April 2012 Archives

Former Gophers To Compete In IIHF World Championship

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Go Gophers! Alex Goligoski
Go Gophers!
Alex Goligoski, who will play for Team USA at the IIHF World Championship, had 98 career points as a Gopher.
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Complete Listing of Games l Team Rosters

The 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship begins this week in Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden. Minnesota will be represented by four former players participating for three different countries in the annual tournament, which begins May 4 and ends with the Gold Medal game on May 20.

Alex Goligoski and Kyle Okposo will play for the United States, while Evan Kaufmann will play for Germany and Matt DeMarchi will suit up for Italy. Minnesota has had at least one player compete in the tournament every year since 1995.

Goligoski and Okposo were on campus last weekend to get ready for the tournament. They were joined by Team USA goaltender, former Boston University standout and Shorewood, Minn., native John Curry.

The United States will play an exhibition tomorrow against Sweden in Gavle, Sweden, to prep for the event. The Americans will face France in the first game of the tournament in Helsinki on May 4 and will play seven official tournament games from May 4-15.

Goligoski, who played in 118 games and had 98 points (25g-73a) for Minnesota from 2004-07, played 71 games in his first full year with the Dallas Stars this year. He finished sixth on the team in scoring and led Dallas' defensemen with 30 points (9g-21a). His 16 penalty minutes were also the lowest among team blueliners who played more than 55 games. Goligoski is making his first appearance for Team USA in the World Championship.

Okposo, who recorded 51 points (26g-25a) in 58 games at Minnesota from 2006-08, had 45 points this year for the New York Islanders. He finished sixth on the team in scoring and was third in goals (24), while playing in 79 games. Okposo also played for Team USA in the World Championship in 2009 and 2010.

Kaufmann was a Gopher from 2004-08. He played in 147 games at Minnesota and had 32 goals and 30 assists. He has played the last four seasons for the DEG Metro Stars in Germany and finished fourth on the team in scoring this past year with 42 points (19g-23a) in 52 games. Kaufmann will be making his first appearance for Germany in the World Championship when he plays this year.

DeMarchi played in 158 games for Minnesota from 1999-2003. He totaled 48 points (16g-32a) as a Gopher, but was more known for his rugged play. The Bemidji, Minn., native racked up 204 penalties (second most in program history) and 473 penalty minutes (most in program history) during his career. DeMarchi played 17 games for Vasteras IK of the Swedish league this season, where he totals six points (1g-5a) and 14 penalty minutes. DeMarchi also played for Italy in the 2010 World Championship.

Coach Kill Back on the Speaking Circuit

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Now that spring practice has wrapped up at the University of Minnesota, head coach Jerry Kill has been busy meeting with next year's team as individuals. But that's not the only thing he's doing. Coach Kill has also gotten right back out there on the speaking circuit.

Wednesday was a particularly busy day for the head coach when it came to speaking engagements. He appeared at a breakfast event for the Angel Foundation for Cancer Awareness that morning and spoke about leadership that evening at Richfield High School.

It's well-documented that Coach Kill is a survivor or kidney cancer. He also has his own cancer foundation in southern Illinois that supports people fighting the disease.

"This is certainly a tremendous cause and one we felt we needed to get to," Kill said following his talk at the Angel Foundation breakfast.

See more about the Angel Foundation breakfast and Coach Kill's involvement here

Later that evening, Coach Kill was in Richfield, taking part in a leadership series presented by the Richfield Spartan Foundation and the Richfield Chamber of Commerce. His message there talked about hard work being the only way to succeed in life.

"I really believe you can out-work anyone," Kill told the group. "It takes no talent at all to be a hard worker."

Read more about Coach Kill's visit in Richfield and see photos here

Coach Kill also made an appearance at the Elks Fishing Fling in Brainerd Thursday. He gave those in attendance some of his thoughts on how spring ball went, the team's academic success and the possible addition of alcohol at TCF Bank Stadium.

There is plenty of video from Coach Kill's appearance at the Elks Fishing Fling here

On a personal note, I want to say a huge thank Coach Kill for speaking at an event that didn't get any media coverage last week. My wife Jill is part of a local Toastmasters group and Coach graciously accepted her offer to speak at their most recent open house.

In addition to all the speaking engagements, Coach Kill and the team hosted a HopeKids event Saturday at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex.

One Week Til Final Pitch at Siebert Field

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Photo Gallery-One Week til Final Pitch

The University of Minnesota baseball program will hold its Final Pitch at Siebert Field, one week from today as the Golden Gophers host St. Thomas, May 1st at 6:35 p.m. The game, originally scheduled for the H.H.H. Metrodome, was moved to honor the legendary field over the past 41 years.

In preparation for the event, the athletic department will have a series of videos as well as launching a Siebert Field history site leading up the event. With a beautiful 70 degree, sunny today, Gopher coaches sat down with gophersports.com, while the current team practiced on the field in preparation for the North Dakota State University game (in Fargo, N.D.) tomorrow.

Fans can purchase tickets online, by phone (612-624-8080), at the Mariucci Ticket Office (during business hours), at the Metrodome (before the 5th inning of Gopher Baseball games), or at Siebert Field on game-day (starting at 2:30 p.m.). All tickets will be issued as general admission and seating is available on a first-come, first serve basis.

Breaking Down The 2012-13 Schedule

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Go Gophers! Mariucci Arena
Go Gophers!
Minnesota will open the 2012-13 season at home against Michigan State. It will be the third time that the Gophers will begin a season against the Spartans (1960-61 and 1979-80).
Go Gophers!
Minnesota announced its 2012-13 schedule yesterday, so we decided to break down the 36-game schedule for you. Here are some interesting notes that we came up with.

- Minnesota will play two exhibition games during the 2012-13 season. The Gophers will play an Oct. 6 exhibition against the Lethbridge Pronghorns, a Canadian college out of Alberta. The Gophers had previously played an exhibition game against the University of British Columbia each of the last four seasons. Minnesota last played an exhibition against Lethbridge on Oct. 8, 2006. The Gophers won that game 6-2. Minnesota will also play an exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 Team on Oct. 26. The Gophers last played an exhibition against the U.S. Under-18 Team on Jan. 7, 2011, and won 9-0.

- The Gophers open the regular season against soon-to-be Big Ten conference rival and current CCHA member Michigan State. The last time Minnesota opened the season against a CCHA opponent was Oct. 12, 2002, when it beat Ohio State 7-2 in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game at Xcel Energy Center. This will be the third time that Minnesota will open a season against the Spartans. The Gophers beat Michigan State twice (9-8, 11-5) at home to open the 1979-80 season. Minnesota also began the 1960-61 season against the Spartans (the Gophers won those games 6-3 and 6-5 on the road).

- Minnesota will open the season at home for the third straight year. The Gophers began last season at home against Sacred Heart and opened the 2010-11 season at home against Massachusetts. Minnesota, who will host Michigan State to open the 2012-13 season, has not started three consecutive seasons at home since 1996-1998. The Gophers hosted Colorado College in 1996, welcomed Maine to Mariucci Arena in 1997 and played St. Lawrence and Ohio State in the Icebreaker Cup at Mariucci Arena in 1998.

- The Maroon and Gold will play only five regular-season games in October in the upcoming season, which is the fewest amount of October games for the Gophers since they also played five October games during the 2009-10 season. Minnesota played eight October games last year and during the 2010-11 season.

- The Gophers will make their first-ever trip to Vermont (and will play in the famed Gutterson Fieldhouse for the first time) when they travel to face the Catamounts on Nov. 23-24. It will be the third and fourth ever meeting between the schools, as they split a pair of games last year at Mariucci Arena.  

- The 2012-13 season will be the last year that Minnesota plays as a member of the WCHA conference. The Gophers, who will compete in the new Big Ten hockey conference in 2013-14, will play their final 28 games as a WCHA member this year. Minnesota will play conference road games at Alaska Anchorage, Michigan Tech and Colorado College. The 2012-13 season could be the last time that Minnesota travels to these three schools in the immediate future.

- The Gophers will play eight of their first nine road games outside the state of Minnesota this year. The lone exception is a back end of a home-and-home date at Minnesota State on Nov. 3. Minnesota's next road game in the state is when it makes a return visit to Mankato on Jan. 26. Before that January game, Minnesota will travel to Michigan Tech, Alaska Anchorage, Vermont and Colorado College.

- Ten of the Gophers 16 road games will be contested outside of Minnesota during the 2012-13 season. The Gophers played 12 of 16 road games outside of Minnesota last year. Two years ago, Minnesota played only six games outside of the state.

- The Mariucci Classic will be held Dec. 28-29 and will feature defending national champion Boston College, Atlantic Hockey champion and NCAA tournament qualifier Air Force and independent Alabama in Huntsville. The last time that the Mariucci Classic was held this early in December was 2002. That year the event was held on Dec. 27-28 and featured Boston College, Bowling Green and Yale. Minnesota beat Boston College 2-1 in overtime to win the title.

- The Gophers will play five straight road games from Jan. 26-Feb. 16 and will play one game at Minnesota State and two games each at St. Cloud State and Wisconsin. The Gophers have not had a five-game road stretch since Jan. 12-26, 2008 (one game at St. Cloud and two games at Minnesota Duluth and Wisconsin). This will be only the fourth time under Don Lucia that Minnesota will play five straight games on the road. In addition to the 2007-08 season, Minnesota also played five straight road games in the 2006-07 season and the 1999-2000 season.

- Minnesota will play a season-high, eight-game homestand from Dec. 28-Jan. 25. The homestand begins with two Mariucci Classic games and will also feature one game against Notre Dame and Minnesota State and two games with Alaska Anchorage and North Dakota. It is the Gophers' first eight-game homestand since they played eight straight at Mariucci Arena from Dec. 29, 2005, to Jan. 21, 2006 (Minnesota went 7-1-0 in that homestand).

- Notre Dame and Canisius will travel to Mariucci Arena for one game each during the 2012-13 season. The Gophers lost 5-4 to Notre Dame last year at home in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game and are now 22-13-3 all-time against the Irish. Minnesota has never played Canisius.

- In addition to playing 28 WCHA games, Minnesota will also play opponents from the CCHA (Michigan State and Notre Dame), Hockey East (Vermont) and Atlantic Hockey (Canisius). The Mariucci Classic schedule has not yet been set, but Minnesota could play Boston College (Hockey East), Air Force (Atlantic Hockey) or college hockey's lone independent Alabama in Huntsville. For the second straight year, Minnesota will not face an ECAC opponent in the regular season (last ECAC opponent the Gophers played in the regular season was Union in the 2010 Mariucci Classic).

- The Gophers will face Notre Dame this year and could face Air Force as well in the Mariucci Classic, which means for the second straight year there is potential to have a father-son matchup. Coach Don Lucia's son Mario has committed to Notre Dame and could be playing for the Irish when they visit Mariucci Arena on Jan. 5. Minnesota sophomore Tom Serratore's father, Frank, is the head coach at Air Force. Last year, Minnesota associate head coach Mike Guentzel coached against his son, Gabe, in two games when Colorado College visited Mariucci Arena.

Banham Named Top Rookie at Golden Goldys

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Rachel Banham capped off her impressive freshman campaign by being named the Minnesota Female Rookie of the Year at the 2012 Golden Goldys held Monday night at TCF Bank Stadium.

The University of Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletics department recognized both the athletic and academic achievements of its 750 student-athletes during the event. It marked the sixth year of the Golden Goldys and the 23rd year of the Scholar Athlete banquet.

The voting process includes spring sports of 2011 (baseball, men's and women's golf, rowing, softball, men's and women's outdoor track & field and men's and women's tennis) and the fall and winter sports of the 2011-12 athletic year.

Named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Banham was also a Second Team All-Big Ten selection. She led the team in scoring, assists, defensive rebounds, minutes played, three-pointers and three-pointer percentage. Banham ranked third nationally in rookie scoring and was named to the 2011-12 Full Court NCAA Women's Freshman All-America team.

The women's basketball program was also awarded the Gladys Brooks Commitment to Academic Excellence Award at the banquet.

GWH Blog: Hockey Earns Honors at Golden Goldys

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Last evening, the University of Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletics department recognized both the athletic and academic achievements by honoring its 750 student-athletes in a Golden Goldys/Scholar Athlete banquet. The event marked the sixth year of the Golden Goldys and the 23rd year of the Scholar Athlete banquet.

Women's hockey walked away with the best women's team, best women's coach (Brad Frost) and the Female Athlete of the Year and Breakthrough Athlete of the Year (Megan Bozek).

Bozek became a first-team All-American in 2012, and was a first-team All-WCHA selection this season. Jumping from 23 points scored as a sophomore, Bozek tallied 42 points and ranked second in the nation in scoring by a defenseman.

Head coach Brad Frost led the Gophers to their first national championship and first WCHA tournament title since 2005, earning him the award for best women's team coach. Frost and his team had two All-Americans and five players named All-WCHA honors. Along with the national title, the Gophers won the WCHA tournament championship

Gopher women's hockey posted a 34-5-2 overall record and 21-5-2 in WCHA play. With NCAA and WCHA Final Face-off titles in 2012, the team was honored at the Golden Goldys as the best women's team.

The top academic awards were also handed out at the banquet, including the Outstanding Achievement Award. It is presented to one male and one female student-athlete who are accomplished in the four areas emphasized by the NCAA Student-Athlete Affairs Program:  Academic, Athletics, Leadership, and Volunteerism. Senior defenseman Anne Schleper earned the Outstanding Achievement award for the women this year.

For a full list of the Golden Goldys winners and nominees in each category, as well as a photo gallery from the awards banquet, click here.

Schmidt Named Male Breakthrough Athlete of the Year

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Go Gophers! Nate Schmidt
Go Gophers!
Nate Schmidt won the Golden Goldy for Male Breakthrough Athlete of the Year at tonight's student-athlete gala.
Go Gophers!
Minnesota Announces 2012-13 Schedule

The University of Minnesota athletics department held its sixth-annual Golden Goldys tonight at TCF Bank Stadium. The student-athlete awards gala is similar to ESPN's ESPYS and honors student athletes for their achievements during the year.

The Minnesota men's hockey team had one award winner this evening as sophomore defenseman Nate Schmidt took home the Golden Goldy for Male Breakthrough Athlete of the Year. Schmidt recorded 41 points (3g-38a) in 43 games this year after tallying only one assist in 13 games as a freshman.

Schmidt led all defensemen nationally in assists and was third among all players. His 38 assists place him sixth all-time in school history for assists by a defenseman in a single season. He led the Gophers in power-play points and blocked shots.

"It is an awesome award and I feel very honored to win it because the other four nominees are extremely talented athletes," said Schmidt. "My season was a direct result of my coaches and teammates and the hard work everyone put in for a great season."

Schmidt beat our Marqueis Gray (football), Andrew Larsen (cross country), Erik Van Rooyen (golf) and Rodney Williams (basketball) for the award.

The other members of the men's hockey program who were nominated for awards were Kent Patterson (Male Athlete of the Year), Kyle Rau (Male Rookie of the Year) and Don Lucia (Best Men's Coach). The men's hockey team was also nominated for Best Male Team. A complete list of winners can be found here.

Minnesota Announces 2012-13 Schedule

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Go Gophers! Don Lucia
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Coach Don Lucia's Gophers will play 36 games next season, including 20 at Mariucci Arena.
Go Gophers!
Minnesota's 2012-13 Schedule l Thank You, Gopher Fans!

Minnesota will play 36 games, which includes 20 regular-season home contests at Mariucci Arena, during the 2012-13 season. The Gophers, who won the WCHA's MacNaughton Cup last season and advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four, will also play their final 28 games as a member of the WCHA during 2012-13. The three WCHA teams who Minnesota will face four times next year are Alaska Anchorage, Minnesota State and Wisconsin.

Minnesota begins the season with two home games against soon-to-be Big Ten conference rival Michigan State. The Gophers will face the Spartans on either Thursday, Oct. 11, and Friday, Oct. 12, or on Friday, Oct. 12, and Sunday, Oct. 14. The exact dates of Minnesota's season-opening series will be announced in the future. The Gophers will then play at least one regular-season game for each of the next nine weeks before taking two weeks off prior to the Mariucci Classic.

After facing Michigan State, the Gophers will make their first road trip of the season and open WCHA competition at Michigan Tech (Oct. 19-20) before returning home to face Canisius for one game on Sunday, Oct. 28. Minnesota then hosts Minnesota State on Nov. 2 and plays against the Mavericks in Mankato on Nov. 3.  

The Gophers then travel to face Alaska Anchorage for a pair of games (Nov. 9-10) before hosting a Border Battle series against Wisconsin (Nov. 16-17). The Gophers will spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Vermont this year as they face the Catamounts on Nov. 23-24.

Minnesota closes out November and opens December with a series against Nebraska Omaha at Mariucci Arena on Nov. 30-Dec. 1. The Gophers then play their final series before taking two weeks off at Colorado College (Dec. 7-8).

The Maroon and Gold return to action at the Minnesota-hosted Mariucci Classic to close out the 2012 calendar year. This year's Mariucci Classic, which will be held on Dec. 28-29, will have an NCAA tournament feel to it, as the Gophers welcome Air Force, Boston College and Alabama in Huntsville. Minnesota, Air Force and Boston College all participated in the NCAA tournament last year, while Minnesota and Boston College advanced to the Frozen Four, which was hosted by Alabama in Huntsville. The matchups for this year's Mariucci Classic will be announced in the future.

The Mariucci Classic begins an eight-game homestand for the Gophers which includes one game against Notre Dame (Jan. 5), two games against Alaska Anchorage (Jan. 11-12), two games against North Dakota (Jan. 18-19) and one-game against Minnesota State (Jan. 25).

The Gophers then begin a five-game road stretch at Minnesota State (Jan. 26) to complete the home-and-home series with the Mavericks before traveling to St. Cloud State for games on Feb. 8-9. Minnesota completes the road trip at Wisconsin on Feb. 15-16.  

Minnesota returns home to welcome in-state rival Minnesota Duluth for two games (Feb. 22-23) before closing out its home schedule with a pair of games against Denver (March 1-2). The Gophers then complete the regular season at Bemidji State on March 8-9.

The Gophers will play two exhibition games next season when they host Lethbridge on Oct. 6 and the U.S. Under 18-Team on Oct. 26.

All schedule dates and game locations are subject to change. Start times and a media broadcast schedule will be announced in the future.

Thank You, Gopher Hockey Fans!

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Season Overview: Minnesota posted a 28-14-1 record this year and went 20-8-0 in the WCHA to win the MacNaughton Cup. The Gophers qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time in three years and made their 33rd NCAA tournament appearance at the NCAA West Regional in at the Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota advanced to its 20th NCAA Frozen Four--but first since 2005--with wins against Boston University and North Dakota in the regional. The Gophers season came to an end with a loss to eventual national champion Boston College in the national semifinals.  

In The Polls: Minnesota finished the season ranked No. 4 in both the USCHO.com poll and the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. The Gophers, who advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four and ended the year with a 28-14-1 record, began the season ranked No. 19 in the USCHO.com poll and were unranked in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. Minnesota spent two weeks at No. 1 in the USCHO.com poll this year and four combined weeks at No. 1 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. The Gophers spent a combined 18 weeks ranked in the top five in the USCHO.com poll this season and a combined 20 weeks as a top-five team in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. Minnesota was ranked in the top 10 in both polls since Oct. 17 and spent

MacNaughton Cup Champions: With a 2-1 win against Wisconsin on March 3, the Gophers claimed sole possession of their 13th WCHA regular season championship and 12th MacNaughton Cup. Minnesota finished the regular season with a 20-8-0 WCHA record and 40 points, which was three points more than Minnesota Duluth (16-7-5 record). The Gophers won the title for the first time since 2006-07. Minnesota has now won three of the last seven MacNaughton Cups, as they also won the Cup in 2005-06 (20-5-3 WCHA record) and in 2006-07 (18-7-3 WCHA record).

NCAA West Regional Recap: Minnesota beat Boston University (7-3) and North Dakota (5-2) in the NCAA West Regional at Xcel Energy Center to advance to the NCAA Frozen Four. The Gophers beat North Dakota on March 25, which was five years to the day that North Dakota beat Minnesota 3-2 in overtime in the 2007 NCAA West Regional Final in Denver.

Minnesota Nice: The Gophers finished the regular season with a 9-1-0 record against Minnesota schools. They were 2-0-0 against Bemidji State, Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State and 3-1-0 against St. Cloud State. The Gophers outscored their in-state rivals by a combined score of 37-20. Minnesota posted shutouts against St. Cloud State and Bemidji State and beat Minnesota Duluth in overtime.

Two Named All American: Kent Patterson and Nick Bjugstad were named Second-Team All-American. They are the first Gophers to be named to an All-American team since forward Ryan Stoa received first-team honors in 2009. The last Gopher to be named to the second team was Thomas Vanek in 2004. This year is the first time that Minnesota has had two players honored since 2004 when Keith Ballard was named to the first team and Vanek was on the second team.

All-WCHA Teams: Minnesota had four players named to an All-Western Collegiate Hockey Association team this season. Senior Kent Patterson and sophomore Nick Bjugstad were named to the All-WCHA First Team, while sophomore defenseman Nate Schmidt was named to All-WCHA Second Team. Freshman Kyle Rau was named to the All-WCHA Rookie Team. Patterson also won the WCHA Goaltending Champion title with a 2.06 goals-against average while playing 1659:41 in 28 league games. In addition, Minnesota placed 15 student-athletes on the 2011-12 All-WCHA Academic Team.

Just Wins: The Gophers went 28-14-1 this year. The 28 wins are the most for Minnesota since it went 31-10-3 in 2006-07. Minnesota was second in the nation with 28 wins (Boston College led with 33, while Ferris State, Union and North Dakota all finished behind Minnesota with 26). The Gophers were 20-8-0 in the WCHA this year. The 20 WCHA wins are the most that the Gophers have had since they went 20-5-3 in 2005-06. The Gophers did not tie a single WCHA game this year. It was the first time since the 1997-98 season (12-16-0 in the WCHA) that Minnesota did not tie a WCHA game. The last time that Minnesota tied only one game all season was the 2004-05 season (team went 28-15-1 that year).

Saturday Night Success: Minnesota was 16-3-1 on Saturdays this year. The Gophers went 13-1-0 in WCHA regular-season games on Saturdays. Minnesota's final Saturday loss was its only Saturday WCHA loss, a 4-3 overtime defeat in Denver on Feb. 11.

Home Ice: The Gophers went 17-6-0 at Mariucci Arena this season and closed the year by winning seven of their last eight home games. It is the first time that the Gophers won 17 home games since they went 17-4-1 in 2005-06. The most games that Minnesota has won in one season at the current Mariucci Arena is 18 (1995-96, 2000-01 and 2001-02).

Four With 40: Erik Haula, Kyle Rau, Nick Bjugstad and Nate Schmidt all scored 40 or more points this year. Haula led the Gophers with 49 (20g-29a) in 43 games and recorded the most points for Minnesota since Phil Kessel had 51 points in 39 games in 2005-06. Kyle Rau had 43 points (18g-25a) this season, which was the most by a Gopher freshman since Jordan Schroeder had 45 points in 2008-09. Nick Bjugstad finished with 42 points (25g-17a) this season and became the first Gopher to score 25 goals in one season since Ryan Potulny had 38 in 2005-06. Nate Schmidt ended the season with 41 points (3g-38a) this year. His 38 assists are the six most ever by a Gopher blueliner in a single season. Haula, Rau, Bjugstad and Schmidt gave the Gophers four 40-point scorers for the first time since the 2002-03 season when Thomas Vanek (62 points), Troy Riddle (52), Keith Ballard (41), and Matt Koalska (40) all hit 40 points.

Seven With 30: Minnesota had seven players--Erik Haula, Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau, Nate Schmidt, Jake Hansen, Zach Budish and Nate Condon--who have scored at least 30 points this season. It is the first time since the 2001-02 season that the Gophers have had seven players reach 30 points. That year John Pohl, Jeff Taffe, Jordan Leopold, Troy Riddle, Paul Martin, Grant Potulny and Matt Koalska all had at least 30 points.

Patterson Sets Records: Kent Patterson's 28 wins were the most by a Gopher since Robb Stauber won 34 games in 1987-88. Patterson won games against 10 different WCHA teams (Denver being the exception). He set a single-season school record and tied for the national lead in shutouts with seven this year. Patterson played in 43 games (tied for second all-time in one season) and played 2556:11 (second all-time in one season). His 2.32 goals-against average is third all-time in a single season, while his 966 saves rank fifth. He finished his career first in Minnesota history in save percentage (.913) and tied for first in goals-against average at 2.45 (Kellen Briggs also had a 2.45 career goals-against average in 132 games from 2003-07). Patterson's seven shutouts place him tied for third all-time in career shutouts.

Close Encounters: The Gophers were 28-14-1 on the season. Of their 14 defeats, nine were by one goal (including two in overtime). Four of the other setbacks were by two and three goals, respectively. The Gophers lost 3-1 at Wisconsin on Nov. 11 and 5-3 at Denver on Feb. 11. They also lost 4-1 to Wisconsin on March 2 and 6-3 to North Dakota on March 16. Minnesota played in 20 one-goal games this year and was 11-9-0 in those games (won seven of its last eight one-goal games). The 20 one-goal games is a season record (previous was 18 during the 2006-07 season).

No. 1 Offense: Minnesota ended the year as the highest-scoring team in the nation. The Gophers averaged 3.60 goals-per-game and edged out Minnesota Duluth (3.59) as the nation's most dangerous offense. The Gophers led the country with 155 goals (Boston College was second with 153). The 155 goals were the most by a Gopher team since they tallied 161 goals in 44 games during 2006-07. Minnesota's defensemen led the nation with 111 points.

First And Third: Minnesota dominated the first and third periods this season, outscoring opponents 44-22 in the first period and 56-27 in the third period. Overall, Minnesota scored 155 goals this season and gave up 99.

Youth Movement: Minnesota's freshman and sophomore classes dominated the stat sheet this year, as seven of the nine players who have 20 or more points have either freshman or sophomore eligibility. The Gophers had 417 points this year (155g-262a) and the freshmen (91 points) and sophomores (241 points) combined to score 332 points (79.6 percent).

Big Ten Announces Men's Ice Hockey Tournament Sites

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Go Gophers! Xcel Energy Center
Go Gophers!
Xcel Energy Center will host the Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournament in 2014 and 2016.
Go Gophers!
With men's ice hockey set to become an official Big Ten sport with the 2013-14 academic year, the conference office announced today that the Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournaments will be held at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn., in 2014 and 2016, and at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Mich., in 2015 and 2017.

The inaugural Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournament will be held March 20-22, 2014, at Xcel Energy Center. The tournament moves to Joe Louis Arena the following year and will be held March 19-21, 2015, and March 16-18, 2017, in Detroit.  The 2016 event will return to Saint Paul and be held March 17-19. Tickets for the 2014 Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournament in Saint Paul are expected to go on sale in the summer of 2013.

The tournament will feature all six teams - Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin - in a single-elimination format. Thursday's quarterfinals will feature the No. 3 seed facing the No. 6 seed and the No. 4 seed battling the No. 5 seed. The top two seeds will open tournament play in the Friday semifinals, with the No. 1 seed against either the No. 4 or 5 seed and the No. 2 seed facing the No. 3 or 6 seed. The championship game will be held on Saturday.

In June of 2011, the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors established men's ice hockey as an official conference sport beginning with the 2013-14 academic year, including the institution of the Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournament, with the winner earning the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championship, and a 20-game conference schedule with each team playing the other five schools four times.

The broad-based athletic programs of the 12 Big Ten institutions sponsor 298 teams competing for championships in 25 official conference sports, 12 for men and 13 for women. Big Ten universities provide in excess of $120 million in athletic scholarship aid to more than 9,500 men and women student-athletes.  The last official conference sport established by the Big Ten was women's rowing in the 1999-2000 academic year.

About Xcel Energy Center
Regarded as one of the finest arenas in the world, Xcel Energy Center is home to the NHL's Minnesota Wild, the NLL's Minnesota Swarm and a multitude of premier sports and entertainment events annually. The one-of-a-kind, multi-purpose facility is located in the heart of downtown Saint Paul, owned by the City of Saint Paul and managed by the Saint Paul Arena Company, an affiliate of Minnesota Sports & Entertainment. For more information, visit www.xcelenergycenter.com.

About Joe Louis Arena
Joe Louis Arena is operated by Olympia Entertainment, a Detroit-based company owned by entrepreneurs Michael and Marian Ilitch.  Olympia Entertainment is one of the country's most diverse sport and entertainment companies and the largest organization of its kind in the mid-west. In addition to booking and operating Joe Louis Arena, the company owns and operates Detroit's Fox Theatre, the intimate City Theatre and books Comerica Park. Olympia Entertainment also handles business operations for the Detroit Red Wings, an Original Six member of the National Hockey League and collaborates with the Detroit Tigers baseball franchise and other Ilitch companies.

Other Ilitch companies include: Little Caesars Pizza, Ilitch Holdings, Inc., Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, Champion Foods, the Detroit Red Wings, Little Caesar Pizza Kits Fundraising Program, Olympia Development and Uptown Entertainment. Additionally, Michael Ilitch owns the Detroit Tigers, Inc., and Marian Ilitch owns MotorCity Casino Hotel.  To learn more about Olympia Entertainment, visit www.olympiaentertainment.com. Also follow Olympia on Twitter @OEontheGo and at facebook.com/officialolympiaentertainment.

Release courtesy of Big Ten Conference

New Gopher Q&A - James Gillum

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Gillum James.jpg

GopherSports.com will be posting interviews with many of the newest Gophers from the 2012 signing class throughout the remainder of the spring. The next profile in our series is a conversation with running back James Gillum of Pearl River, La. and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

Gillum enrolled in school in January so he could take part in Spring Practice. As a prep, Gillum led the state of Louisiana in rushing as a sophomore and was recruited out of high school by Coach Kill and his Northern Illinois staff in 2010, before heading to junior college. Rivals.com rated Gillum as a three-star prospect, while Scout.com listed him as a two-star player.

GopherSports.com: How are you enjoying your first few months at Minnesota?
James Gillum: It feels great to be here. It's a great place to be, so I'm happy about my decision. I feel good about the Twin Cities. It's a great place. Everybody treats you nice out here.

GopherSports.com: When did you know you wanted to be a Gopher?
James Gillum:  have a pretty good relationship with the coaching staff, so I felt pretty good about signing here. The coaches are a good fit for me, they want players who want to come out here and play for them.  I knew when I took my official visit.

GopherSports.com:  How much playing time do you expect to get next season?
James Gillum: I'm looking to play right away, but I'm going to have to work hard, learn the plays and show them I'm ready to play. I'm hoping for a lot of playing time, that's my goal -- to play.

GopherSports.com: Why did you decide to enroll early?
James Gillum: I graduated from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in December, so I wanted to get a head start here and learn the system.

GopherSports.com: Do you have a planned major yet?
James Gillum: Business and Marketing.

GopherSports.com: What kind of runner would you characterize yourself as?
James Gillum:  I feel like I'm an every-down runner. I can carry the ball through the middle, I can come out of the backfield and catch the ball, so I feel like I'm an every-down back.

GopherSports.com: What are your goals for next season?
James Gillum: My goal is to come out here and compete and bring my all. I want to come in and make it all happen from the first season and have a winning season.

GopherSports.com: What are your goals for your college career, where do you want to be when it's all said and done?
James Gillum: Plan A is to play professional ball and my plan B would be to get my business degree.

GopherSports.com: Is there a particular athlete you try to model yourself after?
James Gillum: My favorite running back was Walter Payton. I like Adrian Peterson too.

GopherSports.com: How do you feel about the new uniforms?
James Gillum: I like them. They look good. I like all the different colors and I can't wait to wear them. I like the white-on-maroon and the maroon-on-gold.

GopherSports.com: What is your favorite TV show?
James Gillum: My favorite TV show is The Game.

GopherSports.com: Who is your favorite music artist?
James Gillum: I would have to go with Lil Wayne.

-Interview by Mitch Praxl, Athletic Communications Student Assistant

GWH Blog: World Championships Wrap Up

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The 2012 IIHF Women's World Championship wrapped up on Saturday with Canada earning a 5-4 victory over the U.S. in overtime to win the gold medal. In the bronze medal game, Switzerland won 6-2 over Finland. A highlight video from the championship game between the U.S. and Canada is here.

In the gold medal game, Canada took a 1-0 lead with a goal 7:52 into the first period, but the U.S. evened it up five minutes later as Kendall Coyne scored. Gopher Amanda Kessel had an assist on the goal.

Canada racked up two more goals early in the second period, building a 3-1 lead. Brianna Decker cut the lead to one with a goal 16:43 into the second, with another Gopher player getting a point as Megan Bozek was credited with an assist on Decker's goal. Former Gopher Gigi Marvin evened the score at 3-3 with a goal in the final two minutes of the second period.

Marvin scored again less than three minutes into the third period, giving Team USA its first lead of the game. Both of Marvin's goals came on the power play. The U.S. took a penalty in the final minutes of the game, and Canada took advantage, getting a power play goal with under three minutes remaining in regulation. The score was tied at 4-4 as the third period ended, forcing overtime. Caroline Ouelette found the net for Canada just a minute and 50 seconds into overtime, giving the Canadians a 5-4 victory.

Canada had advanced to the championship game by defeating Finland 5-1 in the semifinals, while the U.S. defeated Switzerland 10-0 in the semifinal round.

In the bronze medal game, Finland took a 1-0 lead early in the game, and went ahead 2-1 in the first period, but the Swiss evened the score at 2-2 with just one second on the clock in the opening period. Switzerland scored one goal in the second period, and scored three more times in the third period to win 6-2. The World Championship third-place finish is the best ever for Switzerland.

Amanda Kessel finished as the fourth-leading scorer in the tournament with three goals and seven assists for 10 points in five games played. Gigi Marvin had three goals and six assists for nine points, and was the top-scoring defenseman in the tournament. Megan Bozek had two goals and three assists for five points, and was the third-highest scoring defenseman in the tournament behind Marvin and Switzerland's Julia Marty. Bozek had a plus/minus rating of +8. Anne Schleper had a plus/minus rating of +9 for the tournament, which tied her for third place  and the top rating among defensemen.

The coaches named the three best players for each team, and Gopher goalie Noora Raty was named one of Finland's best players. Raty was also named the Best Player of the Game in Finland's 3-2 loss to Canada in the preliminary round, and in the 2-1 quarterfinal win over Sweden.

Ambroz Wins Home Run Contest

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Photo Gallery: Gopher Hockey at Target Field

Gopher hockey players Seth Ambroz, Nate Schmidt and Joey Miller took part in a Minnesota Twins tradition last Saturday when they competed in a home run contest against the baseball team's mascot T.C. Bear at Target Field.

Prior to the competition the Gophers watch the Texas Rangers take batting practice and talked with Texas slugger Josh Hamilton.

T.C., who is hulking 6 feet 4 inches, was the overwhelming favorite to win. The Babe Ruth of Bears, according to its bio, led the Carnivore League in home runs, RBI's and batting average before joining the Twins.

Undeterred the Gopher hockey players took their chances against the seldom-beaten mascot.
Go Gophers! Seth Ambroz
Go Gophers!
Seth Ambroz hit three home runs on seven pitches to win a home run contest at Target Field.
Go Gophers!

First up was freshman Seth Ambroz.

"I was nervous," admitted Ambroz. "They made me go first being the freshman. I was shaking when I went up there, but kind of calmed down after I hit the first one."

Standing near second base, each player faced seven pitches and they had to swing at all seven. Ambroz rifled two line drives before settling into a groove and launching the third and fourth pitches into Target Field's upper deck. He finished with three home runs, setting the bar for Schmidt, Miller and T.C.

Ambroz used his years of playing baseball to adjust to the home run contest.

"I have played baseball since I was seven and play softball and baseball in the summers," said Ambroz. "I did not prepare for this. I was able to get three real low pitches and was able to hit them out."

Many Gopher fans thought Schmidt, who decided to play hockey in college instead of baseball, would provide the stiffest competition to T.C. Schmidt tallied one home run in the competition.

"A lot of pitches were up around my eyes and I did not have that many wheelhouse shots," said Schmidt. "Joey Miller and I are both shorter guys. For Ambroz, it was right in his wheelhouse and he has a little bit of a loopy swing so he was able to get a hold of a couple. He hit that ball far."

Still Schmidt was happy he was able to hit at least one home run.
 
"I was glad I did not throw up a goose egg," he said. "That would have been tough to live with. Hopefully I get another shot at it someday."
 
Miller, who is generally regarded as the best athlete on the hockey team, also ended the competition with one home run.

"It was awesome to just get one," said Miller, who was not able to properly train with a batting cage session on Friday after teammate Zach Budish refused to join him in the excursion. "I know Schmidt was an All-State baseball player and he got one. So I figured if I got one it would at least be respectable."

After all three players took their chances, the stage was set for T.C. Bear to show why he hardly tastes defeat in this competition. With home-field advantage, T.C., failed to hit one home run and lost for the first time this season.

"I was shocked," said Miller about the mascot's performance. "Everyone kept hyping up T.C. and I figured that Ambroz's three would not stand a chance. I guess everyone has an off day."

"T.C. had a rough outing," said Schmidt. "But he has to hit it a lot further than we do because as a lefty he has to hit it over that wall."

Ambroz won the competition with three home runs and is rumored to be invited back later this season for a tournament of champions. Would he grant T.C. a rematch?

"I would do it again in a heartbeat," said Ambroz.

NFF Awards Dinner Will Be Gopher-centric

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The Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation will be holding its annual awards dinner Sunday, April 22. This year's event will have numerous ties to the Golden Gopher Football program.

Legendary Golden Gopher great Bobby Bell - a college and professional football Hall of Famer - will give the keynote address. Bell was one of the most feared defensive players of all time and played on Minnesota's 1960 National Championship team.

In addition to Bell's involvement, current Gophers head coach Jerry Kill will be on hand to present the Murray Warmath Legendary Team Award. The award is named after Warmath, the former Minnesota head coach who led the Gophers to their last Big Ten and National Championships. The award will go to Minnesota's 1960 National Championship team and numerous members of that squad will be in attendance.

The Fifth Annual Honoring Legends, Inspiring Leaders Awards Dinner will take place at the James B. Woulfe Alumni Hall in the Anderson Student Center at the University of St. Thomas. The event is open to the public, but seating is limited. To purchase tickets, visit the NFF Minnesota Chapter website.

darwitz-natalie.jpgUSA Hockey will honor the first six members of its new 200 Club during the second intermission of tomorrow night's (April 14) gold-medal game of the 2012 International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship at Gutterson Fieldhouse. The Club recognizes players who have played at least 200 games for the U.S. Women's National Team.

The initial group of honorees includes alumni Natalie Darwitz, who was a Golden Gopher player from 2003-05 and an assistant coach at Minnesota from 2008-11. Darwitz is a three-time Olympian, and competed in eight IIHF Women's World Championships. In 13 years with the U.S. Women's National Team Program, she recorded 245 points (117-128), second all-time in the program.

The other players being honored in the initial class are Team USA alumni Cammi Granato, Katie King and Angela Ruggiero, and current players Julie Chu and Jenny Potter.

In IIHF play today, Canada faces off against Finland in the first semifinal, while the U.S. plays Switzerland in the other semifinal game. Team USA's game, which starts at 6 p.m. central, will be shown online at FASThockey.com. There's a game preview from USA Hockey here. Live stats during the game are available on the IIHF website here.

Tomorrow's championship game will be at 6 p.m. central, and will be televised on Universal Sports (available in the Twin Cities through DISH Network or DIRECTV).

GWH Blog: World Championships Update

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After two days of play in the IIHF Women's Hockey World Championships, Team USA has a 2-0 record, defeating Canada 9-2 and winning 9-0 over Russia.

On Saturday, the Americans played their first World Championships game, winning 9-2 over Canada. Team USA got off to an amazing start, taking a 5-0 lead in the first five and a half minutes of play. Gopher players scoring points in the game were defenseman Megan Bozek who had an assist, and former Gopher Gigi Marvin, also a defenseman, who had two assists in the game. USA Hockey's full game recap can be read here. Postgame video is available here.

On Sunday, Team USA got a 9-0 shutout over Russia. Gopher sophomore Amanda Kessel had three points in the game, including two goals and an assist. Megan Bozek had two points with a goal and an assist. The Americans had a 54-5 advantage in shots in the game. A full game recap from USA Hockey is available here. Postgame video reaction from the game is available here.

Team Finland is 1-1 after its first two games, winning 5-4 against Russia in its first game before falling 3-2 to Canada in its second game. Gopher defenseman Mira Jalosuo played in both games for the Finns, and has a plus/minus rating of +1 after two games, one of four players on her team with a positive +/- rating. Goalie Noora Raty did not play in the game against Russia, but played against Canada. Raty had 40 saves and a 93.0 save percentage in the game, and was named Finland's Best Player of the Game. A game recap of the win over Russia is available here. A recap of the Finns' game against Canada is here.

Today is an off day at the World Championships, with the preliminary round finishing up tomorrow. On Tuesday, the U.S. and Finland square off at 7 p.m. A live video webcast of the game will be available on UniversalSports.com. More video from the tournament is available on the IIHF YouTube channel.

Patterson, Bjugstad Named Second-Team All-American

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Go Gophers! Kent Patterson
Go Gophers!
Kent Patterson was named Second-Team All-American.
Go Gophers!
Complete List of All-Americans

Senior goaltender Kent Patterson and sophomore forward Nick Bjugstad were named Second-Team All-Americans today. They are the first Gophers to be named to an All-American team since forward Ryan Stoa received first-team honors in 2009. The last Gopher to be named to the second team was Thomas Vanek in 2004.

This year is the first time that Minnesota has had two players honored since 2004 when Keith Ballard was named to the first team and Vanek was on the second team.

Patterson is the first Gopher goalie to receive All-American recognition since Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner Robb Stauber was named to the first team in 1988. Patterson is the first Minnesota goalie ever to be named to the second team and the sixth Gopher goalie to be named to one of the two teams (Larry Ross, 1951; Jim Mattson, 1953; Jack McCartan, 1957 and 1958; Murray McLachan, 1970 and Stauber).

Patterson, who finished the year with a 28-14-1 record, was named to the All-WCHA First Team and also won the WCHA Goaltending Champion title with a 2.06 goals-against average in league games. He was the national Player of the Month for October (7-1-0 record, four shutouts, 1.74 GAA and .939 save percentage) and was a three-time WCHA Defensive Player of the Week honoree (Oct. 11, Nov. 1 and Feb. 21).

His 28 wins are the most by a Gopher since Stauber won 34 games in 1987-88. Patterson won games against 10 different WCHA teams (Denver being the exception). He set a single-season school record and tied for the national lead in shutouts with seven this year as he led the Gophers to the Frozen Four. Patterson had four shutouts in October to become the third recorded Minnesota goaltender to shutout an opponent more than three times in the same month (Robb Stauber in February of 1988 and George Clausen in February of 1934).

Patterson etched his name into the Minnesota record book this season. He played in 43 games (tied for second all-time in one season) and played 2556:11 (second all-time in one season). His 2.32 goals-against average is third all-time in a single season, while his 966 saves rank fifth.

He finished his career first in Minnesota history in save percentage (.913) and tied for first in goals-against average at 2.45 (Kellen Briggs also had a 2.45 career goals-against average in 132 games from 2003-07). Patterson's seven shutouts place him tied for third all-time in career shutouts.

Patterson started the final 64 game of his career at Minnesota, dating back to his junior year. Starting on Dec. 4, 2010, he played a consecutive 3414:13 before not playing the final 20 minutes against Wisconsin on March 2, 2012. His minutes-played streak spanned 57 games and went through 170-regulation periods and parts of 12 overtime sessions.

Go Gophers! Nick Bjugstad
Go Gophers!
Nick Bjugstad was named Second-Team All-American.
Go Gophers!
Bjugstad, who set a career high in goals (25), assists (17) and points (42) this year, was also named to the All-WCHA First Team. He was the national Player of the Month for November after recording 13 points and nine goals and he was also the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week for Nov. 22.

His 25 goals led Minnesota and places him tied for fifth nationally. His 25 goals are the most by a Gopher since Ryan Potulny had 38 in during the 2005-06 season. Bjugstad recorded 21 of his points (9g-12a) in 16 road games and had a point in 13 of 16 road games, which included five multiple-point games.

Bjugstad tied for second on the team in power-play goals (8) and was third in plus-minus with a +21 rating. He led the Gophers with a 17.2 shooting percentage and Minnesota was 20-6-1 when he recorded a point.

Blog: Wrapping Up the 2011-12 Season

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2011-12 Final Release Get Acrobat Reader

"The season was one of those up-and-down seasons once again," Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith said in summarizing the Golden Gophers' 2011-12 campaign.

The team wrapped up its 23-15 season last week with a loss to Stanford in the NIT Championship. Advancing to Madison Square Garden was one of the biggest "ups" in that season. But the Gophers had to go through a lot of trials to make it that far. GopherSports.com took a look back at the season--with all its ups and downs--and what it means for the team's future.
Go Gophers! Mbakwe cheering
Go Gophers!
Losing Mbakwe to an ACL tear was one of the toughest obstacles the Gophers faced this season.
Go Gophers!

THE DOWNS

*Mbakwe out: On the day when the Gophers fell to Dayton in the Old Spice Classic championship, losing their undefeated start to the season was the least of their worries. Senior forward and leading scoring Trevor Mbakwe tore his ACL during the game. The Gophers had to finish out the season without his senior leadership, physicality, 14.0 points per game, and 9.1 rebounds per game.
*Not just Mbakwe: The injury bug bit several other players on the team. The Gophers' other senior, Ralph Sampson III, missed three non-conference games and the team's final seven games with injuries. Injuries to Andre Hollins and Julian Welch caused constant shuffling around at the point guard position, and prevented either of the two from getting into a flow for much of the year.
*Heartbreakers: The Gophers suffered their fair share of close losses this season, including three in overtime or double overtime. "I thought the tone was sort of set when we lost in a double-overtime game to Illinois," Smith said. "We had a chance to ice that game, and we didn't. I think that really affected our psyche and our ability to close games out."
*When it rained, it poured: That loss in the Big Ten opener started a four-game losing streak. The Gophers bounced back with three straight wins, but added a six-game slide later in the conference season.

"When we were sitting at 12-1, we thought we were well-positioned to have a successful season, but obviously we didn't, with injuries and other things...But that's no excuse. We lost a lot of close games. We played in (six) overtime games. But I was impressed with how our kids kept their composure all year long. I was very pleased with our young players, especially our freshmen and sophomores, how they developed and how they matured." -Tubby Smith

THE UPS

*Youth movement: Following Mbakwe's injury, the Gophers rattled off six straight non-conference wins without the senior forward, and without Sampson in the first two. Junior Rodney Williams transitioned almost perfectly to the 4-spot with Mbakwe out, and redshirt freshman Elliott Eliason filled in admirably for Sampson. Freshman Joe Coleman went on a hot streak in the middle of the season. When Andre Hollins recovered from an ankle injury, he and Williams tag-teamed as the team's top scoring threats and on-court leaders. Sophomore Austin Hollins also showed significant improvement from last year.
Go Gophers! Williams
Go Gophers!
Williams emerged as a team leader and major scoring threat.
Go Gophers!
*Making headlines: When the Gophers earned their first conference victory, they not only snapped a four-game losing streak, but also did so in style. They defeated No. 7/8 Indiana on its home court, earning a picture on ESPN's college basketball home page.
*Minnesota record books: The Gophers led the Big Ten in blocks for the fourth consecutive year with 186, Tubby Smith earned his 100th win at Minnesota, and Ralph Sampson III joined an elite group (1,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 150 blocks).
*Resiliency: Although the Gophers finished 6-12 in Big Ten play each of the last two seasons, this season had a different feel to it than last season. This year's team responded better to injuries, having multiple players step up at different points throughout the year. This year's team also made it one round farther in the Big Ten Tournament and earned an invitation to the NIT. They exceeded expectations there, and Williams and Andre Hollins earned all-tournament honors with their stellar play. "I'm really proud of how (the Gophers) responded in postseason play," Smith said. "I thought it was truly a team effort to get the 23 wins that we did get."

LOOKING AHEAD
"I like the guys that we have returning," Smith said. Barring any departures by non-seniors, the Gophers will bring back most of this year's roster. Williams will look to improve even more during his final year. By the end of this year, he looked more comfortable shooting jump shots, and further work on that aspect of his game during the summer could make him even more unstoppable. Andre Hollins will need to cut down on his turnovers, but he still had an impressive freshman season, and enters 2012-13 armed with all the experience he gained this year. Most of the other Gopher youngsters also showed improvement the season, and the Gophers return all five of their postseason starters, a good sign for the future.

Another good sign: Mbakwe was granted the option of a sixth year, and the Gophers have written to the NCAA about possibilities for keeping 16 players. If Mbakwe does choose to stay--an option he is currently leaning towards--the Gophers would still need to make sure that his knee is truly recovered before he is able to play. A healthy Mbakwe would give a huge boost to the Gophers in both rebounding and scoring. Maurice Walker, who also tore his ACL, should be ready to go for sure. He was participating fully in practice by the end of this season.

The possibility of players returning from injury, the team's postseason run, the emergence of several young players, and the incoming freshman class of Wally Ellenson and Charles Buggs all give Gopher fans good reason to look forward to 2012-13.

Gophers focused, ready for Boston College

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The Minnesota men's hockey team had a busy day in Florida on Wednesday in preparation for its first Frozen Four game in seven years. The Gophers will square off against top-ranked Boston College tomorrow night at 7:00pm CT on ESPN2 for a spot in the NCAA championship game on Saturday.
Go Gophers! Nate Condon
Go Gophers!
Nate Condon and the Gophers practiced for an hour at the Tampa Bay Times Forum today.
Go Gophers!

"We're excited to play Boston College," said Gopher head coach Don Lucia about the Eagles of Hockey East, who will come into Thursday riding a 17-game winning steak. "We see and understand how well they've been playing and it's going to be a great challenge for our players."

The game will be played at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Fla., the southernmost location for a Minnesota men's hockey game in the team's history.

Following a late arrival after a charter flight on Tuesday night, the team had a 9 a.m. wake up call on Wednesday. The Gopher players had breakfast together at 9:30 before walking to the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The team was sent off by the cheerleaders, who were joined by Goldy the Gopher, and the school band playing the Minnesota Rouser.

Upon arrival at the rink, members of the team conducted a round of interviews with several media outlets, including ESPN, Westwood One, and the NCAA. Other Thursday semifinalists Ferris State and Union were finishing up the same routine beforehand.

After a talking to the media, the Gophers hit the ice for the first time in Tampa for a one-hour practice.

As was the case in at the West Regional in St. Paul two weeks ago, Minnesota ended its practice session with a shootout competition. Sophomore defenseman Jake Parenteau won the shootout by scoring on four straight shots. Zach Budish, Jake Hansen, and Seth Ambroz also reached the final round.

Lucia, senior captain Taylor Matson, and sophomore defenseman Nate Schmidt then capped the day at the rink by attending a press conference down the hall from the locker room. The rest of the players talked to other members of the media outside of the locker room.

"This year's been something special," said Matson. "This team seems to come together on the ice and it just motivates guys harder than I've ever seen."

The Gophers finished the night with a championship reception on the Yacht Starship before heading back to the hotel for dinner. Minnesota will start its day on Thursday with an 8:30 a.m. wakeup call.

GWH Blog: Team USA wins 7-0 over Finland

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Team USA played in its final exhibition game leading up to the 2012 IIHF Women's Hockey World Championships. Last night, the U.S. and Finland faced off in Lake Placid, N.Y., with Team USA coming out on top 7-0. Gopher Megan Bozek had two points in the game, as did former Gopher Gigi Marvin.

Gigi Marvin scored just over two minutes into the game, getting the goal that would prove to be the gamewinner. The goal was the only one of the first period.

Team USA scored its second goal just 57 seconds into the second period, as Brianna Decker found the net, assisted by Megan Bozek. Bozek got a goal of her own before the period was up, scoring with 3:22 remaining in the period to put Team USA ahead 4-0.

Gigi Marvin added a second point when she assisted on Brianna Decker's goal with just seven seconds remaining in the game to bring the score to 7-0.

Gopher goalie Noora Raty did not play for Finland last night, Meeri Raisanen played in net for the Finns.

Amanda Kessel played on Team USA's second line with Brianna Decker and Kendall Coyne. Gopher recruit Hannah Brandt centered the fourth line. Gigi Marvin was paired with Kacey Bellamy on defense, while Minnesota teammates Anne Schleper and Megan Bozek were paired together.

For a full game recap, visit usahockey.com.

The World Championship tournament begins on Saturday, and Team USA has a tough opponent in its first game, facing Canada at 7 p.m. on April 7. Finland will face off against Russia in its first game of the tournament, game time is 3 p.m. on April 7.

Here's another tidbit from USA Hockey today, a video of Amanda Kessel and Erica Lawler talking about one of Kessel's pregame rituals. View the video here. We know the ritual brings good luck ... we found this photo from the NCAA championship game:

celebration 731.jpg

Dungy Visits Gophers

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Photo Gallery: Tony Dungy, Ben Hamilton Visit Gophers

The University of Minnesota football team probably gained some extra motivation - and definitely some extra wisdom - before they took to the field for Tuesday's spring practice session. The Gophers were visited by one of the most well-known and well-respected of M Men.

Super Bowl winning player and coach, best-selling author and former Gopher quarterback Tony Dungy spoke to the team and answered some questions from the current Gophers for more than 30 minutes at the Gibson-Nagurski Complex Tuesday afternoon. Dungy was joined by former Gopher All-America center Ben Hamilton, who shared some thoughts with the team as well.

"That was huge for Coach Dungy to come back to his alma mater and talk to the team about the tradition here when he was here, life in the NFL and being a positive influence in the community," quarterback MarQueis Gray said. "I think some of the younger guys - and the older guys - are going to take that to heart and be positive influences."

As a young man growing up in Indianapolis Gray said Dungy was someone he always looked up to. The current Gopher signal-caller certainly came away impressed by his predecessor.

Head coach Jerry Kill has had the team reading Dungy's book Uncommon through this winter and spring. The team has really embraced the theme of being Uncommon heading into the 2012 season and having Dungy there to drive the message home was important, Kill said.

"We talk about being uncommon and we're different," Kill said. "In my opinion, he's what you should be in coaching the game of football. It's great for our kids to hear from somebody of their own. His message was to do things the right way and be uncommon. The same message we've been talking about for a long time. It's also reassuring when it comes from Coach Dungy."

Dungy told the Gophers he believes they have what it takes to be the foundation for great things at Minnesota. Within that portion of his talk, he also reminded the group of student-athletes that they are role models and he encouraged them to be people parents would be proud to have their children emulate.

"You aren't going to win the national championship every year," Dungy said. "But you can be that person who everyone looks to, to follow. I'm not sure if this year's team will get to a national championship or not. But I do know this. You can lay the foundation. You can make it such that kids in the next five or six years say 'You know what? I want to go to Minnesota, because I want to be like those guys. I want to play like those guys.' Three or four years from now, then the team is even better than it was this year because you've attracted those guys to come. That's the challenge.

"You can get that done," Dungy said. "I know you can get that done. Whether we win a national championship here next year or two years from now or five years from now, you can feel like you laid the groundwork. That's important."

The legendary coach also told the squad that it isn't always the most talented team that wins. He emphasized the importance of heart and desire.

"Talent is great," Dungy said. "But it's not always the most important thing. It's not about talent. It's not about athletic ability. But playing together, having a goal and not being denied ... now that's important. That's how you win. And I can tell you, you have what it takes here to win."

See highlights of Dungy's talk with the Gopher players in the video below and listen to Coach Kill and MarQueis Gray talk about his visit with the team in the Audio Boo players below.


Coach Kill on Tony Dungy's visit with the team. (mp3)

MarQueis Gray on Tony Dungy's visit to the team. (mp3)

Gophers In The News

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Go Gophers! Taylor Matson
Go Gophers!
Captain Taylor Matson and the Gophers spent time with the media during the last week.
Go Gophers!
Minnesota will play in its 20th Frozen Four this week, but its first since 2005, when it takes on No. 1 Boston College in the national semifinals on Thursday (8 p.m. CT on ESPN2). The Gophers, who advanced to the Frozen Four with NCAA West Regional wins against Boston University and North Dakota, spent time with the media over the last week.

We compiled a list of clips so you can get caught up with everything Minnesota Hockey as the Gophers head to Florida for the Frozen Four.

(Media: If we missed an article, clip, video interview, etc., send it to us and we will add it as we relied on Google Reader).


AUDIO
Don Lucia radio interview (NHL Home Ice on SiriusXM)
Interviews with Taylor Matson, Jake Hansen, Kyle Rau, Zach Budish and Don Lucia (Audioboo.fm/MinnesotaHockey)

VIDEO
Patterson Leads Gophers To Frozen Four (KARE11)
NEW: Budish, Gophers Hope To Raise Another Banner (KARE11)
NEW: Once The Hero, Grant Potulny Now Coaching Gophers In Frozen Four (KARE11)
Nate Condon, Zach Budish Take Target Practice (FOX9)
Nate Schmidt and Grant Potulny on Sports Wrap (KSTP)
Gophers Await Frozen Four (KSTP)

PRINT AND PIXELS
Rau Stepped Right In, Gophers Stepped Up (Star Tribune)
A Long Time Coming, Gophers Redeem Themselves Big-Tim (Star Tribune)
U Seniors Find This NCAA Thing To Their Liking (Star Tribune)
Gophers Winning Because Everyone Pitching In (Star Tribune)
For Lucia, WCHA Loss Is Bearable Burden (Star Tribune)
Potulny Bridges Gap Of U Glory Past, Present (Star Tribune)
Lucia Does Homework On BC, Sees Need To Be Aggressive (Star Tribune)
NEW: Egos Don't Get In The Way For What Is Best For U Hockey Team (Star Tribune)
Coaching The Gophers Is High-Pressure Job, As Don Lucia Knows Well (Pioneer Press)
Three Things With Jake Hansen (Pioneer Press)
Erik Haula Talks (Pioneer Press)
Q&A With Kent Patterson (Pioneer Press)
Q&A With Nate Schmidt (Pioneer Press)
Q&A With Travis Boyd (Pioneer Press)
Q&A With Don Lucia (Pioneer Press)
Grant Potulny Recalls NCAA Championships (Pioneer Press)
Nate Schmidt Trims The Fat, Transforms Into A Star (Pioneer Press)
NEW: Nick Bjugstad Looks To Bust Out At Frozen Four (Pioneer Press)
NEW: Players Only Meeting Does The Trick (Pioneer Press)
NEW: Hiring Don Lucia Wasn't Rocket Science Ex-AD Says (Pioneer Press)
The Playoff Beard (Minnesota Daily)
NEW: Matson Defined By His Determination (Minnesota Daily)
NEW: The Transition: Former Gopher Hockey Player John Pohl (Minnesota Daily)
NEW: Trying Season Part Of The Process For Travis Boyd (Washington Times)
About Schmidt (College Hockey News)
Minnesota Team Capsule (College Hockey News)
Minnesota Players Experiencing, Thriving At New Levels Of Postseason (USCHO)
Haula Points The Way To The Frozen Four For Minnesota (USCHO)
Secondary Scoring Takes The Spotlight For Minnesota (USCHO)
Seniors' Season of Redemption Now Includes Frozen Four (USCHO)
NEW: Lucia And The Gophers Deliver Under Pressure (USCHO)
INCH Measures Up: Nate Schmidt, Minnesota (InsideCollegeHockey.com)
NEW: Coaches Take: Minnesota vs. Boston College (InsideCollegeHockey.com)
Gophers Back In The Frozen Four (AP)
Time For Gopher Seniors To Define Their Legacy (FOX Sports North)
Reserves Have Helped Spur Gophers In NCAAs (FOX Sports North)
Berth In Frozen Four Carries Special Meaning For Seniors (1500ESPN)
Boston College Makes For A Daunting Frozen Four Foe (1500ESPN)
Travis Boyd Among Gophers Finding Their Role (SB Nation)
EastDown And Tampa Bound (GopherPuckLive)
Heavyweight Battle On Tap For Tampa Between Gophers, Eagles (GopherPuckLive)
Nick Bjugstad Leads Gophers To Frozen Four (Minn Local Sports)
NEW: Puck Daddy Chats With Nick Bjugstad (Yahoo! Sports)
NEW: Validating His Choice, Mark Alt Picks Hockey Over Football (TampaBayOnline)
NEW: BC, Minnesota Mirror Images (Boston Herald)