April 2013 Archives

What They're Saying - Spring Game Recap

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Maroon Team wins (GopherSports) and we even kept stats (GopherSports)

QBs looking good (Star Tribune and Minnesota Daily)

Offense shows progress (BTN.com)

Harbison shows playmaking ability (Minnesota Daily)

Photos from Saturday (GopherGridiron and GopherSports)

Kill pleased with Spring Game (Star Tribune)

Five things we learned from the Spring Game (FSN)

Program was the big winner at the Spring Game (Pioneer Press)

Looking back at the spring practice (Star Tribune)

An in-depth look at the quarterbacks and running backs (1500 ESPN)

Good things come out of the Spring Game (SB Nation)

Quick game recap (KFAN)

Pro Update: Bjugstad Notches First NHL Goal (Video)

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Former Gopher Nick Bjugstad tallied his first NHL goal on Saturday as the Florida Panthers topped the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 in Florida's season finale. 


"That was pretty exciting for me," Bjugstad told the Associated Press. "I didn't really expect it. It's tough in the NHL getting shots, so I just put it on net, and it went in." 

Noteworthy:

-Paul Martin had two assists for the Penguins in an 8-3 Pittsburgh win over Carolina on Saturday including James Neal's eventual game winner. Martin, who played in his first game in nearly a month (injury), earned his 200th career assist in the win as Pittsburgh finished the regular season with the Eastern Conference's best record. 

-Phil Kessel netted Toronto's only goal in a 4-1 loss to Montreal on Saturday -- Kessel's power-play goal was his 20th of the year and put the Maple Leafs up 1-0 early in the contest. 


-Both Stu Bickel (N.Y. Rangers) and Aaron Ness (N.Y. Islanders) have been recalled by their NHL teams ahead of the playoffs. 

Gophers in the Playoffs

With the regular season ending this weekend, nine former Gophers will be heading to the playoffs this year with their respective NHL franchises. Here's the breakdown: 

Eastern Conference
Pittsburgh (Paul Martin) vs. N. Y. Islanders (Ness, Kyle Okposo)
Montreal vs. Ottawa (Jim O'Brien)
Boston vs. Toronto (Phil Kessel)
Washington vs. N.Y. Rangers (Bickel) 

Western Conference
Chicago (Nick Leddy) vs. Minnesota
Vancouver (Keith Ballard) vs. San Jose
St. Louis (Jordan Leopold) vs. Los Angeles 




Vanek to Skate for Austria at 2013 IIHF World Championships

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Related:

Today, the Buffalo Sabres tweeted that former Gopher Thomas Vanek will skate for Austria at the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships next month in Europe. The tournament, which runs May 3-19 in Helsinski, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden, now features three former Gophers as Nick Bjugstad and Erik Johnson will skate for the U.S. Men's National Team. 

While the Sabres had a disappointing end to the 2012-13 campaign, Vanek thrived as the team's leader in points (41) and goals (20, 10th in the NHL this season) in the 38-game season. The forward also finished tied for first on the team in assists with 21. 


Johnson Joins Bjugstad on U.S. National Team Roster

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USA Hockey has added former Gophers defenseman and current member of the Colorado Avalanche Erik Johnson to the 2013 U.S. Men's National Team roster on Friday evening. 

One of three additions on the day, Johnson joins the original roster of 15 that includes former Gophers forward (and current Florida Panthers center) Nick Bjugstad. The U.S. Men's National Team will compete at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Men's World Championship May 3-19 in Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden. NBC Sports Network will air all Team USA games at the tournament with a full broadcast schedule coming out next week. 

Johnson has played for six U.S. National Teams, highlighted by the 2010 U.S. Men's Olympic Ice Hockey Team. He helped Team USA to a silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, B.C. He played on the U.S. Men's National Team at the 2007 IIHF Men's World Championship. Johnson skated in the 2006 and 2007 IIHF World Junior Championships, collecting a bronze medal in 2007. He helped Team USA win back-to-back gold medals at the 2005 and 2006 IIHF Men's Under-18 World Championships.

The fifth-year NHL veteran was selected first overall by the St. Louis Blues in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. In 328 career games, Johnson has tallied 131 points (27 goals, 104 assists). 


Pro Update: Kessel Stays Hot, AHL Playoffs Start Tonight

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The NHL regular season continues to wind down with only one game remaining for the majority of teams.

Former Gopher Phil Kessel continued his offensive tear for the playoff-bound Maple Leafs on Thursday in Toronto's 4-0 win over Nick Bjugstad and the Florida Panthers. Kessel netted  a pair of second period goals in the win to bring his season total to 19 (his 51 points rank sixth in the NHL this season with one regular-season game remaining).

Kessel has eight points in his last four games as the Leafs finish up the regular season on Saturday at home against Montreal. 


 Wheeler and the Jets Finish 20112-13 Campaign 

Blake Wheeler and the Winnipeg Jets' chances of making the playoffs were dashed even before the team's 4-2 loss to Montreal on Thursday night as both Ottawa and the New York Rangers locked up the Eastern Conference's final playoff slots with overtime wins.

The only team in the NHL to have concluded its shortened 48-game schedule so far, the Jets went 6-1-1 to finish the season and finished ninth in the East.

Wheeler gave Winnipeg a 2-1 lead in the second period with his 19th goal of the season to finish the season with 41 total points (Wheeler currently ranks 14th in NHL goals this season and 25th in points).


Noteworthy

-Alex Goligoski and the Dallas Stars were eliminated from playoff contention with last night's 3-1 loss to Columbus (coupled with Detroit's 5-2 win over Nashville). Goligoski finished the year with 27 points (three goals, 24 assists). 

-Reminder that the American Hockey League Calder Cup playoffs kick off tonight. Here's the league's link to Playoff Central.

USA Hockey Pegs Bjugstad for National Team Roster

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Go Gophers!

USA Hockey announced the first 15 players of the 2013 U.S Men's National Team on Thursday including former Gophers forward and current center for the Florida Panthers Nick Bjugstad. 

The U.S. National Team will compete at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Men's World Championship May 3-19 in Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden. NBC Sports Network will air all Team USA games at the tournament with a full broadcast schedule coming out next week. 

Florida's first-round pick (19th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Bjugstad signed with the Panthers following the 2012-13 college season and has played in nine professional contests with the NHL organization. 

No Gopher tallied more goals over the last three seasons than Bjugstad with 54 while the junior tallied 98 total points in 109 career games. In Bjugstad's final two seasons with the program, the Gophers earned two-straight MacNaughton cups as Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) regular-season champions and two NCAA tournament berths including the team's run to the Frozen Four in 2011-12.

After a 20-point freshman campaign in 2010-11, Bjugstad skated to his best season with the Gophers in 2011-12, earning Second Team All-America and All-WCHA First Team honors. The Blaine, Minn., native posted a career-high 42 points, 25 goals and 17 assists as a sophomore while the Gophers captured the team's first MacNaughton Cup since 2006-07 and returned to the NCAA Frozen Four for the 20th time in program history and the first time since 2005. 

Bjugstad returned to the Gophers as a junior in 2012-13 and served as an alternate captain for the squad while also earning All-WCHA Third Team accolades. The junior led Minnesota and finished tied for eighth in the nation with 21 goals and recorded 36 points in his final season with the Maroon and Gold. Eleven of his goals came on the power play - ranking Bjugstad third in the nation - while Minnesota was the nation's best team on the advantage this season. The Gophers, who added a second-straight MacNaughton Cup in 2012-13, also led the nation in scoring offense during Bjugstad's final two seasons with the program.   

Bjugstad has previous experience with USA Hockey, skating with the U.S. National Junior Team in 2011-12. 

Pro Update: Gophers Tally Nine NHL Points

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Tuesday night was a productive one for former Gophers in the National Hockey League (NHL). With the playoffs looming, Minnesota alums tallied nine points (three goals, six assists) in NHL action -- headed by Thomas Vanek's three-point night in a 4-2 win over Pittsburgh. 

Vanek broke a scoreless tie at 12:49 with his 19th goal of the year -- this one-timer from the slot: 


Buffalo's leading scorer this year with 40 points (20 goals, 20 assists), Vanek assisted on Jochen Hect's second period goal to reclaim a lead for the Sabres before adding an empty-net insurance goal with 32.4 seconds left.

Blake Wheeler also picked up a goal -- his 18th of the year -- in Winnipeg's 5-3 loss to Washington last night. After the Capitals took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission, Wheeler's goal at 14:11 of the second period briefly evened the slate at 2-2 before Washington reclaimed the lead 37 seconds later. 


Noteworthy

-Kyle Okposo helped the New York Islanders clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2007 last night with a pair of assists in the Islanders' 4-3 shootout loss to Carolina (yes, you heard that right.) 

-Jordan Leopold also had two assists in St. Louis' 3-1 win over Colorado while Alex Goligoski tallied one assist in Dallas' 2-3 loss to San Jose. 

-Three former Gophers rank among the top 30 goal scorers (10. Vanek: 20; 18. Wheeler: 18; 30. Phil Kessel: 16). All three also rank among the top 30 in points this season (8. Kessel: 48; 26. Vanek: 40; 26. Wheeler: 40). 

-The Vancouver Canucks announced today that Keith Ballard is out for tomorrow's game against Anaheim. 

Playoff Preview

Still some regular-season action to go, but several teams with Gopher ties will be heading to the playoffs shortly...here's a quick look at who's in and who's still fighting to get in. 

Eastern Conference: Paul Martin has been out since March 28 with a broken hand, but Pittsburgh has clinched the Eastern Conference regular-season title and currently sits as the one-seed for the playoffs. Before his injury, Martin was having a tremendous season for the Penguins and is ninth in the NHL in time on ice per game. Also in the East, Toronto (Kessel) and the Islanders (Okposo) have clinched playoff berths. Wheeler and the Jets are still alive, sitting in ninth right now and trailing Ottawa (Jim O'Brien) and the New York Rangers by a point (both have played fewer games however). 

Western Conference: Nick Leddy and the Chicago Blackhawks started the season with a historic winning streak and have the one-seed locked up out West as regular-season conference champs. Also clinched already in the West are Vancouver (Ballard) and St. Louis (Leopold). Goligoski and the Stars are still in the hunt, currently sitting in 10th in the West behind seven-seed Minnesota (53 points), eight-seed Columbus (51) and Detroit (50). The Redwings have a game in hand over all three teams though. 


Borton to be Honored, Give Back this Week

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University of Minnesota head women's basketball coach Pam Borton has prided herself on making contributions to the University community and communities throughout the state of Minnesota during her time as head coach, and this week Borton will not only give back to the community, but will also be honored for her community service efforts.

Borton's week begins tonight at the Ann Bancroft Foundation's 2013 dreamXchange at the McNamara Alumni Center starting at 5:30, where she will be paired with a past grant winner to partake in a Q&A session. It is the 16th annual benefit celebration of the Ann Bancroft Foundation, whose mission is to create a world where every girl has a chance to live her wild dream and reach her full potential.

Borton was a recipient of the Ann Bancroft Foundation's Dream Maker Award in 2011, which paid tribute to her leadership and contributions in the effort to encourage the achievements of girls and women.

For more information or to purchase tickets, go to AnnBancroftFoundation.org.

Borton will also be honored by Minnesota Business Magazine Thursday night as one of the publication's "The (Real) Power 50," a list of the 50 most important people to know if you wish to conduct business in the state of Minnesota. Borton and the additional 49 award winners will be showcased in the event at The Westin Edina Galleria and will also be featured in the magazine's May 2013 issue.

For more information or to purchase tickets, go to MinnesotaBusiness.com/mnbizpower50.

The head coach concludes her busy week on Thursday, May 2, when she will serve as the keynote speaker for the Third Annual Wellness Rocks event at Seven in Minneapolis. All proceeds from the event go to the Cancer Survivor Wellness Fund.

The Cancer Survivors Wellness Fund is a charitable fund administered by the Fairview Foundation. The purpose of the Cancer Survivor Wellness Fund is to help survivors transitioning from treatment to post-treatment by providing funding to support exercise and wellness programs.  

For those living with a cancer diagnosis, exercise and wellness have measurable improvements on cognitive and physical function, as well as reduced recurrence of disease. Exercise and wellness programs for survivors are an important step in preventative wellness and launch survivors on a lifelong journey of empowerment.

For more information or to purchase tickets, go to CancerSurvivorWellnessFund.org.

Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: Goodbye, LA

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- After the Individual Event Finals on Sunday, the team waited outside Pauley Pavilion with friends and family until freshmen Hanna Nordquist and Lindsay Mable finished up with their post-meet responsibilities and emerged to a plethora of cheers, hugs and congratulatory wishes.

Hanna and Lindsay had just wrapped up three Top 5 finishes to cap a very successful weekend at the NCAA Championships for the Golden Gophers. Hanna just missed a national title on balance beam, as her score of 9.8875 tied for second place behind former Olympian Bridget Sloan of Florida, who won with a score of 9.900. Lindsay tied for fourth on floor exercise and tied for fifth on vault, receiving scores of 9.900 on both events.

When the Gophers boarded the bus to head to dinner, they posed for the photo above, in which each gymnast held the name plate that was used on the score displays during the NCAA Championships. They each got to keep their name plate as a memento from the weekend.

Minnesota then headed to Tony P's Dockside Grill in Marina del Rey for a celebratory dinner. As the restaurant name indicates, Tony P's is right on the water, and we knew the food would be fantastic when we pulled up and saw a full parking lot.

It was another wonderful meal -- very "schway," if you ask the team (it's an inside joke, and sorry if that's misspelled, Hanna and Janell). I had the crab cakes entree, which gets two thumbs up, but I'm pretty sure the team was more excited about the chance to order dessert!

This morning, everyone gathered in the lobby of the hotel at 6:30 a.m., and boarded the bus to head to LAX to catch an 8:15 a.m. flight back to the Twin Cities. We arrived in Minneapolis-St. Paul at 1:40 p.m., and the rain that was falling at the time has now turned to snow. *sigh*

All in all, it was a memorable weekend -- an eighth-place team finish at the NCAA Championships; Meg Stephenson being named NACGC/W National Coach of the Year; Jenny Hanson, Louie Johnson and Jim Stephenson honored as Assistant Coaches of the Year; two First Team All-Americans turning in Top 5 finishes in three events. And those are just the highlights from inside the gym.

The Gophers are so fortunate to have tremendous support from family, friends, and alumnae who travel great distances to watch them compete and clearly make it known who they're cheering for. It was difficult not to notice when the sizable group of Gopher fans broke into the Minnesota Rouser, whether at Pauley Pavilion or in the lobby of the team's hotel. The pride these people have for these extraordinary gymnasts is through the roof, and the team has a great appreciation for that fantastic support.

It's tough to write about this season coming to an end, because it's been so special. But, at the same time, it feels like this is just the beginning of an exciting era for Minnesota women's gymnastics. In an interview with Gymnastike after yesterday's Individual Event Finals, Hanna Nordquist and Lindsay Mable echoed each other's belief that Minnesota qualifying as a team for the NCAA Championships is something people should come to expect. And, with the type of team the Gophers have returning for the 2014 season, why not think that way?

Minnesota's 2013 season has been magical, and it's been so much fun to have the opportunity to write about this team's stellar performances along the way. Being able to travel with the team to Los Angeles was a blast, and so gratifying.

Now, the team's attention will shift to making sure it does well in the remainder of the academic year before it begins to prepare for next season. Birmingham, Ala., is the final destination. Don't doubt for a second that this team has what it takes to make it there. Minnesota and its fans will hope to make it their sweet home, Alabama.

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Former Gophers forward Jeff Taffe notched his 500th AHL point over the weekend in a 4-2 Hershey Bears' loss to Binghamton on Saturday. The Second Team AHL All-Star finished second in the league's regular-season scoring race with 71 points (18 goals, 53 assists) in 73 games as Hershey clinched the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot with a 4-2 win over Manchester on Sunday. 

The Bears, who also feature former Gophers Nate Schmidt, Ryan Potulny, Ryan Stoa and Mike Carman on their roster, open the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs against one-seed Providence on Friday in a best-of-five series. 

Also in the AHL

In addition to Hershey, Minnesota will have alumni in the following Calder Cup quarterfinals this season: 

Eastern two-seed Springfield (Jake Hansen) vs. seven-seed Manchester 
Western one-seed Texas vs. eight-seed Milwaukee (Zach Budish)
Western three-seed Grand Rapids vs. six-seed Houston (Erik Haula) 

Two former Gophers also tallied their first professional goals over the weekend as Budish tallied in the Admirals' 3-0 win over Peoria on Sunday and Mark Alt scored for the Adirondack Phantoms in the team's home finale on Saturday. 

Goligoski Picks Up Two Points 

Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski scored his third goal of the season and added an assist as Dallas fell to Los Angeles 4-3 in overtime. 

Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: "Super Sunday"

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- The 2013 NCAA Championships wrap up this afternoon with the Individual Event Finals at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, and the future of Minnesota women's gymnastics will be on center stage, as freshman Lindsay Mable competes on both vault and floor exercise and freshman Hanna Nordquist competes on balance beam.

The pair of gymnasts have already earned NACGC/W First Team All-America honors simply by advancing to today's finals. Today is an opportunity for icing on the cake, as they attempt to be among the top eight on their events and make the podium.

Mable is one of 24 qualifiers on vault, and she will be the sixth competitor on that event. She owns a season-high score of 9.950 on vault and scored a 9.900 on Friday to advance. Mable will be the 7th of 12 finalists to compete on floor, where she owns a season-high score of 9.975 and advanced to the final by tying for first in Semifinal #1 with a 9.900. Mable's 9.975 tied Minnesota's school record on floor exercise.

Nordquist will be the second of nine competitors on balance beam. She owns a season-best score of 9.925 on the event, and she advanced to the finals by scoring a 9.900 on beam during Friday's team semifinal.

To watch today's competition on ESPN3, click the following link: http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index/_/id/868466/ncaa-women-gymnastics-championships-presented-northwestern-mutual%20http://es.pn/NCAA-WGYM-0421

For Live Stats from today's competition, click the following link: http://www.uclabruins.com/livestats/w-gym/20130421.htm

Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: A Day at the Beach

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- With a day off between Friday's Team Semifinals and Sunday's Individual Event Finals, the Gophers took advantage of the beautiful California weather and spent a couple hours at Venice Beach on Saturday.

The team boarded the bus at 10:00 a.m., and arrived around 10:20. Sun and sand were the immediate focus, and the Gophers found a spot near the surf to enjoy a perfect day. Some of Minnesota's players and staff members were even able to see a small seal that was on a rock formation near their location.

The water was pretty cold to do more than just wade in it, so no one was brave enough to actually go for a swim. Some of the staff members and parents who joined the team there strolled along the boardwalk and checked out the vendors and performers who set up along the way.

One of the coolest experiences was to watch on two occasions as a cloud of fog worked its way across the water toward our location on the beach. It was interesting to see the fog quickly make its way toward us, and each time it blew past us within minutes. I'm sure a Californian wouldn't think twice about it. But, to Minnesotans, it was an interesting experience.

After sunbathing for awhile, many of the team members played some beach volleyball and threw a frisbee around before gathering for lunch at 1:00 p.m. The team then boarded the bus and headed back to the hotel to get ready for this afternoon's Super Six Team Finals, which they are watching as I write this in the Media Room at Pauley Pavilion.

It was a great day trip, as part of a truly fun weekend with an amazing group of young women.

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Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: On the Big Stage

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- Minnesota's goal all season long was to qualify as a team for the 2013 NCAA Championships. Two weeks ago today at the Gainesville Regional, that goal was achieved, as the Gophers finished second to Florida with a team score of 197.100.

Shortly after that meet had ended, the team's new rallying cry became "Super Six." The Golden Gophers had accomplished the amazing feat of becoming one of just 12 women's gymnastics teams to advance to Los Angeles, and now the goal was to advance beyond the semifinals.

On Friday at Pauley Pavilion, Minnesota competed in its semifinal on the big stage against five of the other top teams in the nation -- Florida, LSU, Georgia, Stanford and Illinois. The Gophers gave it everything they had, competing with tremendous heart and passion in front of an incredible group of fans that included Minnesota Director of Athletics Norwood Teague.

The support for the team was fantastic. Minnesota's Facebook page and Twitter account were getting flooded with positive comments from proud Gophers fans from all over the country.

At the end of the first semifinal, Minnesota stood in fourth place with a team total of 196.375 points. It wasn't enough for the Gophers to advance to Saturday's Super Six, but this team was able to experience first-hand what it takes to move on and the table is set for future teams to make return trips to the NCAA Championships.

Minnesota loses a pair of amazing leaders and talented gymnasts in Janell Campbell and Shannon Golich. They will be missed. Golich was a First Team All-Big Ten selection this season, and Campbell served as the team's captain and earned a spot on the Big Ten's All-Championships Team at last month's Big Ten Championships.

But the future of this program is bright. On Friday, a pair of freshmen -- Lindsay Mable and Hanna Nordquist -- advanced to Sunday's Individual Event Finals. By doing so, they both earned NACGC/W First Team All-America status -- Mable on both vault and floor, and Nordquist on beam.

Rest assured, the Gophers already have their team goals set for next season, and those goals include a trip to Birmingham, Ala., for the 2014 NCAA Championships.

Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: It's Almost Time!

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- Well, folks, this is what's it's all about. This is what the team has been working toward since it started workouts last summer. The time is here. The Gophers are mentally prepared and ready for the physical challenge of going head-to-head with the top collegiate women's gymnastics programs in the country.

Head coach Meg Staphenson's Golden Gophers are going through their practice rotations right now on the floor of Pauley Pavilion. We're a little more than an hour from the start of the 2013 NCAA Championships, and Minnesota will do its best to show fans from every school that it belongs on the big stage.

The Gophers have defeated Michigan when it was ranked No. 1 in the nation, they've gone head-to-head with current No. 1 Florida on two occasions, they've gone 14-4 this season against teams that are ranked among the Top 25.

Minnesota is about to write the next chapter in this magical season. It's been quite the ride, and I expect great things on the podiums at Pauley Pavilion this afternoon. Go Gophers!

Pro Update: Kessel Shines in 500th NHL Game

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Former Gopher Phil Kessel skated in his 500th NHL game on Thursday and tallied three assists in Toronto's 5-3 loss to Kyle Okposo and the New York Islanders. 



Kessel has 46 points (16 goals, 30 assists) this season including eight points (four goals, four assists) in the last five games. The forward has 373 career points (181 goals, 192 assists). 

On the other side of the ice, Okposo added an assist on the Islanders' insurance goal midway through the third. 


Kessel wasn't the only former Gopher to tally a three-point game last night -- Blake Wheeler tallied a goal and two assists in Winnipeg's 4-3 win over Carolina. 

Wheeler opened the night with an assist on Paul Postma's power-play goal to give the Jets a 1-0 lead with this perfectly threaded pass. 


The game's No. 1 Star added his 91st career goal and his 17th of the season early in the third to make it 3-1 although Carolina would force overtime with a pair of goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation. 



Wheeler would set up Dustin Byfuglien's overtime winner to end the night with three points and 10 points in the last five games. 

Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: The BEST Fans Around!

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- Minnesota has tremendous support, wherever it goes, and most of the friends and family in the picture above have been to EVERY meet this season, home or away.

It means so much to the Golden Gophers to have such faithful followers, and we're sure this group will make itself heard today at Pauley Pavilion.

Minnesota was ranked in the Top 20 nationally for home attendance, drawing an average of just under 2,000 fans per meet. Today, Pauley Pavilion will serve as "Sports Pavilion West Coast," as all these great fans clad in Maroon and Gold will make their way into their seats to cheer the Gophers, as they attempt to advance to Saturday's "Super Six."

Thanks from the bottom of our hearts for all the wonderful support you've provided this season. It means the world to the gymnasts and all people associated with this great program.

Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: Meet Day!

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CULVER CITY, CALIF. -- It's NCAA Championships Meet Day!

The picture above is the view from my hotel room. There's nothing really special about that view, other than to let you see that it's a beautiful day here in the Los Angeles area, with LOTS of sunshine. Hoping that serves as an omen for how the Golden Gophers will fare today, as we are on the bus and headed to Pauley Pavilion for the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships!

For those of you who aren't able to be here, Minnesota is in the first semifinal today, and you can watch each session at the following links:

Early Session (2:00 p.m. CT)
http://www.ncaa.com/championship/liveplayer/player?gameId=291184&date=2013/04/19

Late Session (8:00 p.m. CT)
http://www.ncaa.com/championship/liveplayer/player?gameId=291185&date=2013/04/19

And here is the link for the NCAA Championships site, with Live Stats links: http://www.uclabruins.com/sports/w-gym/spec-rel/13-ncaa-gym.html

The thing with this team, though, is that IT has made the "sun" shine on it all season long by putting together amazing performance after amazing performance. Whether or not the Golden Gophers advance to Saturday's "Super Six" Team Finals, the 2013 season is one for the record books and this team will be remembered favorably for years to come.

But it's a sunny day in California, and Minnesota hopes to continue along the path that brought the team to this point. And being "Golden" Gophers has to count for something in this state.

Go Gophers!

Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: Big-Time Banquet

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- What a fantastic evening!

The University of Minnesota women's gymnastics team attended the NCAA Championships Banquet at Sony Pictures Studio on Thursday evening, and host UCLA put together an amazing experience for all the participants and staff members.

The Gophers gathered in the hotel lobby a little before 6:00 p.m. PT, where many of the Minnesota parents and fans who are here to cheer on the team spent some time wishing the team good luck. After taking some pictures, the team boarded the bus to head to Sony Studios.

Each team's bus was allowed to pull inside the gates of the Sony Picture Studios lot, where the teams were dropped off and able to walk through the middle of the numerous buildings where movies like Spider-Man, Men in Black, The Karate Kid and Ghostbusters have been filmed. Sony also served as the site of the television shows I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched, as well as the game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!

The Gophers were then received with a red carpet welcome, complete with photographers dressed as Paparazzi. The team stopped in front of an NCAA Championships backdrop for a team photo before continuing inside and finding its three tables inside a spacious lobby area.

The bonus from my perspective, as well as others in our group, was that we were allowed to immediately go line up to get food. Things were well-organized, with more than one area where food was available, so the lines were manageable and moved steadily.

The tables were decorated with square placards made to look like stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with each gymnast's name adorning one -- a very cool idea that each of the gymnasts appreciated.

A couple awards were presented, and Travis Wall of the show So You Think You Can Dance was there to add some Los Angeles star power to the evening. It was an incredible event, celebrating the best in collegiate women's gymnastics on the eve of the sport's national finals. Thanks to UCLA, the NCAA and its corporate partners, and Sony Pictures Studio for putting together such a special event.

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Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: Practice at Pauley

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- Minnesota woke up this morning, had breakfast at the hotel, and then boarded the team bus to depart for the team's practice session at UCLA's famed Pauley Pavilion.

Along the way, the Gophers got their first taste of California traffic, as vehicles moved slowly (but steadily) along Interstate 405 on the way to campus. It took a little maneuvering to get the team bus to the right spot, but Minnesota arrived in time for its 10:15 a.m. practice.

Other teams here this morning include Florida, LSU and Illinois. The teams are allowed 20 minutes on each event, as they familiarize themselves with the equipment and setup at Pauley Pavilion.

The Gophers will open the meet on uneven bars, as it did at the Gainesville Regional. That will allow Minnesota to finish on floor and vault, which have been the team's two strongest events this season.

The meet setup at Pauley Pavilion is fantastic, with all of the events on platforms that are elevated approximately three feet off the arena floor. The acoustics are good, the scoreboard is nice, and it seems to be a wonderful venue for the NCAA Championships.

After practice concludes at 12:01 p.m. PT, the team will head to lunch at Jerry's Famous Deli, then back to the hotel to rest for a few hours before tonight's NCAA Championships Banquet at Sony Pictures Studio.

Pro Update: Vanek's Two Points Pave Way for Shootout Win

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Former Gopher Thomas Vanek and the Buffalo Sabres were involved in an emotional game last night against the Boston Bruins with the contest marking the first organized sporting event in Boston since Monday's explosions at the Boston Marathon. 

And as John Vogl of the Buffalo News writes:

"The first sporting event in Boston since two explosions devastated Marathon Monday did exactly what it was supposed to do Wednesday. It created an enjoyable diversion for a grieving city that is eager to return to normalcy."

Buffalo rallied from one-goal deficits twice on Wednesday before scoring the game winner in a 3-2 shootout win. Vanek factored into both regulation goals for the Sabres with impressive plays, scoring a power-play goal late in the first to make it 1-1 and then assisting on Cody Hodgson's game-tying, power-play goal with 27 seconds left in the third period. The former Gopher now leads Buffalo in goals (17), assists (19) and points (36) 

Here's a look at Vanek's power-play goal from last night. 


And his primary assist on the late, game-tying goal to force overtime: 

Go Gophers! MNB1G
Go Gophers!
CULVER CITY, CALIF. -- We just returned to the hotel after a great meal at BJ's Brewhouse & Restaurant. The team walked the three or four blocks to dinner and enjoyed being able to sit in an open-air room with the garage doors open to let in a California breeze on a beautiful day here in Los Angeles.

I contemplated a pizza, which a couple others tried, but went with the Balsamic Glazed Chicken and don't regret the decision one bit. A big thumb's up to the staff at BJ's for a fantastic dinner!

It's nice to be able to walk to where we need to go, although the some members of the team might need to review the safety rules they learned about crossing the street in elementary school. Just sayin'.

After the walk back to the hotel, the team gathered to meet with the coaches to go over the agenda for tomorrow.

Highlights of Thursday's Schedule
10:15 a.m. to 12:01 p.m. -- Practice Session I at Pauley Pavilion
12:15 p.m. -- Lunch
6:30 p.m. -- NCAA Championships Banquet at Sony Pictures Studioit

It's hard to believe it's now less than two days until the Gophers will compete in Semifinal #1, but this team is so focused and driven to achieve its goals, and it's ready to lay it all on the line in an attempt to advance to Saturday's "Super Six."

Tomorrow will be an important day, as the Gophers will have a chance to familiarize themselves with the setup and equipment at Pauley Pavilion. Lights are out at 10:30 p.m. tonight, and I have a feeling the gymnasts will have no trouble getting some sleep after a long day of travel.

Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: Gophers Arrive in LA

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Go Gophers! MNB1G
Go Gophers!
CULVER CITY, CALIF. -- Minnesota's women's gymnastics team has safely arrived in the Los Angeles area for the 2013 NCAA Championships, and I hate to rub it in, but let's just say the weather is very Southern California-like.

The team loaded the bus outside Bierman Field Athletic Building this morning at 9:15 a.m., and caught a flight to LAX at 11:40 a.m. One of the funniest sights of the day was assistant coach Louie Johnson, Janell Campbell and Shannon Golich "speed walking" to be the first through the security lines shortly after receiving our boarding passes.

It was a full flight to Los Angeles aboard a 757, and the captain wished the Gophers good luck over the intercom upon arrival. So did countless Minnesotans aboard the flight, and numerous people who stopped to ask what sport the team took part in, and why the Gophers are in LA.

At 4:45 p.m. PT, the team will meet in the lobby of the hotel and walk about three blocks to have dinner together, and the Gophers will then have a team meeting with head coach Meg Stephenson and the coaching staff later this evening.

It's just the start of an exciting weekend ahead for No. 8 Minnesota, as it makes a return to the NCAA Championships as a team for the first time since finishing ninth during 2002. I'll continue to update this blog as the weekend goes on, sharing some of the fun moments that take place here in Tinseltown.

Go Gophers!

Pro Update: Check Out Wheeler's Big Night

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Former Gophers forward Blake Wheeler factored into all three of Winnipeg's goals in regulation last night in a 4-3 shootout win over Tampa Bay. Wheeler pocketed a pair of assists in the win and scored his 90th career goal in the second period with this slick score. 


Noteworthy:

-Phil Kessel's next game will be the former Gopher's 500th NHL contest. In 499 career games, Kessel has 181-189--370. 

Video: 2012-13 Gopher Hockey Highlights

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Here are the very best of the best! Don't miss some of the top plays and highlights from the 2012-13 Gopher hockey season. From incredible individual performances to big wins over No. 1 Boston College and No. 2/3 Notre Dame, it's all available right here on Gophersports.com. 

Former Gophers All-American Ryan Stoa signed a one-year contract extension with the Washington Capitals, the organization announced on Monday through the team's American Hockey League affiliate -- the Hershey Bears. 


Stoa, 26, has registered a total of 19 points (11 goals, eight assists) in 43 games in his first season with the Chocolate and White.  After missing nearly two months of the regular season due to injury, Stoa's most productive month came when he racked up five goals in February, which included his second multiple-goal game of the campaign.
 
The 6-3, 228-pound native of Bloomington, MN came to the Bears as an off-season signing during the summer of 2012.  Prior to joining Hershey, Stoa spent three seasons with the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters, racking up 55 goals and 54 assists in 177 games.  Stoa also has 37 NHL games to his credit, all with the Colorado Avalanche, where he recorded seven points (four goals, three assists).
 
Prior to turning pro, Stoa played four years of collegiate hockey at the University of Minnesota (WCHA), putting up 97 points (47 goals, 50 assists) in 120 career games and picking up WCHA First Team All-Star honors in 2009.  He also won the bronze medal in 2007 with the United States at the Under-20 World Junior Championships, and took the gold in 2005 with the Under-18 Team.
 
Stoa was originally selected by Colorado in the second round (34th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

In a Gophers-centric contest, Stoa and Hershey (which also features former Gophers Ryan Potulny, Jeff Taffe, Mike Carman and Nate Schmidt) return to action this Friday against former Gophers defenseman Mark Alt and the Adirondack Phantoms. Taffe is tied for the AHL scoring lead with 70 points this season while Schmidt tallied his first professional goal over the weekend. Alt unofficially tallied for the Phantoms on Sunday, notching the game-winning goal in the 15th round of a shootout. 

Kessel Named NHL's Second Star of the Week

Former Gopher forward Phil Kessel was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week after tallying five goals in three games last week as the Maple Leafs look to earn their first playoff berth since 2004. 

Kessel leads Toronto with 27 assists and 42 points in 41 games this season. 


Looking Back at the 2003 NCAA Title Game

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Ten years ago today -- on April 12, 20013 -- the University of Minnesota celebrated its fifth national championship in men's hockey with the Gophers' 5-1 victory over New Hampshire in Buffalo, N.Y.

Check out the box score from the 2003 NCAA Championship game

The Gophers ended a 23-year title drought in 2002 and added their second-straight national championship in 2003. Minnesota posted a 28-8-9 overall record in 2002-03 and for the second-straight season, the Gophers went the entire season without suffering consecutive losses. In addition to the national championship, Minnesota also captured the Broadmoor Trophy as the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five champions. Paul Martin captured Second Team All-America honors while Thomas Vanek was the nation's leading rookie scorer and finished one goal shy of John Mayasich's freshman goal record.

Go Gophers! TopTen
Jeff Taffe

Former Gopher and current Hershey Bears forward Jeff Taffe was named an All-AHL Second Team member on Thursday after leading the American Hockey League scoring race with 64 points this season. The center's 46 assists tie him for the league lead.

Taffe is in his first season with the Bears but is no stranger to AHL competition. He has played part of 12 seasons in the top minor league in the world. During his professional career, Taffe has also appeared in 180 NHL games with six different teams. His most recent stint was with the Minnesota Wild in last season.

Taffe appeared in 120 games for the Gophers over three seasons. In his final season with the Maroon and Gold, he help led Minnesota to the 2002 National Championship. Taffe was the second leading scorer on the team behind John Pohl. Taffe and Pohl led the country in power-play goals that season with 14 apiece. Taffe posted a total of 113 points for the Gophers.

Hershey, the top affiliate for the Washington Capitals, is where five former Gophers now apply their trade. Ryan Potulny, Mike Carman, Ryan Stoa, and Nate Schmidt join Taffe in wearing the Chocolate & White. Schmidt arrived in Hershey last weekend after being named to the All-WCHA First Team and leading the Gophers' blue line in points this season with 26. Three former Gophers combined on a power-play goal in Sunday's game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, when Schmidt and Taffe set up Potulny.

With two weeks left in the regular season, Taffe and the rest of the former Gopher teammates will look to help Hershey back to the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season. The Bears are currently tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with two weeks remaining in the regular season. Hershey has won 11 Calder Cup Championships, more than any other league member has.

Three Former Gophers Now in Albany

Seth Helgeson signed an entry-level contract with the American Hockey League's Albany Devils of Friday. The arrival of Helgeson means three former Gophers now play in Albany. Seth joins forward Mike Hoeffel and goaltender Jeff Frazee. The three former Gophers have some important games coming up. Albany, the top affiliate for the New Jersey Devils, sits four points behind the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

-Written by Communications Intern Josh Brennock

Borton to Speak at TeamWomenMN Leadership Conference

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University of Minnesota women's basketball head coach Pam Borton is scheduled to speak at the TeamWomenMN Leadership Conference on Friday, April 12 at Golden Valley Country Club. The theme of the conference is "Empowering Leadership" and will feature a keynote address from Martha Nevanen, VP of the Pohlad Companies.

Borton, who is the President and co-founder of TeamWomenMN, will open the event at 10:00 a.m. with a "pregame talk", before participating in the remainder of the event schedule.

Also scheduled to participate in the event are Grayce Belvedere Young, Margaret Murphy, Cheryl Reeve, Joy Frestedt, Hannah Ubl, Tammie Follett, Colleen Needles Steward, Sara Beatty Ratner, Lindsey Bruber, Roshini Rajkumar and Janee Harteau.

Complete Schedule of Events
9:00 AM               Registration
10:00 AM            
"Pre-Game Talk"

Pam Borton & Keynote Speaker Martha Nevanen, Vice President of Corporate Marketing & Communications, Pohlad Companies

10:45 AM            
Networking "Time-Out"
11:00 AM            
"Charting Your Career Path"

Grayce Belvedere Young, President of the Prouty Project & Margaret Murphy,
President and COO of Olson
12:30 PM            
"Half-Time Talk"

Lunch with Cheryl Reeve, Head Coach, Minnesota Lynx

1:30 PM               
TeamWomenMN Mentoring and Teaching Programs

Moderated by Joy Frestedt, President, Alimentix

2:15 PM               
Networking "Time-Out"
2:30 PM               
"Leading Across Generations"

Workshop by Hannah Ubl, Generations Expert & Millenial Speaker, BridgeWorks

3:20 PM               
Leadership Panel

Moderated by Tammie Follett, Sr. Account Manager & Business Development Specialist, Thomson Reuters

Panelists:

Colleen Needles Steward, President & CEO, Tremendous Entertainment; Former WCCO Anchor

Sara Beatty Ratner, President, NeoPath

Lindsey Bruber, President & Owner, Simek's

Roshini Rajkumar, Communication Coach & Radio Host

4:00 PM                "Post-Game Talk"
Networking Happy Hour, Kickoff remarks by JaneƩ Harteau, Chief of Police, Minneapolis

Pro Update: Kessel Strikes Twice, Haula Makes AHL Debut

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Two goals from Phil Kessel last night were not enough for Toronto as the Maple Leafs fell 3-2 to the New York Rangers in a shootout at Madison Square Garden.

Kessel, who leads Toronto with 26 assists and is tied for the team lead with 40 points this season, gave the visitors a 1-0 lead just 1:42 into the second period with his 13th tally of the season. 


The former Gopher would strike again in the third period to tie the contest up at 2-2 after the Rangers scored a pair of unanswered goals. The two-goal night marks Kessel's second-consecutive game with multiple points while the forward has six points (four goals, two assists) in the last three games. 


Haula Makes Pro Debut with Houston

Less than a week after signing an entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild and joining the team's AHL affiliate in Houston, former Gopher Erik Haula made his pro debut last night in a 4-1 loss to Oklahoma City. Minnesota's leading scorer in each of the last two seasons didn't wait long to find the score sheet, however, as Haula picked up an assist on Kyle Medvec's goal at 6:21 of the first period. 

Noteworthy: 

- Haula is the fourth member of this year's Gophers squad to make their pro debut in the last week. In the AHL, Zach Budish has already played in three games with the Milwaukee Admirals while Nate Schmidt has two assists in two games for the Hershey Bears. Nick Bjugstad, meanwhile, has suited up twice for the Florida Panthers including his NHL debut last Saturday. 

- Check back later today for a feature on AHL leading scorer Jeff Taffe. 
On March 23, 2013, Minnesota head coach Don Lucia was named the head coach of the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team by USA Hockey. With Lucia behind the bench, the Red, White and Blue will compete at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship Dec. 26, 2013 - Jan. 5, 2014, in Malmo, Sweden. Next year, the U.S. program will seek its fourth medal in five years including a gold-medal performance in 2013 with Gophers defenseman Mike Reilly on the roster and assistant coach Grant Potulny on staff. As the tournament approaches, Gophersports.com will provide updates under using "Eyes on Sweden." 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- USA Hockey announced today the schedule for the 2013 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. Approximately 45 U.S. players will convene at the Olympic Training Center Aug. 3-10 to audition for spots on the U.S. National Junior Team that will compete at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, Dec. 26, 2013-Jan. 5, 2014, in Malmo, Sweden.

The camp includes daily practices and international games against Canada, Finland and Sweden. A full schedule is below.

USA Hockey expects to announce the list of invited players to its U.S. National Junior Team Evaluation Camp in June.

Ticket information for the event will be announced in the coming weeks.

2013 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp Schedule
Aug. 3-10 | Lake Placid, N.Y. | Olympic Training Center | Olympic Rink

DateEventTime (EDT)
Sat., Aug. 3USA Blue Practice9:00 - 9:45 a.m.
 USA White Practice10:00 - 10:45 a.m.
 Sweden Practice11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
 Finland Practice12:45 - 2:15 p.m.
 USA Blue Practice5:00-5:30 p.m.
 USA White (USA Rink)5:00-5:30 p.m.
 USA White/Blue Practice5:45 - 6:15 p.m.
Sun., Aug. 4Sweden Practice8:15 - 8:45 a.m.
 USA Blue Practice9:00 - 9:30 a.m.
 Finland Practice9:45 - 10:15 a.m.
 USA White vs. Sweden1:00 p.m.
 USA Blue vs. Finland4:00 p.m.
Mon., Aug. 5USA White Practice9:00 - 9:30 a.m.
 Finland Practice9:45 - 10:15 a.m.
 USA Blue vs. Sweden1:00 p.m.
 USA White vs. Finland4:00 p.m.
Tues., Aug. 6Canada Practice9:45 - 11:00 a.m.
 Sweden Practice11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
 USA Practice12:30 - 1:30 p.m.
 Finland Practice1:45 - 2:45 p.m.
Wed., Aug. 7Sweden Practice9:00 - 9:30 a.m.
 USA Practice9:45 - 10:15 a.m.
 Finland/Canada Practice10:45 - 11:45 a.m.
 Canada vs. Finland1:00 p.m.
 USA vs. Sweden4:15 p.m.
Thurs., Aug. 8Sweden Practice9:00 - 9:30 a.m.
 Canada Practice9:45 - 10:15 a.m.
 USA/Finland Practice10:45 - 11:45 a.m.
 USA vs. Finland1:00 p.m.
 Canada vs. Sweden4:15 p.m.
Fri., Aug. 9Finland Practice9:00 - 10:00 a.m.
 USA Practice10:15 - 11:15 a.m.
 Canada Practice11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
 Sweden Practice12:45 - 1:45 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 10Finland Practice9:00 - 9:30 a.m.
 Sweden Practice9:45 - 10:15 a.m.
 USA/Canada Practice10:45 - 11:45 a.m.
 USA vs. Canada1:00 p.m.
 Finland vs. Sweden4:15 p.m.




Fast Break Club Coach's Club Reception Tonight

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The University of Minnesota women's basketball staff is set to attend the Fast Break Club Coach's Club Reception tonight at Jax Cafe in Northeast Minneapolis. The event will get underway at 6:30 p.m. and conclude at 8:30 p.m.

The reception is for members of the Fast Break Club who give at a level of $150 or higher, which includes the Coaches Club, Elite Eight and Final Four levels.

Special guest and former Gopher standout Lindsay Whalen and her husband Ben Greve are expected to attend the event.

Blog: Richard Pitino Welcomed to Gopher Family

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WATCH: Replay of Coach Pitino Press Conference | Photo Gallery

Gopher basketball players, media, staff and fans got their first look at new head coach Richard Pitino this morning. University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, Director of Athletics Norwood Teague and Pitino gave opening remarks before Pitino and Teague fielded questions from the media.
Go Gophers! Richard Pitino
Go Gophers!
Richard Pitino
Go Gophers!

Teague said that Pitino has all the key characteristics that he looked for during the coaching search. These qualities included "relentless" recruiting, ability to develop student-athletes on and off the court and ability to "manage and build this program to the highest level."

"I'm extremely excited about this opportunity," Pitino said. "Minnesota basketball has got one of the best traditions in all of college basketball."

Members of the Gopher basketball team, who sat in the first few rows during the press conference, met their new mentor earlier in the morning. Both coach and players are eager to get to know each other better.

"He really gave us a positive vibe," Austin Hollins said. "He's coming in, and he has a solid plan that he really wants to enforce. He knows what he wants to do. I think all the guys are going to be on board with that."

Before the media even started asking questions, Pitino already talked about the style of play he would like to implement with his new team.

"He really wants that hard-nosed defense up the court," Hollins said. "Then on offense, we're just going to run them down--a lot of pick-and-rolls, getting up and down, getting a lot of shots up."

After about half an hour of answering questions, Pitino did one-on-one interviews with local TV stations, along with Mike Grimm and Spencer Tollackson. Watch Grimm's exclusive interview above and by clicking here.

Social Media Story: Gophers to Hire Richard Pitino

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The social media world was buzzing yesterday with the University of Minnesota's impending hire of Richard Pitino as the Gophers' new head men's basketball coach. We've collected some of the notable Tweets and Facebook posts from yesterday's eventful day:

Gophers In The Pros: Gopher Baseball in the MLB and MiLB

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The University of Minnesota will once again be well represented within Major League Baseball and its affiliates. With opening days running across the United States, it's also the opening weeks throughout their farm systems.

Golden Gopher Baseball has three that are in Major League this season. Jack Hannahan went from the American League and the Cleveland Indians, to the National League and the Cincinnati Reds as their third baseman. Glen Perkins continues to become one of the best relievers in the game. After competing with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, Perkins is set to be the Minnesota Twins closer. Cole De Vries is also back with the Minnesota Twins after he made his MLB debut last summer.

Gopher alums are spreading through the minor leagues as well. Four former Gophers are in the Twins organization (Nate Hanson, Kyle Knudson, Mike Kvasnicka and AJ Petterson) all reported to their respective teams. After Seth Rosin was involved with the Hunter Pence trade from the San Francisco Giants, Rosin is with the Philadelphia Phillies organization. Justin Gominsky (Houston) and Nick O'Shea (Cincinnati) are both with their Class A teams, while TJ Oakes joined Ashville (Colorado) for his first full season.

Here's a list of all Gopher alums playing professionally:

Jack Hannahan, MLB, Cincinnati Reds
Cole De Vries, MLB Minnesota Twins
Glen Perkins, MLB Minnesota Twins
Nate Hanson, Minnesota Twins-New Britian AA
Seth Rosin, Philadelphia Phillies- Reading Fightin Phils-AA Eastern
Kyle Knudson, Minnesota Twins-Fort Myers Miracle
Mike Kvasnicka, Minnesota Twins-Fort Myers Miracle
A.J. Petterson, Minnesota Twins-Fort Myers Miracle
Justin Gominsky, Houston Astros-Quad City River Bandits Class A
Nick O'Shea, Cincinnati Reds-Dayton Dragons Class A
TJ Oakes, Colorado Rockies-Ashville Tourists Class A
Dan Lyons-Independent, Long Island Ducks


Back-to-Back! 2012-13 Season Highlights

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Leopold to Make Blues Debut in St. Paul on Monday

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Former Gophers defenseman and 2002 Hobey Baker Award winner Jordan Leopold was acquired by the St. Louis Blues from the Buffalo Sabres over the weekend, and it appears the Golden Valley, Minn., native will make his Blues debut tonight in St. Paul against the Minnesota Wild. 

Leopold, who helped the University of Minnesota capture the 2002 NCAA title and racked up 144 points in 164 collegiate games, ranks first all-time at Minnesota in goals by a defenseman with 45 and third for points by a defenseman. He was a four-time All-WCHA selection as well as the league's Defensive Player of the Year for the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons -- Leopold was also a First Team All-American in 2000-01 and 2001-02. 

Now in his 10th NHL season, Leopold has spent the last three seasons with the Sabres including a prominent 2010-11 season that saw the defenseman set a career high with 13 goals and 35 points. 

Monday's matchup between the Blues and Wild is set for 7 p.m. CT at Xcel Energy Center with FOX Sports North broadcasting the action. 

Go Gophers! MN_IND
Go Gophers!

Check out a St. Louis' feature on Leopold ahead of tonight's debut. 

By Louie Korac (@lkorac10) -- NHL.com Correspondent 

-------------------------------------------------

When Jordan Leopold dozed off for his pregame nap Saturday afternoon, he did so as a member of the Buffalo Sabres. Waking up was a different story.

It began a 24-hour whirlwind that saw Leopold change teams in a split second. But the newest St. Louis Blues defenseman has been through this routine before, with it being his sixth National Hockey League stop.

The 32-year-old Leopold, traded by the Sabres to the Blues for a 2013 second-round pick and a conditional 2013 fifth-round pick (that can turn into a fourth-round selection should the Blues win a playoff round), got the call from Buffalo general manager Darcy Regier prior to the Sabres facing the Washington Capitals.

"I was pre-game napping yesterday to get ready and play the Capitals," Leopold said after flying in and taking a physical. "I woke up and got a call from Darcy Regier and (he) quickly said, 'I ended up trading you.' ... I really didn't sleep (Saturday) night. I think I finally dotted out about 1:30 (a.m. local time). I got up at 4:30 (a.m.). It wasn't a good, quality night of sleep. After two short flights, here I am."

Leopold, who coach Ken Hitchcock said will be in the lineup when the Blues play the Minnesota Wild on Monday night, was able to have dinner with his three daughters, ages 9, 7 and 4. Then it was time to pack his hockey gear and take off to his new adventure, trying to get the Blues (17-14-2) into the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a couple disappointing seasons with the Sabres, who've had high expectations.

"It was a couple tough years," said Leopold, who's in the final season of a three-year, $9-million contract. "You look at last year, and then this year the start we got off to wasn't the way we pictured it. You get to this point of the season, and of course the trade deadline looms. Guys are going to come and go. Of course, UFA's are the first to go. It's just a matter of time to see where I landed and when. I'm really excited to be here."

It is a fresh start for Leopold, who's also had stints with Calgary, Colorado, Pittsburgh and Florida. He will wear No. 33 with the Blues.

"I'm really excited," said Leopold, who has two goals and eight points in 24 games this season. "You look at where I just came from and where we are now, we're fighting for a playoff spot. It's a good opportunity for me. Hopefully I can be able to contribute and help the team accomplish that goal."

Leopold, who struggled at the start of the season, was a minus-8 in the first nine games he played. But he is plus-2 over his last 15 games and has four points in eight games since returning from an upper-body injury.

"When you get moved, you can't look at the team didn't want you," Leopold said of his situation with the Sabres, who are struggling at 13-17-6. "You have to look at the new (team) looking forward ... the new team really wanted you, and it's true. It's a fresh start for guys. This is a fresh start for me. I got off to a rough start this year in Buffalo and ended up playing my best hockey when I came back from injury a few weeks ago. I look to just step in here and do what I've been doing lately."

Hitchcock plans to insert Leopold into the lineup playing alongside Kevin Shattenkirk, and if it needs adjustment the team will plan accordingly.

"He's a steady, kind of multi-dimensional defenseman," Hitchcock said of Leopold, who has played withDavid Backes, Scott Nichol and Chris Stewart on previous teams. "He's good on the power play, either in a 2-1-2 or 1-3-1 setup. Either way, he's fine. He's played both in Buffalo.

"He's very good at transitioning the puck. He closes. He's got good mobility at closing defensively 5-on-5. ... He's got good transition speed, he's got good transition instincts. He sees the ice really well. He's a steady guy that's going to really help us."

"He was one of the vocal leaders for the short time I was in Colorado," Stewart said of Leopold, his teammate during the 2008-09 season. "He's a veteran guy who can make plays. I think he keeps the game easy. He doesn't try to do anything that's out of his personality. That veteran presence is definitely going to help down the stretch.

"He's one of those guys you don't notice in the game, but when you check the scoresheet, he had a goal and an assist and probably was a plus-2. He's going to log some quality minutes for us."

With Blues general manager Doug Armstrong making the trade for Leopold, it's an indication St. Louis, which woke up Monday morning in ninth place, one point behind Columbus for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference, is in fact going to do whatever it can to solidify its position and go for it.

"We've never doubted that we're out of this," Shattenkirk said. "I know Army feels the same way. He obviously has a lot of faith in this team. We all believe in this team. To see a move like that, it's a good sign.

"It makes you feel confident, and it's something that we need. I think it's going to work out well."

For Shattenkirk, he'll do whatever's necessary to try and get acclimated with his new partner after pairing with Wade Redden in recent games.

"It takes a little time, without a doubt," Shattenkirk said. "It's hard for me to say, because I'm going to be the young guy and he's going to be the experienced one. It's a tough situation there to be talking to him, but just try to talk through as many plays as we can, as many plays as we can go through. Once you get that communication level down, I think that's where the chemistry really starts."

Leopold, who has 65 goals and 202 points in 610 career games, will try and do his part.

"My game is moving the puck and getting it to the guys that can do something with it, getting out of our own end and playing some good defense and being able to contribute on the other end if the situation arises," Leopold said. "I try to keep things pretty simple. I'm not a flashy player. I try to complement my d-partner and make him better out there."

Final Don Lucia Radio Show of the Season Airs Tonight

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The Don Lucia Radio Show airs for the final time this season tonight at the Beacon Public House on campus. If you haven't checked out the new restaurant yet, catch tonight's show live starting at 6 p.m. as Coach Lucia and Wally Shaver discuss all things surrounding Gopher hockey. Tonight's show also airs live on 1500 ESPN. 

Lucia and Shaver wrap up the 2012-13 season tonight with a wide range of topics including Minnesota's 34th trip to the NCAA tournament last weekend. The Gophers rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period on Friday in Grant Rapids only to have Yale advance with the game winner in overtime. Yale later punched its ticket to the Frozen Four and will be joined by St. Cloud State, UMass-Lowell and Quinnipiac. Tonight's broadcast will also feature in-depth analysis of the Frozen Four field. 

Also on the docket for tonight -- Adam Wilcox's impressive rookie campaign in goal for the Gophers (the netminder set a new school record for goals against average and tied for the program's rookie wins total) and Erik Haula, who led the team in points for the second-straight year and posted the first 50 point season at Minnesota since 2005-06. 

The Beacon Public House offers great deals each week for the Don Lucia Radio Show including half price entrees and a happy hour special. The Beacon Public House is located in the new Commons Hotel on campus (615 Washington Avenue SE).