well because we have such a demanding schedule and they have to find the right time for class. Sometimes guys have to take a test on the road and study on the road. It is stressed here that academics is just as important as hockey and all of our guys get their work in. We don't have any problems with that.

GS: Between class and hockey there is not a lot of free time. But when you do have a few extra hours, what do you like to do?

NL: During the season, there is not much going on outside of hockey and school. But during the offseason, I am a big golfer. I like going out on the lake and having a great time there. I enjoy working out. I have always liked that. But during the season it is basically sitting on the couch after practice and relaxing and watching Joey Miller and Zach Budish play video games.

GS: Have you thought about what you are going to miss next year when you are not here?

NL: I am going to miss the whole thing, the college atmosphere. When you are here and in the moment, you don't really think about it. But when you look back on it, it was just a great four years. I am going to miss the camaraderie with the guys. It is another family. We spend so much time with each other and go through so much with each other. Then all of a sudden it will be over and you have to start the next phase of your life. I am looking forward to that, but it will definitely be bittersweet. 
Go Gophers! Kyle Geason
Go Gophers!
Geason was named one of three Gopher players to watch.
Go Gophers!

Full Big Ten Conference Release here.

Senior Kyle Geason, junior TJ Oakes and sophomore Tom Windle was named to the Big Ten's Players to Watch List, announced Tuesday by the Big Ten Conference office. Along with highlighting athletes, the conference announced that Michigan State was selected by the coaches as the preseason favorite to win the conference title in 2012. Following the Spartans on the coaches' preseason top six list are No. 2 Purdue, No. 3 Minnesota, No. 4 Nebraska, No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 Illinois. The conference's baseball coaches voted on the top six teams and also selected three players from their own teams to a Players to Watch List.

Geason has been the Golden Gophers' starting third basemen for the past three seasons. Entering his senior year, he has played and started in 170 games, dating back to 2009. In 602 career at bats, Geason averages .252 for a career and held a .278 batting average in 2010, the year the Gophers won the Big Ten regular season and tournament title. In the field, Geason has been stellar at the hot corner, holding a .938 fielding percentage as a freshman, .919 as a sophomore and .916 as a junior.

A two-time third-team All-Big Ten selection, Oakes was the Gophers' Friday starter in 2011 and looks to take the lead again this year. As a sophomore, the 6-5 right-hander pitched a team-high 85.2 innings and held a 3.26 earned run average in 14 starts. In that span, Oakes struck out 52 batters, including 24 looking. As a rookie, he was named to the Big Ten All-Freshmen team and the first freshman to earn all-conference accolades since Glen Perkins was named in 2003. Oakes returns to the Gophers after being drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 27th round of amateur draft last June.

Tom Windle closed out a phenomenal rookie season when he was named to the 2011 Big Ten All-Tournament Team. Windle pitched eight scoreless innings during the tournament, allowing eight hits and striking out six without a walk.  He started in his second career game against Purdue and pitched five innings in a 1-0 win. In his first season with the Gophers, Windle held an ERA of 1.52 in 41.1 innings pitched, ranking 10th in school history for lowest season ERA. He appeared in 19 games, the third-most games by a Gopher pitcher, and had two saves and struck out 35 batters. 

Minnesota kicks off the season against No. 24 Louisville this Friday in the first of three games of the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. Gophersports.com will broadcast all games this weekend. Friday's game against the Cardinals will be at 9 a.m. CT, followed by St. John's Saturday and South Florida Sunday at noon.

2002 National Championship Memories: Grant Potulny

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Go Gophers! 2002 champs
Go Gophers!
Gopher hockey celebrates the 10th anniversary of the 2002 national champions Feb. 17-18 at Mariucci Arena. For tickets, click here.
Go Gophers!
It's safe to say that no one player is more associated with the 2001-02 National Champion Golden Gopher hockey team than Grand Forks, N.D. native Grant Potulny. The three-year captain scored the championship-winning goal in overtime against Maine to give Minnesota its first title since 1979. Potulny played in 146 games for the Gophers, totaling 68 goals and 48 assists for 116 points, but none were more memorable than his OT-winner at the Xcel Energy Center.

This weekend, Gopher hockey will celebrate the 10th anniversary of one of the greatest seasons in Minnesota athletics history. Several members of that unforgettable team (including Potulny) will be in attendance at this weekend's Gophers vs. Bemidji State series, with the formal recognition ceremony during Saturday's game.

GopherSports sat down with the Gophers' third-year assistant coach as he reflected on that unforgettable goal, magical season and much more in this video interview!

VIDEO: Highlights from the National Duals Regional

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We have highlights from the past weekend's National Duals Regional championship. Minnesota will next move onto the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals "Mat Mayhem" Final Four this Sunday in Stillwater, OK.

Check back later this week for more news regarding the final four. For now sit back and enjoy Cole Schrupp's latest creation. 

Minnesota 35, Kent State 3 Minnesota 26, Missouri 7

2002 National Championship Memories: Don Lucia

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Go Gophers! 2002 champs
Go Gophers!
Gopher hockey celebrates the 10th anniversary of the 2002 national champions Feb. 17-18 at Mariucci Arena. For tickets, click here.
Go Gophers!
This weekend, Gopher hockey will celebrate the 10th anniversary of one of the greatest seasons in Minnesota athletics history -- the 2001-02 men's hockey national championship team. Several members of that unforgettable team will be in attendance at this weekend's Gophers vs. Bemidji State series, with the formal recognition ceremony during Saturday's game.

GopherSports.com caught up with the three members of the current Gopher coaching staff (Don Lucia, Mike Guentzel and Grant Potulny) who were also integral parts of that '02 championship (the first of the Gophers' back-to-back titles). 2001-02 marked Lucia's third year behind the bench for the Gophers, as he took the reigns of Minnesota's signature sport before the 1999-2000.

Later this week we'll post interviews with both Guentzel and Potulny -- be sure to check back on GopherSports.com for more!

GWH Blog: 2012 GWH Golf Open

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We know it's early, but info on the 2012 Gopher Women's Hockey Golf Open is now available.

The 2012 GWH Golf Open will be held at Indian Hills Golf Club on Monday, September 17th, 2012. This will be a day of fun, prizes, and camaraderie while raising money for a most
worthwhile cause: Gopher women's hockey. The day's events will include a round of golf, social hour, dinner buffet, and silent auction.

Hole, tee and green sponsorships are available, and are the foundation of the fundraising event. Information on sponsorships is available at the link below.

2012 GWH Golf Open Information

Coach Redman's Blog: First Tournament of the Spring

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UCF practice round

The Gopher Women's Golf Team is in Sorrento, Fla., this week. Here is the team enjoying our first practice round since the end of October. We are a young team and I'm very excited to watch these incredible young ladies improve each tournament. You can watch our progress on golfstat.com.


--By Head Coach Michele Redman

In-Game Blog: Minnesota vs. Weber State/CSU Bakersfield

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Follow the Gophers as they close out their first tournament of the 2012 season. Minnesota finishes their time at the Sportco Kick-Off Classic with a doubleheader against Weber State at 1:15 p.m. and CSU Bakersfield at 3:30 p.m.


Observations from Minnesota's 4-3 Overtime Loss to Denver

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House of Horrors
The Gophers made their last regular-season visit to the Mile High City as a member of the WCHA this weekend. Minnesota left with a 38-40-3 all-time at DU and a 4-12-2 there under current head coach Don Lucia. That record includes an 0-7-1 ledger in the month of February at Magness Arena (under Lucia--10-11-1 all-time).

Uncommon Loss
After dropping to 8-7-0 in Friday night games with a 5-3 loss a day ago, the Gophers fell to 11-3-1 on Saturdays with an overtime loss in the second game of the series. The Gophers were swept for the first time since Dec. 3 and 4, 2010 at Minnesota State. The Gophers are now 10-1-0 in Saturday games in the WCHA.

Extra Session
After Nick Shore tied the game with 1:26 to play on Saturday, Minnesota played its  fourth overtime game of the season. Shore's second goal in under two minutes to win the game dropped the Gophers to 1-2-1 in overtime games this season and 0-2-0 in their last two extra session games. The Gophers are now 7-5-12 all-time in overtime against the Pioneers with a 1-1-3 mark under Don Lucia.

Last Five Minutes
For the fourth time this season, Minnesota allowed a goal in the final five minutes of regulation. Minnesota has outscored its opponents 16-4 in that time span in 2011-12. The loss was also the Gophers' first when leading after two periods. UM was previously 14-0-0 when leading after 40 minutes.

Rau Suspended
Freshman forward Kyle Rau was suspended for Saturday's game after a boarding major that was the result of a hit on Jason Zucker. The Gophers are 1-2-0 with Rau out of the lineup. He also missed the two Mariucci Classic games in December to play for Team USA World Junior Championships.

Live Meet Blog: Best of Minnesota

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Follow along with the University of Minnesota women's gymnastics annual Best of Minnesota meet tonight as they play host to three fellow Minnesota schools: Hamline, Gustavus Adolphus and Winona State.


In-Game Blog: Minnesota vs. Kent State/UNLV

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Follow along with the Univeristy of Minnesota softball team as they open the 2012 season up at the Sportco Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. The Gophers first competition of the season will be against Kent State at 5:45 p.m., and the Marron and Gold will turn around to face host UNLV at 8 p.m.


Get to Know Austin Hollins

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Austin Hollins is averaging more than eight points a game as a Gopher starter. He is also one of the team's leading three-point shooters. Learn more about the sophomore guard from Germantown, Tenn., with these Q&As. In the video above, Hollins gives his thoughts on Williams Arena, moving from Arizona to Tennessee, and more.

Q: You have been in the starting lineup for almost every game this season. Has that helped your confidence?
A: Yeah, it kind of helps my confidence. It's just a matter of working hard every day in practice. And I put in a lot of work during the offseason. So, it's nice to be in the starting lineup now this year.

Q: After leading the team in steals last season, you have a nice amount this year, too. How do you force so many turnovers?
A: I think it's just a matter of being in the right position on defense. You have to see your man and the ball. You have to know where you are. You have to know who your teammates have, what their men are doing, know the other team's plays, and just anticipate.

Q: A lot of times you are assigned to guard other teams' best players. What do you do to prepare for that challenge?

A: It's watching a lot of film, getting their tendencies, and just going out there and getting my mental mind state right, so I can go out there and have a lot of energy. I get a lot of rest the night before and just come out ready to play.

Q: Who is the toughest person you have guarded in college?
A: I think E'Twaun Moore was pretty tough to guard. Talor Battle is definitely tough to guard. So I'd have to say them from last year.

Q: You are one of the team's leading three-point shooters. Is it nice to have other guys, like Julian Welch and Andre Hollins, who can hit threes, too?
A: Yeah, definitely. It's nice because, if you're off, you have teammates that can pick you up. Seeing other people make shots helps you make shots, as well. So it's nice to be able to go to the basket, kick it out, and have teammates that can knock down shots.

Q: Are you always looking for threes, or are you usually looking to drive and just hit threes if they are open?
A: I would say that I look for threes more often, but it's a matter of just knowing when to shoot threes and when not to. Sometimes you have to be ready to pump fake and go to the basket and create for your teammates, as well.

Q: With the NBA lockout stretching into December, was your dad (Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins) able to come to more of your games than usual?
A: Yeah, he did. He came here for midnight madness (Gopher All-Star Friday Night in October) and he went to Orlando for our tournament down there for most of the games, so he got to see that. It was nice having him around.

Q: Do you follow the Grizzlies closely now that they are back in action?
A: Yeah, I try to follow them pretty closely, keep track of what they're doing.

Q: What is it like playing with another Hollins from Tennessee?
A: It's nice to have someone on the team from the same area you're from. Before we came to Minnesota, we weren't best friends. We knew each other, but we didn't hang out or anything. So we've really gotten to know each other since we've been here, and we hang out when we go home. He's like a little brother to me, even though we're not related.

Q: Did you and Andre play against each other in high school?

A: We did play against each other in high school.

Q: How well do you remember those matchups?
A: I didn't guard him most of the time. I guarded him a couple of games, but most of the time I wasn't on him.

Q: Who won?

A: Sad to say, they won every time. There were some close games that we should have won, but we won't go into any details.

Q: Have you decided on a major yet?
A: I'm going to be majoring in business marketing. I'll be declaring this coming semester.

Q: What led you to choose that major?
A: I wanted to do something involving business, so I went into the College of Education and Human Development and I saw the business options, and business marketing was one of them. So I followed that and I started to like that.

Observations from Minnesota's 5-3 Loss to Denver

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Looking for 20
Sitting at 19 wins, Kent Patterson was denied win No. 20 on Friday. His next win will make him the first goaltender to get to 20 in a season since Kellen Briggs went 21-6-3 in 2005-06. Hobey Baker winner Robb Stauber, cousin of current Gopher Tom Serratore, has the school's single-season record for wins. He had 34 in 44 games played 1987-88. Patterson has started 51 straight games for the maroon and gold.

Shaky Start
After a 10 days off, the Gophers took a first-period lead against Denver on a goal, by Nate Condon, but it went downhill from there. Each member of DU's third line, Shawn Ostrow, Dustin Jackson, and Nate Dewhurst, scored to make it 3-1 after 20 minutes. It was the first time the Gophers allowed three goals in a period since allowing three to Wisconsin in the second period of their first WCHA loss of the season, a 3-1 decision, on Nov. 11. The Pioneers also fired 19 shots on goal, the second-most by a Minnesota opponent all year. Minnesota-Duluth unleashed 20 shots in the third period of a 5-4 Gopher win on Oct. 15.

Goals Against
Since losing to Notre Dame 4-3 on Jan. 7, Minnesota went six games without allowing more than two goals. That run ended in the first period of Friday's game against Denver when the Pioneers scored three goals in the first period. In the second period, DU added two more goals to become the second team to score five goals on the Gophers all season. The only other time Minnesota allowed five goals was in its first loss of the season against Vermont. The Catamounts won that game 5-4.

Five in Double Digits
With his game-opening goal on Friday, Nate Condon became the fifth Gopher to reach the 10-goal mark in 2011-12. Through 30 games, Nick Bjugstad (21), Kyle Rau (14) Erik Haula (11), and Jake Hansen (10) also each have 10 or more. Condon had eight goals last season and Rau is eight goals shy of breaking into the top 10 for goals by a Minnesota freshman. Grant Potulny, (2000-01), Trent Klatt (1989-90), and Neal Broten (1978-79) each had 22 in their first year.

Tough Matchup
Denver has been a tough place to play for Minnesota. UM is 38-38-3 all-time at DU and is 4-11-2 under current head coach Don Lucia, including an 0-6-1 mark in February at Magness Arena (under Lucia). In addition, the Gophers are now 8-7-0 in Friday night games. Saturday, Minnesota will look to avoid being swept for the first time since Dec. 3 and 4, 2010 at Minnesota State. The Gophers are 10-0-0 in Saturday games in the WCHA.

Six Gophers Named WCHA Scholar-Athletes

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Six members of the Minnesota men's hockey team have been awarded the WCHA Scholar-Athlete Award, announced by the WCHA today.

Seniors Nick Larson, Taylor Matson, Jake Kremer and Nico Sacchetti were all recognized. As were redshirt sophomore Zach Budish and sophomore Nate Condon. Award winners must have at least a 3.5 grade point average over the last two semesters.

Kremer and Sacchettit are two-time honorees, while the remaining four Gophers are being recognized for the first time.

The six award winners will be honored at an upcoming home game. Minnesota is at WCHA rival Denver this weekend.

Gameday Videos: Border Battling and Barnstorming

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Can't wait until tonight's Border Battle? Get even more excited by watching this promo video for the game. Tip-off is set for 6:00 p.m.

Follow that up with this week's installment of "Barnstorming with Grimm." Radio play-by-play man Mike Grimm pays a visit to the team study room in Williams Arena.

Alumni Corner: Erik Westrum

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Go Gophers! Erik Westrum
Go Gophers!
Erik Westrum, who is currently playing in Switzerland, had 168 points and 307 penalty minutes as a Gopher.
Go Gophers!
Two-time Golden Gopher captain Erik Westrum had a memorable four-year career at Minnesota that culminated with the team's first trip to the NCAA Tournament in four years (and first ever under current head coach Don Lucia), setting up back-to-back national championship runs in 2002 and 2003. Westrum, one of UM's 15 all-time leading scorers, has played hockey in the pro ranks ever since his college days ended. He recently took some time to catch up with GopherSports.com and look back on his time at the U.

GopherSports.com: What was your time like at Minnesota and what is your favorite Mariucci Arena memory?

EW: My time at the U of M was everything I expected and more.  I have some of the greatest memories of my life. The hockey and school friends I made have been life long.  The education is one of the best and the teachers and facilities were great. I have so many great memories at Mariucci Arena, but a special one for any Gopher Hockey player is always playing your first game and scoring your first goal. It was a dream come true to wear the Maroon and Gold following in my dad's footsteps. Being a two-time captain, as well as playing with my brother Ryan, is also an everlasting memory. Mariucci was like a second home for me during my four years.

GS: At Minnesota, you played under accomplished coaches Doug Woog and Don Lucia. How were the two coaches different and what was it like transitioning between the two midway through your college career?

EW: It was a great experience playing for two unbelievable coaches. Doug gave me a chance to play as a freshman and had a lot of confidence in me to play in any situation.  His approach to myself and our team was the foundation for the two championships in 2002 and 2003. He instilled leadership and confidence in myself at an early age (I had just turned 18 going into my freshman year). He trusted me at forward, defense, PP and PK. It was an honor to play for such a legendary coach, but most importantly a great person too. Don brought a fresh start to the program and, just like Doug, gave me the opportunity to lead our team. With the learning curve of the ups and downs my first two years it was easier for me to transition to Don with the things Doug taught me. Instantly Don and I created a relationship and friendship that helped us bring the team together and get back to the winning tradition of Golden Gopher Hockey. Don did a great job with relating to our team and getting the most out of each player. I was fortunate to play for two of the best coaches in the history of Gopher Hockey!

GS: Just like this year's senior class, you hadn't played in an NCAA Tournament heading into your final season. How rewarding was it to finally make it in as a senior?

EW: It was very rewarding. With all the time and commitment you put into hockey, your goal is always to win a championship. It was a great experience to play in the NCAA tournament, but it was even more rewarding to see my teammates win back-to-back national titles. I feel that the foundation was laid with our leadership and experiencing the highs and lows of the learning curve. It just made us closer and stronger as a team.

GS: You left the U as the 13th leading scorer in school history with 168 points, but you are also seventh all-time with 307 penalty minutes. You were also one of the WCHA's top shorthanded point producers, as well. How would you describe your own style of play?

EW: I always played with an edge, a competitive edge. I hated losing and I think that is what led to so many penalty minutes; frustration, backing up my teammates and putting fear into the opposing team. I would consider myself an offensive minded player who is both a playmaker and goal scorer. It all depended what we needed and what the situation was (PP, PK, or even strength). I would describe myself as a team player with a creative mind for the game. It was always about having fun first!

GS: As a Minnesota native, did you feel more pressure wearing the Maroon and Gold in your college years or playing professionally?

EW: For me it was about the love of the game and the only pressure I felt came from within. All elite athletes have that built within themselves. They want to be the best player on the ice no matter what the situation or the opponent. I always had high goals for myself and trying to reach those goals was fun and that is where the pressure came from.

GS: You've played hockey at many different levels and in many different locations, including time in the NHL. Who was the best player you ever played with and/or against?

EW: As a young kid I always wanted to play with or against Wayne Gretzky. In training camp one year in Phoenix I had the opportunity to play with and against Wayne. It was an experience I will never forget and will always remember. Just being on the ice with the greatest player of all time was unbelievable. I was in awe the whole game.

GS: What is your favorite hockey memory outside of college?

EW: I have been so blessed with my hockey career that it is hard to name just one.  Outside of my college career, a few of them are: winning the State Championship in '96, playing my first NHL game, scoring my first NHL point, playing for the Wild, playing for Team USA and winning silver and bronze medals. There are so many more, I could go on forever.

GS: What are you up to this year?

EW: Playing professional hockey in Switzerland for Ambri-Piotta and trying to recover from a concussion. It's been a difficult year trying to recover and I'm just hoping to get back on the ice again sometime in the near future.

GS: During college, where was your favorite place to eat on campus? How did you spend most of your time away from the rink?

EW: For favorite places to eat, Campus Pizza was an every week thing. Jim was great to us and was always open no matter what time we finished our games. I remember one day I ate there three times: lunch, pre-game, and post-game. Nothing like a great pizza! Big Ten sub was always a great pick too!

Away from the rink I would always be hanging out with teammates or friends. I spent a lot of time at the Library!

GS: To what extent do you follow Gopher Hockey today?

EW: Most of my information comes from the internet, checking scores and standings. I keep in touch with former players and we usually talk about Gopher Hockey and what is going on with the team. Each week I always get the scoop from my dad who is a scout with the Montreal Canadiens. He is usually at one game every weekend when the Gophers are home.  Playing professional hockey, I still haven't been able to get a game since the last time I played. I'm hoping to take my two boys in years to come. Go Gophers!
The Minnesota men's hockey team met with the media before practice on Wednesday afternoon. After their final off week of the regular season, the No. 2/1 Gophers will travel to fourth-place and 14th-ranked Denver to play a pair of games in the Mile High City. Here is what head coach Don Lucia and some of his players had to say about this weekend's opponent, having a week off, and about the team's second-ranked defense:

On Denver...

Head Coach Don Lucia:
"Denver was a team that was picked to win the league--they're very talented. They've had some injuries over the course of the season, but now they're starting to get most of their guys back and I think they're one of the most talented teams in our league.

"We've struggled out there. We're 2-8 in our last 10 against them and in those losses, we've scored a grand total of five goals--less than one a night--and you're not going to win like that."

Sophomore Nick Bjugstad:
"Last year, their freshman class was pretty outstanding and they're all here this year, so we know what they got. They're a young team, but they're very talented so we have to bring it."

Redshirt Sophomore Zach Budish:
"Anytime you play the preseason favorite it's a pretty big deal. They're getting a lot of guys back from injury. They've had an up-and-down year, but they're starting to play really well. Since Christmas break they've been really good."

On the off week...

"It's as much mental as physical. Last week, we practiced Monday, took Tuesday completely off, went Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and took Saturday and Sunday off. I think we've had a good week of practice. The players seem fresh and hopefully the off week won't catch up to us in the first period on Friday and we can have a good first period. We should have good energy mentally and physically this weekend."

"I think it was good. We hadn't had our week off yet, so it's good for our legs. I think we got some good rest and conditioned as well. We want to make sure we stay in good condition heading out to Denver. We had some good practices and I think we'll be ready to go on Friday.

"Kyle Rau and I didn't get much of a break heading out to Edmonton (for the World Junior Championships) this past month. It was good for us to get a little break for our legs."

On the success of the team's defense this year...

"I think our defensemen are doing a really good job with gap control and they're getting pucks out of the zone. I can't say enough about our D right now and I think our forwards are helping out a bit too."

"Our team defense has been good all year and it starts with Kent. He's one of the top goalies, not only in the league, but in the whole country. Having him back there is huge along with our six defensemen. We've done a good job of shutting down the other teams' top lines and keeping shots to the outside. We've played good team defense all year and we've got to continue to do that."

Freshman Kyle Rau:
"We got a really good goaltender back there. Pretty much every game we go into, we know that we're going to have a chance to win because of him and we have a good D core, so that's huge for us."

Ness Makes NHL Debut

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Go Gophers! Aaron Ness
Go Gophers!
Aaron Ness skated in 111 games as a Gopher from 2008-11 and tallied 43 points.
Go Gophers!
Gophers In The NHL

Former Gopher Aaron Ness made his NHL debut tonight with the New York Islanders. Ness, who wears No. 55 for the Islanders, skated 13:06 minutes in a 1-0 shootout win at Philadelphia.

Ness played in 111 games as a Gopher from 2008-11 and tallied 43 points (6g-37a). He was an alternate captain during his junior year. He has 17 points (2g-15a) in 46 games with Bridgeport of the AHL this season.

Ness joins former Gophers Cade Fairchild and Stu Bickel in making their NHL debuts this year.

Fairchild, who played at Minnesota with Ness the previous three seasons, has skated in five games with the St. Louis Blues this year. He has one NHL assist. Fairchild has played in 39 games with the AHL's Peoria Rivermen and has 24 points (5g-19a). He leads the AHL with a +24 rating and was named an AHL All-Star. Fairchild played in 149 games for the Gophers from 2007-11. He finished his career with 93 points (21g-72a) and 122 penalty minutes.

Bickel played in his 21st game this season tonight with the New York Rangers. He has five assists and 48 penalty minutes. Bickel played in 45 games at Minnesota during the 2007-08 season and had seven points and 92 penalty minutes.

VIDEO: Highlights from the 26-7 win over Nebraska

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Happy Tuesday Gopher fans! Wanted to pass along highlights from the 26-7 victory over Nebraska. The win on Sunday gave Minnesota a share (Penn State) of the Big Ten Dual championship.  

Below you will find highlights made by the one and only Cole Schrupp. Also below is a video with Tony Nelson talking about his time as a Golden Gopher heavyweight. Enjoy!

Nebraska Highlights Tony Nelson

Observations from Sunday's 69-61 Win at Nebraska

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Chipping In
Sophomore guard Chip Armelin continues to provide a spark off the bench for Minnesota. He set a new career high and reached double figures for the fourth time this season, the second time in the Gophers' last three games. Armelin scored 10 of his team-leading 15 points in the second half. He also added a fancy assist, changing hands with the ball between his legs before passing it to Maverick Ahanmisi for a lay-up. Armelin finished the game with three assists and five rebounds in addition to shooting 7-of-11 from the field.
Go Gophers! Chip Armelin
Go Gophers!
Armelin scored 15 of the Gophers' 40 bench points.
Go Gophers!

Welch Excels Beyond the Arc
Coming into this weekend, Julian Welch was eighth in the Big Ten in three-point shooting percentage (.426). He bettered his average to .453 with a 3-for-3 performance against Nebraska. He is especially accurate in true road games, with a 15-for-25 total (.600).

Long Time No See
The Gophers and Cornhuskers have faced each other 60 times, but today was their first meeting since Dec. 8, 2004. Minnesota won that contest, 57-48, in Lincoln.  The Gophers lead the all-time series, 47-13. Today was the two teams' first meeting as conference rivals. It was also Chadron, Neb., native Elliott Eliason's first time playing a college game in his home state.

Second Chances
Offensive rebounds proved critical for the Gophers in today's victory. In the first half, the Gophers limited the Cornhuskers to one offensive board. For the game, Minnesota outscored Nebraska, 14-6, in second chance points with an 11-8 edge on the offensive glass. The Gophers out-rebounded the Huskers by a tally of 31-24 overall.

Other Ways to Contribute
Joe Coleman was held scoreless for the second consecutive game, but he still had an impact on today's contest. The freshman led the team in rebounding with a total of seven. In Wednesday's game, he tied for team lead with six.

Get to Know Rodney Williams

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Of all the returning players on the Golden Gopher basketball team, Rodney Williams has seen arguably the biggest jump in production between last season and this season. The 6-7 junior moved to the power forward position after Trevor Mbakwe's ACL injury, and has looked comfortable at that spot on the court. And his contributions are not just on the offensive end of the court--Williams is the team leader in steals.

Q: This year, your production has increased in basically all statistical areas. How much of that do you attribute to skill development, and how much to an increase in confidence?
A: I think it's just more about confidence for me. I know last year a lot of times I was really inconsistent just because of my confidence level. So I think this year it's more of a confidence thing.

Q: Your numbers especially went up in the first few games following Trevor Mbakwe's injury. Did anyone talk to you about stepping up, or was that something you just took upon yourself?
A: It was about 50-50. I've been getting people telling me that I need to step up since freshman year, but I never really gave myself enough confidence. I think it was pretty equal.

Q: You already have more steals than you had all of last season. Talk a little about your mentality on defense.
A: I think I've been here long enough to get Coach Smith's defense down and how he likes it. I think it's just more me just buckling down and paying attention more when it comes to the defensive end.

Q: Before the season, coach Tubby Smith mentioned working with you to change your shooting form. Has that still been a focus during the season?
A: We're still focused on it pretty heavily, but I haven't really taken as many jump shots, especially now being in the post. But in practice, we get after it. When we do shooting stuff, he's right there, right next to me, telling me what I need to fix. Like I said, it's a slow transition, but it's happening.

Q: What was going through your mind leading up to your 360 dunk against USC?
A: Andre Hollins and I got the trap. Then when the USC player fell with it, Dre kind of tipped a pass, and he was the one who yelled out, "Showtime!" So then, as soon as he said that, I knew that I had to get a 360 at home, because I hadn't gotten a fancy breakaway dunk for the crowd at home yet. So I knew which one I wanted to do.

Q: Another dunk that had everyone talking was your dunk over two people wearing chicken and pig suits at All-Star Friday Night back in October. How did you get the idea for that dunk?
A: They actually showed up while we were doing media stuff. So then coach Joe Esposito was like, "Why don't you just jump over the chicken?" I was like, "Alright." And once (All-Star Friday Night) started, I was like, "Man, I already jumped over Goldy, so just the chicken wouldn't be too exciting." Then Coach Esposito came up to me and told me to go grab both of them, so I grabbed both of them, and that was it.

Q: Do you feel like you should have won the contest instead of Joe Coleman?
A: No, because I didn't finish my (other) dunk. So he got it fair and square.

Q: How high is your vertical leap?
A: Last I checked it was about 36 inches. It's not as high as people think it is.

Q: Now that you are a junior, you have traveled to three early-season tournaments in warm locations. Which was your favorite?
A: Definitely Puerto Rico. I had been to California and Florida before, so that wasn't new to me, especially the Milk House (in Orlando). I played there so many times as a young kid. Puerto Rico, that was just fun, because that was my first time there. All you do is hear about that--you never really think you're going to get a chance to go out there. And then we won the tournament, so that definitely puts that above all of them.

Q: Eligibility-wise, you would be the only junior on the team if Julian Welch and Andre Ingram had not transferred. Is it nice to have them around?
A: It is kind of nice to have those other guys around. You kind of feel a little lonely at that junior spot. So it's fun. ...It's just nice to have some guys that have been through school and basketball as long as I have.

Blog: Signing Day 'Sota Social Draws Crowd (Video)

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Wednesday night's Signing Day 'Sota Social was a great event for Gopher football fans, with over 700 diehards and Goal Line Club members making their way to the TCF Bank Stadium DQ Club Room.

Check out this short video recap of the event, which featured a live KFAN broadcast with personalities Dan Barreiro and Justin Gaard, an address by Coach Kill and much more!

For more on 2012 Gopher Football Signing Day, be sure to also check out Signing Day Central.

GWH Blog: Future Gophers Among Ms. Hockey Semifinalists

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Let's Play Hockey announced today the 10 semifinalists for the 2012 Ms. Hockey Award, presented to the top senior girls' high school hockey player in Minnesota. Among the semifinalists are three players who have signed National Letters of Intent to attend the University of Minnesota next season. Hannah Brandt (Hill-Murray HS), Milica McMillen (Breck HS), and Lee Stecklein (Roseville Area HS) are among the semifinalists for the award and will join the Gopher women's hockey program next fall.

In addition to on-ice talent, criteria for the Ms. Hockey Award include academics, community and extracurricular activities, citizenship and coachability.

Five finalists for the Ms. Hockey Award will be named in the Feb. 16 edition of Let's Play Hockey with the winner announced at the Ms. Hockey Awards Banquet on Feb. 26.

In the 16-year history of the award, 12 of the award winners have played for the Golden Gophers, including three members of the current Minnesota team. Ms. Hockey winners to attend Minnesota include:

1996: Winny Brodt
1998: Laura Slominski
1999: Ronda Curtin
2000: Krissy Wendell
2001: Renee Curtin
2002: Ashley Albrecht
2003: Andrea Nichols
2004: Erica McKenzie
2005: Gigi Marvin
2008: Sarah Erickson
2009: Becky Kortum
2010: Bethany Brausen

Full story from Let's Play Hockey here.

Momentum Changer

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Nate Condon, forward (four shorthanded goals and one shorthanded assist)

"First we want to shut them down and play well defensively, but as soon as we get the puck we know that we can try to jump the zone and try to attack. I think our speed is pretty effective. Taylor and I are good skaters and we do a good job of getting down the ice. A lot of times, the opponent is not really concerned that much defensively on the power play so if you can get one or two guys jumping up the ice then they have a hard time defending against you.

Coach Guentzel talked about that at the beginning of the year. It is how you cripple a team. It changes the momentum so much because teams are out there on the power play expecting to get a goal. For us to turn the tables on them with a shorthanded goal, it completely changes the momentum of the game.
Go Gophers! Nate Condon
Go Gophers!
Nate Condon is second in the nation with four shorthanded goals.
Go Gophers!

It is just getting a quick shot off and not giving the goalie a chance to react to it. The breakaways, a lot of times, the puck has been bouncing and I am just trying to get a shot off. The other goal Taylor set a good screen and the goalie could not see it until it was already in the net."

Taylor Matson, forward (one shorthanded goal and two shorthanded assists)

"It's crazy. I think we have we have more chances on the penalty kill than we have five-on-five or on the power play. It's something we take to heart when we're out there and we just work really hard in practice together during the week. We know when one of us gets the puck the other one is going hard for a breakaway or we'll try to make a two-on-one out of it. We're just playing hard together and creating chances.

"It's like a tandem mentality in your own zone. You're working together. Whenever I get the puck I want to spring him on a breakaway or chip it off the glass. We have great speed. That's one of our advantages out there and that becomes huge on the penalty kill."

Don Lucia, head coach

"In many ways it is like scoring two goals. More often than not, if a team scores a shorthanded goal they end up winning the game. It is demoralizing for the power play and frustrating for the players and coaches on the other side. It is a bonus goal and a momentum changer.

"We have some good tandems and our penalty kill has been strong all year. Nate Condon and Taylor Matson were a good tandem on the penalty kill last year and they have taken it to another level this year. Their peed allows them to beat other players and get that breakaway."

Mike Guentzel, associate head coach

"We have good speed guys on our penalty kill and guys who anticipate well. We have guys who can take off and create odd-numbered situations. Obviously, a lot of teams are using an umbrella situation which certainly gives you a chance to get out on a two-on-one and we are doing a good job with that. We are pleased that Nate Condon and Taylor Matson have taken that responsibility and they are doing a good job. We have offensive guys killing penalties, which is a good thing.

"I always think of a shorthanded goal as a goal and a half. It is an advantage for you. When they get a power play they think they are going to score and take a lead. But when we take a penalty and then score, well that gives us a lot of the momentum, especially when we are at home. The crowd really gets into the game because they love to see the effort put into killing a penalty. There has been numerous times this year where we have drawn people out of their seats by our hard work and there have been numerous times when we have drawn people out of their seats by the ability to control the puck on the penalty kill.

"There is a time and a place to clear the puck 200 feet and that is obviously our No. 1 emphasis. There are three or four simple things that we really try to take care of in the penalty kill, but smart players realize the time and space around them and the opportunity to control the puck and drain the clock. That is something that I think you see a lot of from our guys. Our forwards take off and open up the rink. Our defensemen back off and then we kind of create that little box when the forwards throw it back and we go defenseman to defenseman and start killing some time. I think we have an idea and a good sense right now of when to clear it, when to go for it and when to possess the puck.

Mark Alt, defenseman (one shorthanded assist)

"It is a huge momentum swing. When you have a guy like Nate Condon who can break free and score a shorthanded goal, it can totally change the game. It also helps the penalty kill and gives them some power."
Kent Patterson, goaltender (one shorthanded assist)

"It is always great to see our team score a shorthanded goal. It is a good momentum changer. Our power play has been struggling a little bit recently so it is nice to get a plus on special teams with a shorthanded goal."

Barnstorming with Grimm: The Elevated Floor

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Williams Arena's elevated floor is one of the most well-known, unique features of the venue. This week in "Barnstorming," radio play-by-play man Mike Grimm walks in the footsteps of an opposing player as he comes upstairs from the locker room area to the court. Grimm also finds out what was found under the original Barn court while it was being replaced a few years ago.

To watch previous episodes of "Barnstorming with Grimm" visit http://z.umn.edu/barnstorming.

Observations from Wednesday's 63-59 Loss at Iowa

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Missing a Chance to Even Things Up
A win would have put the Golden Gophers at .500 in three categories. But with tonight's loss, they are now 4-6 in Big Ten play, 3-4 in road games, and 0-2 against Iowa this season.

Success Behind the Arc
One positive statistic from tonight's tough loss is Minnesota's 10-for-19 three-point shooting performance. This was the first time all season that the Gophers made 10 or more triples. The last time they accomplished that feat was when they shot 10-for-23 against Michigan State in the 2010 Big Ten Tournament. Tonight, Julian Welch and Austin Hollins each made three, while four other Gophers added one apiece.
Go Gophers! Welch shooting
Go Gophers!
Welch made three of the Gophers' 10 three-pointers.
Go Gophers!

Foul Trouble
Free throws played a large role in tonight's game. Free throw shooting was just about even in the first half (3-for-5 for Minnesota and 3-for-4 for Iowa), but the Hawkeyes had the advantage in the second period. An abundance of whistles against the Gophers put Iowa in the bonus before the first media timeout of the second half. During the half, Iowa made it to the line 22 times, connecting on 14 of those attempts. Minnesota did not draw as many fouls and finished just 6-for-9 during the second period.

A Little R & R
Ralph Sampson III and Rodney Williams Jr. were instrumental in the Gophers' comeback during the first half. Each had his own run of three consecutive field goals, and each scored seven points in the period, helping the Gophers claw back to lead by a score of 27-24 at halftime. Sampson made the Gophers' first three field goals for seven of their first eight points. Without their offense, the game would not have been competitive in the first half. Sampson ended up with 13 points for the game.

Swat Team
The Gophers added to their conference-leading block total, and Ralph Sampson III moved up on Minnesota's career blocks list. With a pair of swats tonight, Sampson claimed sole possession of third place in school history at 193 career blocks. He trails just Kevin McHale (235) and Randy Breuer (229). As a team, the Gophers have piled up 126 blocks so far this season (5.5 per game). They led the Big Ten in that category the past three seasons.

Jennie-O-Wrestler of the Week: Kevin Steinhaus

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In our last Jennie-O Wrestler of the Week series we caught up with Kevin Stienhaus from Pennock, Minn.

1.    Why did you choose the sport of wrestling?

I started when I was in kindergarten and really liked it so I just stuck with it.

Go Gophers!
Switch to Turkey
Go Gophers!

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

The intensity level.  Everything is harder in college wrestling so you have to improve in all aspects.

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

It gives you a bit of an adrenaline rush, the crowd plays into it too as they are always very loud.

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

Not sure, the end of the Wisconsin dual last year was probably the most exciting part of last season.

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


6.    What is your favorite Minnesota tradition?

Not sure.

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

Our team is like a family.

8.    Why did you choose Minnesota?

I always wanted to wrestle here and knew this was the best place to come to accomplish my goals as a wrestler.

9.    Who on the team is the team prankster?

Brandon Biglebach

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

The work ethic and discipline carries over into everything in life.

11. What is your favorite sports movie?

Remember The Titans

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

If I were listening right now it would probably be Lecrae

13. Do you have any pre-match superstitions?


14. What are your goals for this season?

Win team and individual national titles.

15. What is your favorite sport outside of wrestling?


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

Running out of the tunnel in the sports pavilion for the first time.

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

Neither, never know what you might miss out on.

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

Hard to pick, for a big dual with a lot of fans, I'd go with Williams.

19. What is your favorite TV show?

Everybody Loves Raymond

20. What is your favorite food?

Chicken Alfredo


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