July 2013 Archives

2012-13 Gopher Women's Hockey Highlight Video

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Check out the 2012-13 Gopher women's hockey highlight video and relive the magic as Minnesota captured its second-straight national championship and posted a perfect 41-0 record! The Gophers also boast an active 49-game winning streak that stands as the longest winning streak in NCAA history. 


#29 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 29 Amir Pinnix
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Amir Pinnix spent the first few years of his University of Minnesota football career overshadowed by future NFL running backs Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney. But when his turn in the spotlight finally came, he did not disappoint.

Go Gophers! Amir Pinnix
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Amir Pinnix
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Pinnix, who wore No. 29 from 2004 to 2007, is the most recent Golden Gopher to reach 1,000 yards rushing in a season. He piled up 1,272 yards on the ground in 2006, the eighth consecutive year Minnesota could boast a 1,000-yard rusher. His season total ranks eighth all-time in the school record books.

He ran for 10 touchdowns and passed the 100-yard mark in five different games in 2006, including a 179-yard performance against Texas Tech in the Insight Bowl. Pinnix ended his career with 2,439 total rushing yards, eighth-best in Gopher history.

#30 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 30
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As the Minnesota football season opener against UNLV (Aug. 29) approaches, we acknowledge former Golden Gophers who wore the jersey number corresponding with how many days remain until kickoff. Noel Jenke and Lee Campbell, both of whom wore No. 30, start the countdown.

Jenke was a rare three-sport letterwinner, and was drafted in all three. On the gridiron (1966-68), Jenke played linebacker. He intercepted three passes in a 21-14 win against Wisconsin in 1967, tied for the school single-game record. Jenke captained the team and earned All-Big Ten honors as a senior in 1968.

Go Gophers! Noel Jenke
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Noel Jenke, three-sport letterwinner
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He lettered for the hockey team 1967-69. In his one season with Gopher baseball (1969), Jenke earned All-America acclaim. He went on to play minor league baseball and NFL football, and is a member of the Gophers' M Club Hall of Fame.

Campbell wore the Maroon and Golf more recently, lettering in 2006-09. Like Jenke, he was a linebacker and a team captain. Campbell led the team in tackles as a junior (80) and a senior (total). As a senior in 2009, he also led the way in tackles for a loss (11.5 for 29 yards).

Campbell started his senior season with a stellar performance that earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors. He tallied 13 tackles, 11 solo, providing key stops in an overtime win against Syracuse. At the end of the year, Campbell earned the team's Carl Eller Award for most outstanding defensive player, and shared the Neil Fredenburg Award for courage and love of the game.

Richard Pitino Blog: Recruiting & Much More

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Good afternoon, Gopher fans!  

I am currently writing this blog 30,000 feet in the air, headed back from my last recruiting trip of the July recruiting period. A lot of coaches differ in their approach when it comes to July recruiting. During this period, NCAA rules allow us to evaluate possible recruits. That means we aren't allowed any in-person contact with a recruit, AAU coach, or anyone associated with the recruit. Many coaches have different game plans during this time. Some head coaches will follow around their top targets and make sure they are seen at their games. Other coaches believe being seen during this period isn't important come decision time. I have gone back and forth on this topic. I do believe it keeps you in the mix with recruits, but when it's time for a decision to be made, rarely does me being at their games in July come into the discussion. There are several stages to recruiting and this is simply a necessary step that has to be taken. Every kid is unique and values certain things in the process differently. Our staff will get together tomorrow and put together a game plan for how to approach each recruit.

Over the last two weeks we have done individual instruction instead of team practices. My goal during our team practices was to establish our style of play with the guys - more so offensively than defensively. We have given them a few plays and let them run with it. We have taught them certain terminology and rules that they will hear daily during the season. In the end, the summer is great because we get to work with our players, but it will be completely different than the regular season. We also do our best to build as much chemistry with the incoming guys so that they feel comfortable when school starts. It's only July and everyone understands it is a long season. A great foundation was laid with Coach Smith. We are looking to continue to strengthen that foundation each and every day.

I hope everyone was able to pick up Saturday's Wall Street Journal. The front page mentioned a story, "The Nations Nicest City." It was a two-page feature about how beautiful the Twin Cities are. It certainly was a great depiction of how beautiful our new home truly is. I hope everyone can check it out!

Can't give enough credit to what Mo Walker has done with his body over the summer. He has lost more than 50 pounds and will continue to be in the best shape of his life.

Congrats to Peyton Siva, a player I helped recruit while I was at Louisville, and his new wife, Patience. I took a break from recruiting on Saturday to attend their wedding. Peyton is a great player and an even better person. We hope to find another one like him on the recruiting trail!

Lastly, we will be releasing our non-conference schedule tomorrow so be sure to check it out on Gophersports.com.  


Go Gophers,
Richard Pitino

Wheeler Signs Six-Year, $33.6 Million Contract with Jets

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Go Gophers! TopTenGo Gophers!Blake Wheeler
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Gopher Hockey alum Blake Wheeler signed a six-year, $33.6 million contact with the Winnipeg Jets over the weekend, keeping the forward with the NHL organization that he led in goals scored (19) in 48 regular-season games last year. 


It was late into the evening on Friday, July 26th, but the announcement was made that the Winnipeg Jets had agreed to terms with forward Blake Wheeler on a new six-year, $33.6 million dollar contract.

"For me it was virtually a no-brainer," said Wheeler in a conference call Saturday morning. "I sat down with my agent in April or May and we had the discussion. I looked him in the eyes and said, "This is where I want to be".

"I believe in people like Mark Chipman and Chevy (GM Kevin Cheveldayoff), what everyone stands for and especially in my teammates. I have believed since I got here that we have what it takes to get to the next level, so this is just a part of that process. I truly believe that great things are in store for this group."

Wheeler, 26, played in 48 games with the Winnipeg Jets last season. In that time, the right-winger recorded 41 points (19G, 22A) and 28 penalty minutes. He led the Jets in goals and ranked second on the club's leaderboard in overall points.

The Robbinsdale, MN native has played in 372 career NHL games between Boston, Atlanta and Winnipeg for 232 career points (93G, 139A) and 228 penalty minutes. He has also appeared in 21 post-season games, all with the Bruins for six points (1G, 5A) and six penalty minutes.

On February 18th, 2011, the Bruins traded Wheeler and Mark Stuart to the Atlanta Thrashers for Boris Valabik and Rich Peverley. That summer, Wheeler was scheduled to go to arbitration when the Winnipeg Jets opened the door to a new opportunity by signing the restricted free agent to a two-year contract on July 18th, 2011. Back then, he didn't hesitate to sign on the dotted line and now with his second contract with this franchise, he begins his new opportunity.

"I felt I had more to give and was given that opportunity in Winnipeg," said Wheeler. "My struggles at the beginning in Winnipeg was a bit of a reflection of pressing too much and trying too hard and putting too much pressure on myself. Now, having that vote of confidence from the franchise, I'm the kind of person who takes that and runs with it. Having faith put on me gives me life and energy to go out there and hopefully reach new heights."

Wheeler was placed on the top line with Bryan Little and captain Andrew Ladd from day one with the Jets, a big step up from playing on the third and fourth lines, in Boston.

"That was a huge vote of confidence right off the bat," said Wheeler. "That added ice-time and that added responsibility was something that I wanted. It gave me a shot of life and something that I definitely needed in my career. I play with two great players and we really compliment each other well, so that's helped me take my game to the next level."



Whalen, West Win WNBA All-Star Game

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Go Gophers! Lindsay Whalen
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Former Golden Gopher standout Lindsay Whalen helped the West defeat the East, 102-98, in the WNBA All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., Saturday. The guard, who was the first player off the bench for the West, scored eight points in 13 minutes of work.

Trailing 43-49 at halftime, the West rallied in the fourth quarter, scoring 28 points while holding the East to just 17 for the victory.

The game was coached by two women for the first time in its 11-year history, with Lin Dunn of Indiana coaching the East and Cheryl Reeve of Minnesota coaching the West.

Reeve had four Minnesota Lynx players on her West squad, as Moore and Seimone Augustus were voted as starters and Reeve chose Lynx center Rebekkah Brunson to replace Britney Griner in the starting lineup.

Whalen was the first sub in for the West, replacing Diana Taurasi. That produced four Lynx players, who also were on the 2011 All-Star team, on the court at the same time.

The four Lynx stars combined for 24 of the West's 29 points in the first quarter.


The first-ever Gopher Men's Golf and Gopher Women's Hockey Golf Open will be held Monday, Sept. 16 at Southview Country Club in Inver Grove Heights, Minn. 

Minnesota women's hockey head coach Brad Frost and men's golf head coach John Carlson welcome you to the event. Look for registration information next week on Gophersports.com. 

Go Gophers! MN_IND
Go Gophers!
                                
  Go Gophers!     TopTen
    Don Lucia 
     Go Gophers! 

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. 

In addition to Lucia, five current Gophers will compete for a roster spot on next year's U.S. squad. Sophomore defenseman Brady Skjei, freshman forward Hudson Fasching, freshman forward Taylor Cammarata, freshman defenseman Tommy Vannelli and freshman defenseman Michael Brodzinski will all be in action at the upcoming 2013 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid. 

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." 

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - USA Hockey announced today additional details surrounding its 2013 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp set to take place in Lake Placid, N.Y., at the Olympic Training Center from Aug. 3-10.

COOPER/KLEINEDORST TO SERVE AS CAMP ASSISTANT COACHES

Jon Cooper (Tampa, Fla.) and Kurt Kleinendorst (Grand Rapids, Minn.) will serve as assistant camp coaches.

Cooper is the head coach of the National Hockey League's Tampa Bay Lightning, a position he was promoted to midway through the 2012-13 campaign. Previously, he was head coach of the Lightning's top American Hockey League affiliates in Syracuse (2012-13) and Norfolk (2010-12). He led the Norfolk Admirals to the 2012 Calder Cup Championship. Cooper also spent two seasons (2008-10) as head coach of the United States Hockey League's Green Bay Gamblers. The Gamblers won the 2010 Clark Cup Championship and Cooper received the General Manager and Coach of the Year Awards.

Kleinendorst has been a head coach at the AHL, ECHL, NCAA Men's Division I, USHL and international levels. During the 2009-10 campaign, he was head coach of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 Team. He led Team USA to the gold medal at the 2010 IIHF Men's Under-18 World Championship. In 2008, he was an assistant coach for the U.S. Men's National Team. Most recently, Kleinendorst was head coach of the University of Alabama-Huntsville men's ice hockey team for the 2012-13 season. In the AHL, he was head coach of the Binghamton Senators from 2010-12 and the Lowell Devils from 2006-09. He coached the ECHL's Raleigh IceCaps from 1991-94 and 1995-97. For the NHL's New Jersey Devils, Kleinendorst was an assistant coach (2000-01), professional scout (2001-02) and special assistant scout (2002-06).

ROSTERS FOR TEAM BLUE/TEAM WHITE ANNOUNCED

The 44 athletes participating in the NJEC have been separated into two groups for the first three days of practices and games vs. Finland and Sweden.

For the Team Blue roster, click here

For the Team White roster, click here

On Aug. 6, Team USA will trim its roster and a single U.S. squad will finish the camp with practices and games against Canada, Finland and Sweden.

Team Blue will be coached by Bob Motzko (St. Cloud, Minn./St. Cloud State Univ.) and Jon Cooper(Tampa, Fla./Tampa Bay Lightning). Team White will be coached by Greg Brown (Scituate, Mass./Boston College) and Kurt Kleinendorst (Grand Rapids, Minn.).

FASTHOCKEY TO STREAM ALL CAMP GAMES LIVE

USA Hockey, in partnership with FASTHockey, is providing live streaming coverage of the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp. Games will be offered on a pay-per-view basis. FASTHockey uses a unique game-credit system for viewing games, offering discounts to customers who watch multiple games. Users who want to watch one or more games must first sign up for a free account at USAHockey.FASTHockey.com. Users can then buy game credits - a single game ranges from $7.99 (when one game credit is purchased) to $5.99 (when 50 game credits are purchased). Game credits never expire and can be used to watch live games or access on-demand content.

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The NJEC will convene 44 U.S. players, all vying for a spot 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. In addition to daily practices, the U.S. will play international games against Canada, Finland and Sweden.

For a complete schedule of the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp click here. Tickets for all games that are part of the camp can be purchased online at WhiteFaceLakePlacid.com, by phone at (518) 523-3330 or in person at the Olympic Center Box Office.

NOTES: Use the hashtag #NJEC on Twitter to join the conversation surrounding the camp ... The 2014 U.S. National Junior Team will be selected following a pre-tournament camp Dec. 15-18 to be held in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area ... Don Lucia (Plymouth, Minn.), head coach of the University of Minnesota men's ice hockey team, was named head coach of the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team on March 23. Bob Motzko (St. Cloud, Minn.), head coach of the St. Cloud State University men's ice hockey team, Greg Brown (Scituate, Mass.), associate head coach of the Boston College men's ice hockey team and David Lassonde (Denver, Colo.) assistant coach of the University of Denver's men's ice hockey team will serve as assistant coaches. The video coordinator is Dan Muse (Clinton, Conn.), assistant coach of Yale University's men's ice hockey team ... Jim Johannson (Colorado Springs, Colo.), USA Hockey's assistant executive director of hockey operations, is serving as the general manager of Team USA for the fifth consecutive year.

Gophers Wrap Up Big Ten Media Days

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Photo Gallery | Wednesday's Blog

Most of the activity for Big Ten Media Days happened on Wednesday, but Thursday held one final media session, an autograph session and the annual Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon.

Head coach Jerry Kill, Brock Vereen, Ra'Shede Hageman and Donnell Kirkwood had their own tables for a two-hour media round table. Media could roam among the various tables and interview any player or coach they wished.

A few tweets from Thursday:

Up next was an autograph session. Coach Kill and the Gophers signed various items at a team table in the ballroom where Kill gave his opening press conference remarks on Wednesday. Minnesota's booth included a "Gopher Sports Experience," where fans could put on a football helmet with speakers that allowed them to hear the video playing on a TV screen. A few of the Gophers tested it out. 

After a group photo, the annual Big Ten Luncheon closed the week's activities.

Jordan Schroeder Re-Signs with Vancouver Canucks

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Go Gophers!Jordan Schroeder
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Gopher Hockey alum Jordan Schroeder has re-signed with the Vancouver Canucks, the NHL organization announced on Wednesday. The one-year, one-way contract keeps Schroeder with the organization that drafted him 22nd overall in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. 

A native of Prior Lake, Minn. Schroeder split last season between the Canucks and the team's AHL affiliate -- the Chicago Wolves. Schroeder made his NHL debut in 2013, scoring three goals and six assists in 31 games. He finished fourth on the Wolves in scoring with 12 goals and added 21 assists in 42 games. 

ProHockeyTalk notes that Schroeder is the current favorite to start the season as the Canucks' third-line center. 

"I'll play anywhere they want me to play, Schroeder told The Province. "I've just got to do what I do, use my speed and be confident." 

The 2009 WCHA Rookie of the Year, Schroeder spent two years with the Gophers, tallying 73 points in 72 career games before signing with Vancouver. On the international stage, Schroeder has appeared in three World Junior Championships; his 27 points (20 goals) in the World Junior Championships are the most ever by an American. 

Hugh McCutcheon Camps Summer Camps Coming to a Close

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Although it's not volleyball season quite yet, the Sports Pavilion have been busy this month. This week, Gopher coach Hugh McCutcheon wraps up camps, concluding three-straight weeks of summer camp.

The McCutcheon Volleyball Camps kicked off on July 8-12 at the Sports Pavilion with the all positions prep camp. This group was designed for experienced athletes who aspire to play volleyball collegiately. The second began with an all skills camp, July 15-19, which was designed for any volleyball athlete who wants to learn more about the game. The summer camps wrap up this week as it hosts its Fundamental 4 youth camp, July 22, 23, 25 and 26, ranging from kids, eighth grade or younger.

The Gopher volleyball team will get under way early in August. Minnesota opens the season. Aug. 30-31, in Birmingham, Ala. when it competes in the UAB/Samford Challenge. Minnesota opens the home season, Sept. 6-7 when it hosts the annual Diet Coke Classic. This year, Western Illinois, Ball State and Duke come to town.

Timeline: Gophers at Big Ten Media Day

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Photo Gallery | Watch: Coach Kill Opening Press Conference | Transcript

Coach Jerry Kill, Ra'Shede Hageman, Donnell Kirkwood and Brock Vereen had a busy Wednesday at Big Ten Football Media Days. Each took part in multiple interview sessions with various local, conference and national media members at the Hilton Chicago. Retrace their steps with the photos, videos and tweets in our media day timeline.

11:50 a.m. Coach Kill starts a series of three short video shoots, the first being with USA Football.

12:30 p.m. Hageman, Kirkwood and Vereen arrive on the third floor of the hotel wearing their suits for the day. Vereen is miked up and will be followed throughout the afternoon. (Watch for this behind-the-scenes footage to appear in August.)

Go Gophers! Brock Vereen
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12:40 p.m. Hageman is the first Gopher to go into an interview. He does two with BTN, including one specifically for "The Journey. 

Go Gophers! Ra'Shede Hageman
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During the TV interview rotation, the Gophers also have their pictures taken.

Go Gophers! Donnell Kirkwood
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1:00 p.m. Donnell Kirkwood sings the "Minnesota Rouser" and does an impression of Hageman for ESPN "College Game Day."

Go Gophers! Donnell Kirkwood
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Meanwhile, Coach Kill addresses the media in the Grand Ballroom. Watch the video below or read the transcript here.

1:30 p.m. Coach Kill and each of the players sit at their own interview table for half an hour, available to answer questions. A few things we overhear:

Vereen on the Gopher secondary: "We made a statement last year, and we're looking to improve on that." He says the defense has shown it can be good, but needs to be consistent on every play.

Kirkwood on the Gophers' bowl eligibility in 2012: "It let us see that we can play with anybody."

Hageman on the bowl berth: "It kind of brings motivation for camp to start. We're motivated to be better and show who we are."

Go Gophers! Ra'Shede Hageman
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Hageman also wants to talk about his favorite foods, especially dishes with alfredo sauce. He says he is "not a fish guy," but would eat a shark.

Go Gophers! Jerry Kill
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One media member asks Coach Kill a question about MarQueis Gray, not realizing he has graduated. Kill wishes Gray the best of luck with the San Francisco 49ers.

Go Gophers! Jerry Kill
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2:00 p.m. The Gophers move on to Sirius XM Radio, ESPN.com and KFAN radio interviews.

Go Gophers! Jerry Kill
Go Gophers!

Athletic director Norwood Teague stops by while Justin Gaard talks with Vereen.

 
Go Gophers! Norwood Teague and Jerry Kill

The fellas take some pictures, and Vereen interviews his teammates when they are all done with everything else.

4:30 p.m. Coach Kill does his last interview of the day, going through a TV rotation similar to the one the players had. That's a wrap for the longest part of Big Ten Media Days!

Former Gopher Whalen Named WNBA All-Star

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Go Gophers! Lindsay Whalen
Go Gophers!

Go Gophers!
Former Golden Gopher standout Lindsay Whalen was voted by the league's head coaches as a reserve for the 2013 Western Conference All-Star Team, the WNBA announced late Tuesday night. Whalen, who starred for the University of Minnesota women's basketball team from 2001-04, will be making her third-career All-Star appearance after having been a part of the event in both 2006 and 2011.

Whalen will be joined on the squad by Minnesota Lynx teammates Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Rebekkah Brunson, as well as head coach Cheryl Reeve and assistants Shelley Patterson and Jim Petersen. It is the second time in franchise history that the Lynx have had four representatives in the All-Star Game (2011) and just the sixth time in WNBA hisotyr that a team has had four or more All-Stars. The Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star Game will be nationally broadcast on ABC this Saturday, July 27 at 2:30 p.m. CT from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

Whalen is having arguably the best season in her 10-year career, averaging a career-best 16.1 points per game while handing out 5.3 assists (fourth in WNBA). She's been especially hot of late, averaging 19.6 points and 5.7 assists per game over her last nine, including leading the Lynx in scoring in five or the past eight games. Whalen tallied 20+ points in four straight games between July 9 and 19, including becoming the first player in WNBA history with multiple 25+ point/10+ assist games against Tulsa on July 13 with a 25-point, 11-assist performance.

While at Minnesota, Whalen was a two-time Wade Trophy and Naismith Award finalist. As a senior, she was named to the Kodak All-America First Team, the USBWA All-America Second Team and the AP All-America Second Team. Whalen led Minnesota to its first Final Four Appearance in 2004, one of three-straight NCAA Tournament appearances for the Golden Gophers, before being selected fourth overall in the 2004 WNBA Draft.


She holds Minnesota career records in points, scoring average, games in double figures, free throws made and free throw percentage.


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Go Gophers!Christian Isackson
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Link: Future Ice Breaker Tournament Sites Announced (College Hockey Inc.)

The start of the 2013-14 season is now just 80 days away, but the 2014-15 schedule is beginning to take shape already as College Hockey, Inc., announced today that Minnesota will compete at the  2014 Ice Breaker Tournament to open the season. Notre Dame will host the 2014 competition at Compton Family Ice Arena with Minnesota Duluth  and RPI also competing in the tournament. 

Minnesota, which also opens the 2013-14 season by hosting the 2013 Ice Breaker Tournament at Mariucci Arena on Oct. 11-12  (Clarkson, Mercyhurst and New Hampshire also competing), has made two previous appearances at the Ice Breaker Tournament. In 1998, the second year of the tournament, Boston College won the title at Mariucci Arena. In 2007, the event took place at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul with the host Golden Gophers winning the tournament.

College Hockey Inc., which manages the Ice Breaker Tournament on behalf of the Hockey Commissioners Association, also announced that Maine will host the 2015 tournament at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland. The rest of the 2015 field will be announced at a later date. 
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Link: USA Hockey Names Assistant Coaches (USA Hockey)
Link: Men's Orientation Roster Set (USA Hockey

A total of eight former Gophers have the potential to represent the United States with the U.S. Men's National Team at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. 

USA Hockey has announced its 48 player roster -- including seven Minnesota alums -- for its U.S. Men's National Team Orientation Camp from Aug. 26-27 at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. Minnesota leads all college programs with seven camp invitees as Erik Johnson, Nick Leddy, Paul Martin, Nick Bjugstad, Phil Kessel, Kyle Okposo and Blake Wheeler will compete for a spot on the U.S. Men's National Team. 

USA Hockey also announced assistant coaches for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games on Tuesday morning with former Gopher All-American and current Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards serving as an assistant for the U.S. Men's National Team. 

The Gophers have had at least one representative in the last 18 Winter Olympic Games, dating back to 1936. Of the Minnesota players invited to camp in August, both Johnson and Kessel have skated for the U.S. Olympic team previously, earning a silver medal at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Richards, meanwhile, competed as a defenseman for the U.S. at the 1994 Games in Lillehammer. 

The men's hockey competition at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia is set for Feb. 12-23. 


 

Summer Snippets: Notes from the Gopher Hoops Offseason

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For the first time since Richard Pitino's introduction as head coach in April, the Golden Gopher basketball team held an offseason media session. Pitino talked about what he has seen from his team so far, and what he hopes to achieve over the rest of the summer. Golden Gopher players were also available, speaking with the local media for the first time. Notes and quotes from today's interview session follow below.

Head Coach Richard Pitino

On his philosophy for summer practice:

"This is the summer. If I come in here going nuts in July, in June, they're going to hate me come December. So I try to take it somewhat easy on them but also kind of instill the culture. We're allowed two hours (per week), and when the season starts we practice much, much more than that. So for me, I'm just trying not to make them feel like this is the season."

Go Gophers! Richard Pitino Go Gophers! Pitino and the Gophers met the media on Tuesday. Go Gophers!

Pitino and the Gophers met the media on Tuesday.

"A lot of our practices have been going up and down as much as possible, not blowing the whistle that much, getting them to play through mistakes."

"This time of year, it's probably good when they screw up, because you can show them on film."

*Pitino said the Gophers have played a lot of five-on-five to get used to the pace he would like them to play. Building chemistry, instilling team culture and preparing for the pace are the main offseason focuses.

On some of his personnel:

"I think Austin (Hollins is) a really good player. We're going to rely on him a lot, just because he's done it. He'll be fine in any system that he plays in. Andre (Hollins is) another guy we'll rely on a lot."

"What you see right now is not what you're to get with Charles Buggs. Hopefully he'll continue to grow, continue to improve. When he puts on weight and when he figures out how to play for me, he'll be a very good player down the road. It's going to take time, though."

*Pitino said that the starting point guard spot is open for competition, but he would be "shocked" if Andre Hollins doesn't start as either point guard or shooting guard.

*The Gophers are still waiting to find out if transfers Malik Smith and Joey King will be cleared to play in the upcoming season. Smith played for Pitino at Florida International last year, while King transferred from Drake for family reasons. Pitino said that Smith has played the best in practice so far because he is used to his system.

Meet the New Guys

Malik Smith (Senior/Guard)

On Pitino:

"I love the way Coach Pitino plays. A lot of shots. I love to shoot. ...He's a demanding coach. He's going to get the most out of us. He's a good guy."

On his new teammates:

"There's no bad teammate. Everybody's good people."

*Smith started 31 of 32 games for FIU last season. He averaged 14.1 points per game and made 96 three-pointers on the year.

Joey King (Sophomore/Forward)

On coming back to his home state (King attended Eastview High School):

"It's definitely a great opportunity. I'm enjoying my time at Minnesota, being close to home. It's really special playing for the hometown team. It was sad to leave Drake, but I couldn't be happier here. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity of playing in the Big Ten."

On his game:

"I want to bring an aspect of toughness. I'm a pick-and-pop 4-man, so I can shoot the ball from outside."

*King was selected to the Missouri Valley Conference All-Freshman Team last season at Drake.

Daquein McNeil (Freshman/Guard)

On his new teammates:

"I love them. They're all embracing me, welcoming me. I'm the only freshman, so they're always trying to make fun of me, but they're pretty good guys."

On what he is most looking forward to about the season:

"Getting to the games. ...Right now we're playing against each other, but it will feel good for all of us to be on the same team."

*McNeil, a combo guard, averaged 19.0 points per game as a senior at Vermont Academy

Nick Leddy, Stanley Cup to Visit Mariucci Arena on Friday

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We're proud to welcome back former Gopher and Stanley Cup champion Nick Leddy to Mariucci Arena on Friday afternoon in honor of the Eden Prairie native's accomplishments this year with the Chicago Blackhawks. 

Leddy and the Stanley Cup will be at Mariucci Arena from 4:00-5:00 p.m. on Friday. The public event will be held in the main lobby of Mariucci Arena. 


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Richard Pitino Blog No. 1: Gopher Basketball Update

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Good afternoon Gopher fans! Periodically throughout the offseason I thought it would be a good idea to share some updates and thoughts on the progress of our program. Since I took the job in April it has been a whirlwind. Below are the three main questions every Gopher fan has asked....
Go Gophers! Pitino
Go Gophers!
New men's basketball coach Richard Pitino will be writing Gopher fans periodic blog entries on GopherSports.com.
Go Gophers!

1. What has been your biggest surprise since you have taken the job?

Answer: The fan support has been by far the biggest surprise.  What makes the University of Minnesota so special is we are the only Division I school in the entire state. That is extremely unique in a state comprised of 5.3 million people, and that is what makes this job so special. Everywhere I have worked, there have been divided fan bases. The majority of this state grows up dreaming of going to the University of Minnesota.

2. Can you play fast in the Big Ten?

Answer:
You can play fast in any conference. You can play slow in any conference. The key to playing the style that we would like to play starts and ends with the type of players that we bring in. We will not succeed at playing that style if we don't get the right fit.   Several great coaches throughout the country play the style they believe in to be right. None of these styles are particularly right or wrong. They only become ineffective if you don't have the right personnel to do it. We hope to be one of the best conditioned teams in the country.

3. What is the best piece of advice your father or Billy Donovan has given you?

<
Answer: It would be impossible to pinpoint one piece of wisdom each guy has given me. Between the two of them they have won 4 national titles, been to 10 Final Fours and won over a thousand games. My father will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this fall and Coach Donovan will certainly be there in the not so distant future. Both guys do things very differently, but strive to the reach the same common goal. I learned so much from them in my 5 years as an assistant and know they will continue to teach me in the future. 

Personnel Update (After 4 practices) 

Austin Hollins: Has had 4 very solid practices. Has a great demeanor on the court. Very quick release with good size. I love his business-like approach on the court and in the classroom. We are going to rely on him a lot.

Maverick Ahanmisi: Turned out his best practice last week. Showed toughess that I didn't know he had. Has the ability to make shots and play multiple positions for us. He has the potential to be our leader.

Malik Smith: Is playing arguably the best basketball on the team right now. The reason is he has the luxury of playing for me for a year. He is very comfortable in the system and has used it to his advantage. He truly believes every shot he takes will go in. He has also been a great leader.

Go Gophers! Smith
Go Gophers!
Coach Pitino says FIU transfer Malik Smith is playing "arguably the best basketball on the team right now."
Go Gophers!

Elliott Eliason: Also had a very good practice last week. Still needs to add some muscle in order to be more physical. His greatest attribute is his running. He doesn't know how good he can be.

Maurice Walker:  It has been well documented that Mo has lost 45 pounds. He deserves all the credit for that. He has worked extremely hard to lose the weight. Although Mo has lost a lot of weight, he is still not in great shape. When he isn't tired he becomes very effective. He is the best passer on the team by far. Needs to be more aggressive when he catches the ball on the low block.

Andre Hollins:  Looked like an all conference player last practice. Didn't expect him to make the USA team because he had been studying abroad for a month. Andre is the epitome of a student athlete. Would love for him to be a more vocal leader. I fully expect him to have a great year.

Oto Osenieks: Has been solid over 4 practices. He has been playing mostly the 4 spot for us. It has given him the opportunity to shoot the three off of pick and pops. Would like for him to be more aggressive and physical on the glass.

Wally Ellenson: Had great success in the spring with the track team. It's very impressive for him to be able to become a high jump All-American with a limited amount of practice. On the court he reminds me of a kid I coached at Louisville named Kyle Kuric. Wally is a very good athlete in the open floor and has shown the ability to offensive rebound. He has to continue to develop his three-point shot.

Go Gophers! King
Go Gophers!
Drake transfer Joey King filed for an NCAA waiver to be eligible for this upcoming season.
Go Gophers!

Joey King: Love his toughness. He truly believes he is the best player on the court. Confidence like that is extremely valuable. He raises the level of intensity for everyone in practice. His intensity is infectious. He, as well as Malik, both filed for NCAA waivers to be eligible this season.

Kendal Shell: Injured himself before last practice. Highest body fat on the team! To his credit he has lost a lot of weight. Will have a better feel for his game when he gets in shape. Great attitude and great kid.

Daquein McNeil:  Day-Day, as we call him, has been the most pleasant surprise so far. Most freshman are tentative when they first come in but that has not been the case with him. Biggest room for improvement with him is his three-point shot.

Charles Buggs: Has a long way to go, but probably has the most potential to grow of anyone on the team. He will be very effective when we put in the press because of his length and athleticism.

Deandre Mathieu: Still in summer school at home. Really looking forward to working with him in the fall. Has great speed and quickness. Is a pass first point guard.

My staff is taking our newest T-Wolves addition to dinner tonight. Hopefully Gorgui brings that new bonus check for when the bill comes around! 

Thanks again to Kris Humphries and Larry Fitzgerald for stopping by last week.  We will have another practice this afternoon, then its off to July recruiting to hopefully find the next great Gopher!

Go Gophers!

Richard Pitino

 

 

Coming Soon: The Official Richard Pitino Blog

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Gophers fans: The official blog of new Minnesota men's basketball head coach Richard Pitino will be coming to GopherSports.com later this summer! Check back for informative updates, pictures and much more from the new face of the Golden Gophers.

Stay tuned!

16 Gophers Set for NHL Development Camps

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A total of 16 players with ties to Gopher hockey will participate in NHL development camps over the following weeks including nine current Gophers. Check out the list below to see who is playing where and how you can follow their camp performances. 

Columbus Blue Jackets
July 9-10
OhioHealth Ice Haus

Seth Ambroz -- The junior forward was selected by Columbus in the fifth round (128th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Ambroz posted career highs in points (16), goals (nine) and assists (7) during the 2012-13 campaign, doubling his production from his freshmen season the year before. 

Mike Reilly -- The sophomore defenseman -- one of three Reilly brothers on Minnesota's roster this season -- was the Gophers' leading freshman scorer with 14 points (three goals, 11 assists). Selected by Columbus in the fourth round (98th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Reilly also skated with the U.S. National Junior Team and won gold at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia. The defenseman had a goal and two assists in seven games at the tournament. 

Jake Hansen -- The former Gopher skated in 46 regular-season games for the AHL's Springfield Falcons this season and helped Springfield make the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Hansen was selected 86th overall by the Blue Jackets in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. 

Tampa Bay Lightning
July 6-10
Brandon Ice Sports Forum

Adam Wilcox -- A Third Team All-WCHA pick as a freshman in 2012-13, Wilcox set a new Minnesota record for goals against average in a season at 1.88 (first in the WCHA, sixth in the nation) and also tied Kellen Briggs for the school rookie wins record with 25 victories in his rookie campaign. The Frank Pond Rookie of the Year for Minnesota last season, Wilcox was was selected by the Lightning with the organization's sixth-round pick (178th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. 

Colorado Avalanche 
July

Nate Condon -- As a junior forward in 2012-13, Condon set new career highs with 31 points and 12 goals for the Gophers. Minnesota's John Mayasich Outstanding Student-Athlete Award winner this season, Condon was selected by the Avalanche in the seventh round (200th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. 

Buffalo Sabres
July 10-12
First Niagara Center

Christian Isackson -- Selected with Buffalo's seventh-round pick (203rd overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Isackson found his groove as a sophomore with the Gophers in 2012-13 -- notching 20 points (four goals, 16 assists). Isackson skated in all 40 games for the Gophers last season after being held scoreless in 11 games as a freshman. 

Washington Capitals
July 8-10
Kettler Capitals Iceplex

Travis Boyd -- As a sophomore in 2012-13, Boyd set new career highs with three goals, 11 assists and 14 points. The Hopkins, Minn., native was selected with Washington's sixth-round pick (177th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. 

Nate Schmidt -- The junior defenseman closed out his collegiate career with Second Team All-America and First Team All-WCHA honors after leading the WCHA in scoring by a defenseman and ranking third nationally in the category. Minnesota's John Mariucci Most Valuable Player totaled nine goals and 23 assists in his junior season. Schmidt signed with Washington as a free agent following the 2012-13 season and skated with the Hershey Bears of the AHL. 

WATCH: Nate Schmidt Addresses the Media at Kettler Capitals Iceplex (WashingtonCapitals.com)

Florida Panthers 
July 8-12
JetBlue Practice Facility at Saveology.com Iceplex 

Nick Bjugstad -- A Third Team All-WCHA team member in his final year with the Gophers, Bjugstad's 21 goals were a team high while the junior forward also tallied 36 points and 15 assists. An alternate captain for the Gophers last season, Bjugstad was selected 19th overall by the Panthers in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Following the season, Bjugstad signed with Florida and had one goal in 11 games for the NHL club. 

Minnesota Wild
July 9-14
Xcel Energy Center

Erik Haula -- The junior forward led Minnesota in scoring for the second-straight year in 2012-13, tallying a career-high 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists). Haula -- a Second Team All-WCHA selection -- was drafted by Minnesota in the seventh round (182th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The alternate captain signed with the Wild following the season and skated with the Houston Aeros of the AHL. 

Chicago Blackhawks
July 8-12
Johnny's IceHouse West

Justin Holl -- Chicago's second-round pick (54th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Holl split time between his natural position on defense and forward for the Gophers in 2012-13. The junior tallied seven points (three goals, four assists) and was named the team's Dr. V. George Nagobads Unsung Hero. 

Philadelphia Flyers
July 7-11
The Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone

Mark Alt -- Alt tallied seven assists in his final season with the Gophers after skating in 39 games for the 2012-13 season. The junior defenseman was selected by Carolina with the Hurricanes' second-round pick (53rd overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and then traded to the Flyers during the 2012-13 season. Alt signed with Philadelphia following the season and skated with the AHL's Adirondack Phantoms. 

Nashville Predators
July 9-12
Centennial Sportsplex

Zach Budish -- Minnesota's captain in 2012-13 was selected with Nashville's second-round pick (41st overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The redshirt junior tallied 36 points (14 goals, 22 assists) in his final year with the Gophers. Following the season, Budish signed with Nashville and skated with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals. 

New York Islanders
Orange vs. Blue Scrimmage
July 11
Nassau Coliseium

Taylor Cammarata -- The incoming Gopher forward is expected to compete at the Islanders' prospect scrimmage this weekend after being selected by New York with the 76th overall pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft. Cammarata was named the USHL's Forward of the Year and Player of the Year after leading the league in scoring. Playing with Waterloo, Cammarata recorded 93 points (38 goals, 55 assists) in 59 regular-season games - the performance marks the second-highest point total for a season in league history. The forward also earned USHL Rookie of the Year honors in 2011-12, making him the first player in league history to win all three awards.

New Jersey Devils
July 15-
NewJerseyDevils.com 

Seth Helgeson -- New Jersey's fourth-round selection (114th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Helgeson had five assists as Minnesota's lone senior in 2012-13. An alternate captain for the Gophers, Helgeson signed with New Jersey following the season and skated with the team's AHL affiliate -- the Albany Devils. 

New York Rangers 
July 1-5
MSG Training Center

Brady Skjei -- Skjei competed at the Rangers' prospect camp earlier this month after his freshman season with the Gophers in 2012-13 (Catch up with Skjei at camp here). The defenseman was selected 28th overall by the Rangers in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft with the team's first-round pick. As a freshman, Skjei tallied three points (one goal, two assists). 

Link: Brady Skjei Stands Out at Rangers Camp (Gophersports.com

Welcome Home: Ballard Signs with Minnesota Wild

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Go Gophers! TopTen
Go Gophers!Keith Ballard after the 2003 WCHA Final Five. 
Go Gophers!
Link: Ballard Excited for Fresh Start (MinnesotaWild.com)
Link: Nick Leddy Re-Signs with Stanley Cup Champions (Gophersports.com)
Link: Jordan Leopold Inks Two-Year Deal with St. Louis Blues (Gophersports.com)

Former Gopher First Team All-American and eight-year NHL veteran Keith Ballard officially signed with the Minnesota Wild on Friday morning, agreeing to a two-year, $3 million deal that will bring the Baudette, Minn., native back to his home state. 

Ballard has recorded 165 points (36 goals, 129 assists) in 545 games and spent the past three seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, having also played with Phoenix and Florida during his career. The former Gopher was drafted 11th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. 

"This isn't a big homecoming celebration," Ballard told Michael Russo of the Star Tribune. "There's a lot of work to be done to re-establish my career. It's an important year for me. I'm not overly wrapped up in [the returning home] side of it. I'm just focused on putting all my efforts into having a good year and helping the team do well."

In 123 games with the Gophers from 2002-04, Ballard notched 100 career points (33 goals, 67 assists) and helped the program win back-to-back national championships in 2002 and 2003.  The defenseman was a First Team All-American and a team captain in 2004 -- his final season with the Gophers.

Ballard is the third NHL veteran with Gopher ties to sign a new contract this week, joining Hobey Baker Award winner Jordan Leopold (St. Louis Blues) and Stanley Cup Champion Nick Leddy (Chicago Blackhawks). 


Happy 4th of July from Gopher Women's Basketball

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Happy Fourth of July from the Minnesota women's basketball team! As we celebrate the freedom of our great country, the Golden Gophers share with fans their Fourth of July traditions and what they are planning to do this year. Here's wishing all our Gopher fans out there a safe and happy holiday!

Mikayla Bailey: My Fourth of July tradition is spending it with my family, because it is my dad's birthday on the 4th and we usually go on our boat for the day.

Rachel Banham: My favorite Fourth of July tradition is to hang with my family and eat food, and chill and watch a movie. I don't know what I'm doing for the Fourth this year.

Joanna Hedstrom: My favorite Fourth of July traditions include going up to my cabin with my family and watching fireworks from the boat or in town!  This year we plan on going to Canterbury Park to enjoy the Fourth of July festivities there.

Kayla Hirt: My favorite thing about the Fourth of July is being able to spend the day outside in the sun and grill. I love late night fireworks as well! This year I will be going home and spending the day with my family, hopefully to spend some time on the lake, grill and watch the fireworks. :)

Jackie Johnson: My favorite Fourth of July tradition was spending the week at my Grandma and Grandpa's cabin, going tubing, jet skiing, going to the town carnival and lighting off tons of fireworks with my family. Growing up I did this every year until I started traveling for AAU and summer basketball. This year my plans are to go to my friend's lake house!

Stabresa McDaniel: My family and I just enjoy our time together, have a cookout and try to find a place to pop firecrackers. This time, in Minnesota, I just plan on hanging with my teammates and making new traditions with them.

Shayne Mullaney:
When I was younger, my family would go jet-skiing on a lake in Eden Prairie and have a picnic. It was so fun!  Then at night we would eat dinner at Bayside on Lake Minnetonka and watch the fireworks on the lake. This would always be a tradition for Fourth of July, but lately it has changed because a few of my siblings are in California and I have three nephews now so it changes on a yearly basis.

This year for the Fourth I might be going to my boyfriend's cabin or to my friends lake house. Either way I hope to be near water and outside enjoying the sun!  I always watch the fireworks every year too.  This year I want to watch them near the Stone Arch Bridge if I stay in Minnesota.  I don't know how this year Fourth of July will turn out, but I know it will be fun! (:

Sari Noga:
My family doesn't really have specific Fourth of July traditions, but usually we have a family reunion around that time of year, which I enjoy seeing my extended family. My favorite thing to do on the Fourth of July is to be on a lake, light off fireworks and have family time. This year I am unsure of our plans, but hopefully they involve water!

Micaella Riche: Well being Canadian, we celebrate Canada day July 1st. I used to love going downtown and watching all the street performers with my brothers. This year, I don't know how I will spend it yet, but it will most likely involve exercise physiology homework..! Gotta love being a student-athlete!

Amanda Zahui B.: I have never celebrated the Fourth of July and I have no idea what I am going to do. Hopefully, I'll eat some good food and hang out with my teammates.

Kelly Roysland: I love spending the 4th of July with my family at our cabin on Lake Bemidji. I plan on spending time golfing, waterskiing, hanging out with my cousins, taking a bike ride around the lake and grilling out. Happy 4th of July to all!

Deborah Edwards: I love the 4th of July more than ever, because last year I was married on July 6 - so this time of year always reminds me of our wedding day.  What a great holiday!  It's our own patriotic anniversary!  This year we will be celebrating by cooking out and spending time with our family in Rochester.

Nick Leddy Re-Signs with Stanley Cup Champions

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Go Gophers! MN_IND
Go Gophers!
Link: Jordan Leopold Inks Two-Year Deal With St. Louis Blues (Gophersports.com

Gopher Hockey alum Nick Leddy has agreed to a two-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks that will keep the restricted free agent with the 2013 Stanley Cup Champions through the 2014-15 season. Terms of the contract have not been released.

"I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to remain in Chicago and be a part of this special group of young, experienced players," Leddy said in Wednesday's team release . "The organization is first class both on and off the ice, and I am honored to be a member of the Chicago Blackhawks."

As Pro Hockey Talk points out, Leddy has appeared in every Blackhawks game over the last two seasons and set career highs in goals (six), plus/minus (plus-15), power-play goals (two) and game-winning goals (two) in this year's shortened regular season. The Eden Prairie, Minn., native, who ranked third among Blackhawks defensemen with 18 total points in the regular season, added two assists in 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games as Chicago went on to defeat the Boston Bruins in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. 

The 6-0, 191-pound defenseman has tallied 62 points (13 goals, 49 assists) in 176 career regular-season games with the Blackhawks from 2010 to 2013. He has recorded five points (one goal, four assists) in 36 career postseason contests. 

"We are pleased to announce that Nick will remain a core member of our organization," said Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman. "Over the course of the past three seasons, Nick has shown continuous development and we think he will be essential to our long-term success."

The defenseman was drafted 16th overall by the Minnesota Wild in 2009 and was traded to Chicago with Kim Johnsson for Cam Barker in 2010. Leddy spent the 2009-10 season with the Gophers and tallied 11 points and eight assists in 30 collegiate games. 

Leddy is the second Gopher to sign a two-year NHL contract on Wednesday after Hobey Baker Award winner Jordan Leopold inked a two-year deal to remain with the St. Louis Blues earlier in the day. 


Leopold Inks Two-Year Deal with St. Louis Blues

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Go Gophers! MN_IND
Go Gophers!
Hobey Baker Award winner and Gophers alum Jordan Leopold signed a two-year deal with the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday morning, reportedly worth $4.5 million, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Leopold, 32, had two assists in 15 regular-season games for St. Louis last year after being acquired from Buffalo in March. The defenseman, who also played in all six playoff games for the Blues, had eight points and six assists in 24 regular-season games for Buffalo before being dealt to St. Louis.

"He was here for a short period of time, and I thought that his experience was something that was beneficial to our team," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I think that gives us maybe one of the strongest defenses in the league with both experience and youth, and it's something that is a good fit for us." 

The 2012-13 season marked Leopold's 10th NHL season including stints with Calgary, Colorado, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and St. Louis. In 625 regular-season games, the defenseman has 204 points, 65 goals and 138 assists. The Golden Valley, Minn., native, who was originally selected 44th overall by Anaheim in the second round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, also has 16 assists in 65 playoff games. 

Minnesota's fourth Hobey Baker Award winner, Leopold was a two-time All-American and ranks first in school history for goals by a defensemen (45), third in points by a defensemen (144) and fourth in assists by a defensemen (99). The two-time WCHA Defensive Player of the Year capped an impressive college career by earning the 2002 Hobey Baker Award and then leading the Gophers to the NCAA title the following day at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. 

 

Skjei Stands Out at Rangers Prospects Camp

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Link: Brady Skjei answers your Twitter Questions (Blueshirts United)

Gophers defenseman and New York Rangers prospect Brady Skjei is currently in New York for the Rangers' 2013 Prospects Development Camp at the MSG Training Center, and the 2012 28th overall pick seems to be standing out in the first days of camp. 

Skjei, who tallied a goal in Tuesday's intrasquad scrimmage, was the recipient of a glowing review from BlueShirts United.

"While Skjei surely was pleased with his goal, it was the strong positional play and shot-blocking of the Rangers 2012 first rounder which stood out the most during the scrimmage. That and the fact that Skjei has added ten pounds of muscle and now boasts a solid 205 pound frame surely had the Rangers brass feeling good."

Check out what the Lakeville, Minn., native had to say after Day 2 of camp: 

Gophers Participating with USA Volleyball This Summer

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Two members of the Gopher volleyball team are currently training with USA Volleyball prior to the 2013 season. Tori Dixon is training with the USA Volleyball for its summer training session in California, while Ashley Wittman is competing with the A2 program in Dallas, Texas.

Dixon was selected to partake in a two-week, short term training session, invited by USA Volleyball national team coach Karch Kiraly. Dixon left on June 22nd and returns to Minnesota on July 4th, competing at the American Sports Center in Anaheim. She and former Gopher Lauren Gibbemeyer have been back in the gym together the last few weeks. Gibbemeyer, who helped Team USA win the Pan Am Cup, was recently named to Preliminary roster of USA's Volleyball Cup roster that will take on Japan, 10-13.

Wittman is competing with USA Volleyball's A2 program, while former Gopher coach Mike Hebert is also there in attendance as Team White's coach. With Team Blue, Wittman started competition on June 29th and continues through July 3 in the bronze and gold medal matches. In the June 30th match against Team Red, Wittman recorded 14 kills. The athletes were selected via the U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team Open Tryouts held Feb. 22-24 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The tryout attracted a record 240 participants, 33 more than the previous best mark set in 2012. Athletes selected to both the A2 program and the U.S. Women's Junior National Volleyball Team (WJNT) could only participate in the WJNT program with the 2013 FIVB Volleyball Women's Junior World Championship as the priority event.

Both Dixon and Wittman enter their final year as a Golden Gopher. Wittman was Minnesota's 2012 team captain and a honorable mention All-American. Dixon received second-team All-America honors last season and was a First-Team All-Big Ten selection. Dixon and Wittman are two of 10 student-athletes returning from last year's Elite Eight team. Minnesota begins its season on Aug. 30-31st at the UAB/Samford Tourney in Birmingham, Ala.