The 2015 Minnesota Softball season is approaching. The Gophers are coming off their best season in program history, a season that included the school's first Big Ten Tournament title since 1999 and its first-ever NCAA super regional appearance. This year's team will look to build on last year's success. The 42nd Gopher softball team will feature 22 student-athletes and each one has her own story. As the team's Feb. 6 opener against Washington gets closer, each player will look back on her journey to wearing the Maroon and Gold.



Coach Allister on No. 33, Ellie Cowger: "Ellie Cowger has been a great addition to our team this fall. Even though she comes from Michigan, she comes from a long line of Gophers! Ellie reminds me of former Gopher Dannie Skrove and fans will enjoy the grit and competitiveness they will see from Ellie this season."
My Gopher Softball journey has been short in comparison to those who have come before me. However, that fact has not hindered my ability to reflect on the four months I have been a member of the Gopher Softball family.

I can start out by saying this: I am blessed. I am lucky to be a part of the University of Minnesota's athletic department and an ambassador of the maroon and gold. I am lucky to put on a Gopher Softball jersey every game day. I am lucky to run shuttles in the indoor football facility every Wednesday morning (if you tell yourself you enjoy them, they're not half bad). I am lucky that practice is the best part of my day and I get to do what feels like an infinite number of push-offs in the outfield grass of Jane Sage Cowles Stadium (and yes...I know there will be many more to come). And finally, I am lucky to be a part of a team of coaches and players who have a contagious desire for excellence and who would do anything in their power to see their players and teammates succeed.

During the last few weeks of the semester when our practice schedule switched from 20 hours a week to eight, I had the opportunity to reflect on how I got to the U. I came to realize many things over that course of time. Most importantly, I was able to pinpoint where my journey began and where it has taken me. So here is my story...

I was born a Golden Gopher. Having both my parents graduate from the school and seeing two out of the three of my older sisters walk on to the Gopher Softball team in 2006 and 2008, the University of Minnesota was the only place my heart could ever be. I didn't quite convince myself of that until I came to campus on a recruiting visit.

When I began the recruiting process my freshman year, I felt like I was in sorry shape. I was in the midst of switching over to left-handed hitting and I had yet to find my place in the field. I pitched in high school, but my heart wasn't really in it. I played infield for my travel team, but that didn't quite feel right either. As a result, I was a softball player who couldn't really swing right handed or left handed and had no idea of my potential in the field. The only thing I was sure of was that I wanted to play college softball and somehow I had to find a way to get there.

Looking back on it now, I can attribute my turning point to three things. I had my parents who encouraged me to never give up on what I wanted most. I had a travel coach who told me my best shot to play Division I, Big Ten softball would be to get my cleats into the outfield. And lastly, I was introduced to a hitting coach who didn't give up on me even when my swing was in shambles.

Over the course of my freshman and sophomore years, my game started to come together. My swing began to not be such a train wreck, I got faster and I was becoming more comfortable in both the infield and the outfield. I drew the attention of a few DII schools and smaller DI schools, but deep down, I knew I wanted to play for Minnesota.

I went to summer softball camp at the U the summer before my junior year and that is where I really got to know the coaches and the culture of the Gopher Softball program. My experience over those three days was something that I knew I wouldn't get anywhere else. Following the camp, Coach Merchant saw me play at Nationals (I'm not sure if she remembers, but the first game she came to, I struck out three times and made an error that let in the winning run for the other team). Coach Merchant, if you are reading this, thank you for giving me a second chance and coming to another game. I appreciate it more than you'll ever know.

Despite my not-so-stellar performance, the coaches eventually invited me to come on an unofficial visit in September. I was set on coming here before I even knew I would be offered a spot on the team. I could tell by watching only 15 minutes of Gopher Softball practice that they all loved where they were at and that their passion for the sport was through the roof. The girls were very friendly and took the time to make sure I felt welcome. At a meeting with the coaches that evening, they offered me a spot in their program and I couldn't say anything but yes.

And here we are, two years later and not a day goes by that I don't take a step back and thank God for where He has brought me. I feel like I am living a dream and I don't think that feeling will go away for the next three and a half years.

But now that I have finished my first semester and we are only 33 days away from the season, I will take the opportunity to look back on those first four months.

I wouldn't call my start a rocky one, but I definitely made a few freshman mistakes. Forgetting my cleats in the locker room on the first day of practice or taking the entire hitting practice to complete a bunting drill that usually only takes two minutes are only two of the more memorable ones.

But if it weren't for those moments, I may not have realized the support system I have behind me. As the only freshman in the outfield this year, I was constantly encouraged and motivated by all of the upperclassman outfielders. While all of the outfielders were instrumental in my transition to college softball, Erica Meyer and Paige Palkovich helped me immensely in center field. I now take the right first step about half the time instead of never and get pelted by a fewer number of sun balls. But on a real note, thank you to both of you for making my first fall a good one.

All of my teammates are more encouraging and hard-working than I ever imagined. There is a reason why they won the Big Ten championship last year. They have the relentless desire for success and the willingness to put in the work it takes to be one of the top teams in the country. It's inspiring and I really should thank them every day for making me want to be not only a better softball player but an all-around better person.

If seeing the 2014 team win the Big Ten Championship in May against a team from my home state wasn't motivating enough, watching the girls receive their Big Ten Championship rings was just one more things that made me want to be a part of something so great. Once again, I am lucky to call each and every one of those girls my teammates and I cannot wait for us to accomplish something just as amazing as they did last season.

I was sitting at breakfast with Erica Meyer and Erika Rozell, the day before I went home for Christmas break. I could honestly tell them that the U was where I was supposed to be and that I wouldn't change anything for the world.

So in conclusion, thank you for reading and may our 2015 be filled with many wins, lots of fun, another Big Ten Championship. I hope you all had a wonderful New Year and I look forward to hopefully seeing a lot of you out at our games this spring!

NHL: Bjugstad Inks Six-Year Deal with Florida

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Florida Panthers Executive Vice-President and General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that the club has agreed to terms on a six-year contract with F Nick Bjugstad.

"We are very pleased to have agreed to a long-term contract with Nick," said Tallon. "He is a big, strong and skilled forward who will play an important role on our club for the next several seasons. Nick, along with Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, Erik Gudbranson and Johnathan Huberdeau are all part of our club's growing nucleus of young and talented players that will lead our team to future success."

Bjugstad, 22, currently leads the Panthers in goals (13), points (21), shots (94) and game-winning goals (3). He has recorded four multiple-point games this season, including a career best four points (2-2--4) on Nov. 16 at Anaheim. He has posted two four-game point scoring streaks this season and netted Florida's game-winning goal in a NHL record 20-round shootout on Dec. 16.

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound center has played in 121 games with Florida (2012-2014) scoring 30 goals with 30 assists and 32 PIMS. Bjugstad was drafted by Florida in the first round (19th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft.

On the international level, the Minneapolis, Minnesota, native represented the USA at the 2013 World Championship. Bjugstad also earned a Bronze medal at the 2011 World Junior Championship, recording four points (2-2--4) in six games. He also appeared in the 2012 World Junior Championship.

Bjugstad completed his collegiate career at the University of Minnesota, appearing in 109 games scoring 54 goals with 44 assists, earning three consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament. He also won 2010 Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award, given to the state's most outstanding senior high school hockey player.

The 2015 Minnesota Softball season is approaching. The Gophers are coming off their best season in program history, a season that included the school's first Big Ten Tournament title since 1999 and its first-ever NCAA super regional appearance. This year's team will look to build on last year's success. The 42nd Gopher softball team will feature 22 student-athletes and each one has her own story. As the team's Feb. 6 opener against Washington gets closer, each player will look back on her journey to wearing the Maroon and Gold.




Coach Allister on No. 42, Tyler Walker: "Tyler Walker is a dynamic softball player on both sides of the ball. She's been a mainstay in our lineup the past three years at the top of the order and at short stop. Her speed and power set the tone for our lineup offensively and she has a steady presence on defense."

At the start of my junior year of high school is when I first came into contact with the University of Minnesota. I received a letter in the mail describing the university and its many opportunities as well as details about the softball program. Initially, I was skeptical about the state of Minnesota, but I was repeatedly encouraged by my dad to go on a visit and at least check out the campus and meet the coaches. At this time, I was being recruited by the old coaching staff. I decided to give it a chance!

I went on an unofficial visit to the school and completely fell in love with the campus and was so ready to become a Gopher.

A few months later, I received a heartbreaking call from the Minnesota head coaches at the time, letting me know that it would be their last season coaching the Gophers. After I hung up the phone, I remember being in shock and very nervous on what the future was going to hold for me. So, I went back into the whole recruiting process again.

I visited other schools and found that I kept comparing them to the University of Minnesota. I received a phone call that the new coaching staff at Minnesota wanted me to go on an official visit and I was so beyond excited I can't even put it into words. I arrived on campus during my senior year of high school and once I heard Coach Allister's goals for the program I was completely on board. I wanted to be a part of changing the program around that is why Minnesota so appealing to me as a player. I wanted to be a part of something great.

When I arrived on campus my freshman year, I knew I was in the right place. As soon as I met the other freshmen, we instantly became close and I knew they would become my family. The biggest adjustment I had to make in college was cooking for myself. I am now in my senior year and still haven't really made that adjustment. But, I am a pro at calling in take-out orders and I know every menu in Dinkytown way too well (try the BLT at Loring Pasta Bar if you're ever hungry).

During my freshman year, it felt like I played more softball in one semester then I did my whole life! But honestly freshman year was so awesome. Looking back at it, it was so great because my teammates were (and still are) just genuinely awesome people. Like I said before, we all got along so great and it made living far from home so much easier.

The culture of the program was based on the concept of hard work. Whether in the classroom or on the field, we work hard. The hard work we put in my freshman year on the field and in the classroom helped me understand what it truly meant to be a Minnesota Gopher.

It has been an honor to be a part of this program. I think it is an absolute privilege to be able to wake up every morning and work towards getting better with my team, my family, my sisters. Winning the Big Ten Championship was huge for our program, but what was most amazing to me is that we were two games away from competing in the Women's College World Series - two games. That has been my driving motivation so far this year and wanting to get better every day. We got so close last year but I have full faith that this team is going to get there again and this time we're going to have a different outcome, I 100% believe that.

Until that time comes, we continue to put in hard work in the weight room and on the field. Come February, we'll be ready to go to war.

MAGIC Update (12/22/14)

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MAGIC Update (12/9/14)

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Raty Continues to Make Hockey History

Gophers alum Noora Raty made hockey history when she became the first Finnish woman to suite up for play in the Finnish second league, Mestis, earlier this fall. In her Mestis debut, Raty stopped 31 of 36 shots as Kiekko-Vantaa fell 5-2, on Oct. 22. She earned her first win in her second start on Nov. 1, stopping 43 of 45 shots in a 4-2 win. Check out a recent interview with Raty to hear what her experience playing professional hockey has been like so far and catch up on some of the tweets surrounding her Mestis debut.

NHL: Helgeson to Make NHL Debut Tuesday

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Go Gophers! TopTen
Go Gophers!Seth Helgeson

MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) -- Gopher Hockey alum Seth Helgeson has been recalled by the New Jersey Devils and will make his NHL debut tonight against the Minnesota Wild. 

Tonight's game is set for a 6 p.m. (TV: FOX Sports North, Radio: KFAN) at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. 


"He's got fresh legs, which is good coming in," coach Pete DeBoer said. "We were young prior to him coming in, so it's nothing we haven't dealt with this year. I'm excited to see him. He had a great training camp and he deserved to be the guy called up here."

Helgeson is a physical presence.

"Not exactly the way you want to inject energy, but we'll take it and hopefully he'll come in and give us a good game," DeBoer said.

"He's a big guy. Physical. Long stick. We don't have a lot of that, physical defensemen, back there. With Sal, who is that type of defenseman, going out, it's nice to have a guy in the minors that plays a similar type game." 

A Faribault, Minn., native, Helgeson was a four-year letter winner at the University of Minnesota and served as an alternate captain as the team's lone senior in 2012-13. The defenseman skated in 150 career games for the Gophers and amassed 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists). He also proved to be incredibly durable despite his physical play -- ending his college career with 122-straight appearances including every game of his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. 

In his final two campaigns with the program, the Gophers earned two-straight MacNaughton Cups as Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) regular-season champions as well as two NCAA tournament berths including the team's run to the Frozen Four in 2011-12.

Helgeson signed with the Albany Devils following his senior season and played four games for New Jersey's AHL affiliate that year. He added 10 points (one goal, nine assists) and 100 penalty minutes in 75 regular-season games during the 2013-14 campaign and also played in four playoff games for Albany. So far in 2014-15, Helgeson has played in 12 games with one assist and 11 penalty minutes. 

With Helgeson expected to play tonight, we'll have a contest between two former teammates as well as four Gopher Hockey alums on the ice at Prudential Center. Helgeson and Wild forward Erik Haula played together for three seasons at Minnesota while Thomas Vanek and Keith Ballard will both be in the Wild lineup as well. 

Gopher Hockey now boasts 14 alums in the NHL this season: Keith Ballard (Minnesota Wild), Nick Bjugstad (Florida Panthers), Alex Goligoski (Dallas Stars), Erik Haula (Minnesota Wild), Seth Helgeson (New Jersey Devils), Erik Johnson (Colorado Avalanche), Phil Kessel (Toronto Maple Leafs), Nick Leddy (New York Islanders), Jordan Leopold (St. Louis Blues), Paul Martin (Pittsburgh Penguins), Kyle Okposo (New York Islanders), Nate Schmidt (Washington Capitals), Thomas Vanek (Minnesota Wild) and Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg Jets). 

Wrapping up the Fall Season

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Another fall season is complete at Gopher Golf. We enjoyed competing against 11 of the best college golf programs in the country in our final outing at Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas, Texas. Baylor University hosted the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate on a recently renovated golf course open just three short weeks, featuring firm greens and added length. Uniquely, the event consisted of a format counting the best five scores each round from six players on each team. Although we finished 11th out of 12 teams in the event, we had a few players step up in this event. 

Go Gophers! Runar Arnorsson
Go Gophers!
Runar Arnorsson
Go Gophers!
Not shockingly, Jose Mendez gave himself another opportunity to win, eventually finishing fourth in a field comprised of 42 players ranked in the top 100 in the country. Jose battled the strong breeze in the final round with precision iron shots and a world class short game! After the five events this fall, Jose finished with a 71.07 scoring average that ranks second in Gopher history behind only James McLean's 1998-99 year, where he boasted a total scoring average of 70.89. Jose has put himself into elite company at the young age of 19 as a part of Gopher Golf history that has included 43 All-Americans and two NCAA Individual Champions.  

Also playing well in long stretches in the event was true freshman Runar Arnorsson.  The Icelander was tied for eighth through 33 holes in the event only to finish +4 in his final three holes on Day 1. Day 2 was no exception to his solid play as he stiffed his iron shot on his 10th hole of the final round from 155 yards to get back to even. Unfortunately a few loose shots and one poor decision into the sixth cost him a shot at his first top 10 in a collegiate event. All other scores from our final fall event can be found here.

Each and every Gopher Golf fan should check out our team page at gophersports.com as Justine Buerkle, our communications contact, updates it frequently. You can find recent news, roster information, statistics from the past 10 years, the 2014-15 team schedule, camp information, Carlson's Corner archived blogs, historical facts within our program and even a link to buy official Gopher Golf apparel worn by our current team members. These are just a few reasons to follow our team using gophersports.com and the social media sites.

With the offseason comes planning for the winter months and spring schedule preparation. We have an outstanding track record in making waves on the course in the spring semester after months of preparation. We train our players mentally and physically harder than most programs from Dec. 1 to Feb. 1 in order to compete for championships come April. 

We have had to be much more creative than most teams in the past, as we are one of the only Big Ten golf programs that currently are without our own indoor/outdoor practice facility. This will be changing soon though as we are deep into our campaign to raise private funding for a new men's and women's golf team facility that will be built on our existing Tom Lehman Outdoor Facility at the Les Bolstad GC. The pre-planning stage is complete and we will be looking to break ground in the near future. We are grateful to our generous donors for both our facility and program needs. I also would like to invite those who have not been involved in financial support for either our program or Gopher Athletics to visit the Golden Gopher Fund website and make your contribution today using the "Make a Gift" icon. You can also call me at 612-321-1307 to learn more about how to get involved as all donations to our program are tax deductible and are applied towards your Gopher Score for ticket/seating priority.

Gopher Golf and the Carlson family wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Fairways, Fairways, Fairways!

Coach Carlson

Four Nations Cup: Final Recap

 2014 Four Nations Cup
 Schedule Tuesday, Nov. 4 through Saturday, Nov. 8
 Location Interior Savings Centre | Kamloops, British Columbia
 Tickets Buy Tickets Now | Full-tournament ticket package ­- $99 (plus fees)
 Official Sites USA Hockey | Hockey Canada | Finland | Sweden
 Social Media @4NationsCup | @USAHockey | @HC_Women | #4NationsCup

The 2014 Four Nations Cup concluded on Saturday with Canada taking home the gold medal with a shootout win over the U.S. and Sweden claiming bronze with a 2-1 overtime win over Finland. Dani Cameranesi finished the tournament tied for the scoring lead with four points (2g-2a) in four games. Hannah Brandt (2a) and Lee Stecklein (1a) also logged points for the U.S. Meanwhile, Kelly Terry played in all four games for Canada, Mira Jalosuo played in three for Finland and Megan Bozek played in two for the U.S.

Bronze Medal Game: Sweden 2, Finland 1 (overtime)

Mira Jalosuo's Finland team fell to Sweden in overtime in the bronze-medal game. Finland took a 1-0 lead late in the second period, but Sweden tied it with 3:33 remaining in regulation and sealed the 2-1 win at the 9:00 mark of overtime. Jalosuo was not in Finland's lineup after playing in the first three games of the tournament. 

Gold Medal Game: Canada 3, United States 2 (shootout)

Five Gophers took the ice in the gold medal game as Hannah Brandt, Megan Bozek, Dani Cameranesi and Lee Stecklein skated for the U.S. and Kelly Terry represented her native Canada. Canada took a 1-0 lead in the first period, but the U.S. responded with two goals to take a 2-1 lead in the second period. Canada tied it up at 2-2 with 2:11 remaining in the middle frame, and the teams played a scoreless third period and overtime before deciding the game with a shootout.

2014 Four Nations Cup Results

Tuesday, Nov. 4:
Preliminary: United States 5, Finland 0
Preliminary: Canada 2, Sweden 0

Wednesday, Nov. 5:
Preliminary: Finland 1, Sweden 0
Preliminary: Canada 3, United States 2

Friday, Nov. 7:
Preliminary: United States 3, Sweden 0
Preliminary: Canada 3, Finland 1

Saturday, Nov. 8:
Bronze: Sweden 2, Finland 1 (overtime)
Gold: Canada 3, United States 2 (shootout)

Four Nations Cup: Day Three Recap

 2014 Four Nations Cup
 Schedule Tuesday, Nov. 4 through Saturday, Nov. 8
 Location Interior Savings Centre | Kamloops, British Columbia
 Tickets Buy Tickets Now | Full-tournament ticket package ­- $99 (plus fees)
 Official Sites USA Hockey | Hockey Canada | Finland | Sweden
 Social Media @4NationsCup | @USAHockey | @HC_Women | #4NationsCup

In the final day of preliminary round play at the 2014 Four Nations Cup on Friday, the U.S. secured a place in Saturday's gold-medal game with a 3-0 win over Sweden. Meanwhile, Canada improved to 3-0-0 in preliminary round action with a 3-1 win over Finland.

Game 5: U.S 3, Sweden 0

Lee Stecklein and Dani Cameranesi each picked up an assist in the U.S.'s shutout win over Sweden. The U.S. outshot Sweden, 50-11, for the game. Cameranesi (2g-2a) is now tied with teammate Shiann Darkangelo (1g-3a) for the scoring lead among all players in the Four Nations Cup.

Game 6: Canada 3, Finland 1

Two Gopher alums faced off as Kelly Terry took the ice for Canada and Mira Jalosuo skated for Finland. Canada got on the board in the first period and extended its lead to 2-0 early in the third period, but Finland cut the lead to one with 9:24 remaining. However, the host team added its third goal in the final minute to seal the 3-1 win.

The U.S. and Canada face off for gold at 9 p.m. CT Saturday night, and Finland and Sweden meet in the bronze medal game at 4 p.m. CT Saturday.

Tuesday, Nov. 4:
Preliminary: United States 5, Finland 0
Preliminary: Canada 2, Sweden 0

Wednesday, Nov. 5:
Preliminary: Finland 1, Sweden 0
Preliminary: Canada 3, United States 2

Friday, Nov. 7:
Preliminary: United States 3, Sweden 0
Preliminary: Canada 3, Finland 1

Saturday, Nov. 8:
Bronze: Sweden vs. Finland, 4 p.m. CT
Gold: United States vs. Canada, 9 p.m. CT

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