Cue the Rau-ser: Gophers Captain Set to Return

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Go Gophers!Kyle Rau
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MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) - Gopher Hockey All-American and team captain Kyle Rau will return to the University of Minnesota for his senior season, the Eden Prairie, Minn., native announced today during Florida Panthers prospect development camp. 

"I love playing hockey at Minnesota and wearing the Maroon & Gold," Rau said. "Deep down, I know that we have unfinished business here. With the talent we have coming back and the new guys coming in, I think we can have a really special season next year. I'd also like to thank the Florida Panthers. They are a great organization, and I appreciate their understanding of my decision." 

In three years with the Maroon & Gold, Rau has helped the Gophers to three-straight conference regular-season championships - a first for the historic college hockey program - as well as two Frozen Four appearances. 

Rau was a CCM/AHCA Division I Second Team All-American in 2013-14 after leading the Gophers to the inaugural Big Ten regular-season title and the national championship game. Rau led the team in scoring with 40 points (14 goals, 26 assists), perhaps none more important that the junior's overtime goal over Michigan on March 14 to clinch the conference championship for the Gophers. A Second Team All-Big Ten honoree as well as an Academic All-Big selection, Rau earned Minnesota's John Mayasich Outstanding Student-Athlete Award this season. 

The 2013-14 campaign also saw Rau become just the 80th member of Minnesota's 100-point club and the 52nd member of the Gophers' 75-assist club. 

Minnesota's active leading scorer with 123 points (47 goals, 76 assists) in 121 games, Rau has tallied 40 or more points in each of his three seasons with the team. The forward's scoring ability has the potential to sway a game in the Gophers' favor -- the team is 65-11-6 all-time when Rau records a point and 32-2-0 all-time when he tallies multiple points in a game. 

The Florida Panthers selected Rau with the 91st overall pick (third round) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. 

-Pride On Ice-

Pitino Blog: Surprise

In the spirit of the MLB All Star Game, I decided to throw our guys a curveball last night.  

I surprised our players and staff by telling them we would practice this morning at 6 a.m., for just under an hour. The news was met with great enthusiasm.  It was a good way to break up the monotony of individual instruction and get them to play together a bit.  I did my best to stay away from them this summer; I am sure my staff won a lot of friendly bets around the office about how soon I would have practice.  

My main message before practice was that we won a title last year.  It was a championship that we are all proud of - it was difficult to win and we learned a lot about ourselves in the process.  With that being said, it's time to take the next step as a team and a basketball program.  My expectations for them this season will be MUCH higher.

We started practice with a lot of defense.  This was a good opportunity to teach the new guys our defensive principles and philosophies.  As expected the incoming players have a long way to go.
There is no doubt in my mind they will get there.  To finish practice I put in two plays and let them scrimmage a bit.  We definitely look quicker and much more athletic than last year's team.  

Below are some first impressions of each player...

Zach Lofton - impressed me with his playmaking ability.  He has outstanding potential.

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Coach Pitino says Andre Hollins is healthy and poised for a breakout year.

Andre Hollins - Came back healthy and in great shape.  Breakout year coming.

Elliott Eliason - Body looks great, finished everything today.

Mo Walker - Had some big time moves in the paint.  Would love to see him still get stronger and quicker.

DeAndre Mathieu- still recovering from Day Day beating him in one-on-one last week.  Hopefully he will get over it by November 14th.

Josh Martin- Rodney Williams-esque athlete.  Still has to learn how to play.  Very excited about his potential.

Carlos "Squirrel" Morris- Has put on 15 pounds and has about 15 more to go.  Long arms.  Could be a great defender.

Daquein "Day Day" McNeil- I told him yesterday to come to practice a confident player. He walked in this morning with a gold jersey on.  Traditionally, in practice maroon is the first team and gold is the second team. Everyone should walk into the first day of practice with a maroon jersey on!  He has a chance to make a big jump from last year.

Joey King- Typical Joey.  Efficient offensively and a great understanding of how to play.  You win with guys like Joey.  He has put on 15 pounds of muscle.

Nate Mason- Really impressed me defensively.  Has very quick feet.

Charles Buggs- did not play, rehabbing after knee surgery.  Looked like he was preparing for the Tour de France all practice.

Bakary Konate and Gaston Diedhiou- will be here when school starts in September.


Coach Saunders and his staff were kind enough to invite me to the Timberwolves summer league practice Monday evening.  His staff does an unbelievable job.  I was blown away by Zach LaVine.  He has a chance to be special!  I was also extremely impressed with how hard Shabazz Muhammed played. He is a warrior.  Gorgui Dieng looked great as well.  Obviously I am biased when it comes to Gorgui.


My staff and I will be on the road from Wednesday to Sunday starting this week for the next three weeks.  I will be in Washington D.C., Chicago and Springfield this week.  Should be fun.  The season is right around the corner.  Can't wait!

Go Gophers!
Richard Pitino

Gopher Volleyball Update (7/6/14)

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Summer Roundup: July 7

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An All-Star Game selection highlights this week's roundup.

Major Leagues
*Glen Perkins was selected to his second consecutive All-Star Game. The Twins closer will be a reserve for the American League team. Read more here.

Minor Leagues
*Nate Hanson notched a pair of three-hit games for the Rochester Red Wings last week. He went 3-for-4 with a three runs, a double and two RBIs on July 1. Hanson hit 3-for-7 with a run and a double on July 5. He is now hitting .286 in his seven games at the Triple-A level this summer.
*Mike Kvasnicka (New Britain) hit 7-for-21 during the past week and is hitting .344 in his last 10 games. Those hits included a double and a home run last week.
*Tom Windle got the win with a six-inning, one-run start on July 2. He is 8-4 with a 3.72 ERA for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Class A Advanced) this season.
*DJ Snelten has maintained a low ERA all season for the Class A Augusta GreeenJackets. After 2 1/3 scoreless relief innings last week, the number is 1.23. Snelten has struck out 32 batters in 29 1/3 innings.
*Alec Crawford has yet to allow an earned run for the Grand Junction Rockies (Rookie). He made two relief appearances last week and has pitched eight innings since joining the roster.

Northwoods League
*Connor Schaefbauer hit .375 (9-for-24) last week to raise his season average to .308 for Rochester. He had three consecutive two-hit games.
*Dan Motl hit 3-for-5 with a run on July 4, and 6-for-14 on the week for Willmar.
*Dalton Sawyer made two scoreless relief appearances for St. Cloud last week.

Incoming Freshmen
*Fred Manke was named Wisconsin State Journal Area Player of the Year. He also pitched recently for the South All-Stars in the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association Classic. Manke was also named the WBCAC South Central District Player of the Year while earning first-team all-state recognition and his fourth All-Capitol North Conference nod. This past season, he had a 7-1 record and 1.01 ERA with 101 strikeouts, also batting .488.
*Through July 2, Alex Boxwell was leading his Coon Rapids Legion team with a .483 average.
*Reggie Meyer is 4-0 for the Totino Grace Legion team.
*Luke Pettersen's Legion team won the Palmetto Legion Invitational Tournament in South Carolina June 27-29.

Summer Roundup Archives
June 30
June 23
June 16
June 9

Complete list of current/incoming Gophers on summer teams

Softball Summer Blog #1: Erica Meyer

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Kickball.jpg

So far, my summer has been pleasant. I have kept myself busy but have also factored in time to relax with my friends and family! I have spent most of my time working out for softball, interning in the office of Student-Athlete Development on campus, and coaching my sister's softball team.

On a typical day, I wake up and go lift weights with some of my teammates at Ridder Arena. Our weights coach, Sara Wiley, has set up a lifting program designed to kick our butts and make us stronger before we return to school in the fall! After lifting, we usually head over to our field to hit off tees in the batting cages. 

The next portion of my day is spent at Bierman Field Athletic Building where I am an intern in the office of Student-Athlete Development. As an intern, my main job is planning the 2014 HopeDay Festival. On HopeDay, about 500 of our student-athletes volunteer to put on a carnival for the HopeKids and their families. Here, the kids can play kickball, get their faces painted, go on pony rides and participate in many other fun activities. Each year, about 1,500 members of the HopeKids organization attend the event. HopeKids is an organization that provides fun activities and events free of charge to families who have children with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. HopeDay is just one of the many volunteering events our student-athletes attend throughout the year.

M Club Golf.jpg

Another part of my job as an intern is volunteering at the various outreach events that we offer. I volunteered at the "M" Club golf outing for former student-athletes. I worked a chipping contest on one of the holes and got to hang out with some softball alums, including Danielle Skrove and Briana Hassett (pictured left). I also got to play in the Playworks Kickball Tournament with other Gopher athletes, including my teammate Hannah Granger (pictured above). Our team ended up winning the whole tournament and former Gopher kicker Chris Hawthorne won the contest for longest kick. Volunteering at these events has been a very rewarding experience.

Finally, in the evenings, I spend my time coaching my sister's softball team. She plays for the 18U Mounds View Mustangs. Throughout the summer, our team will play about 20 league games and compete in four tournaments. In our last tournament, we played two games against my future teammate, Kylie Stober. Watching her pitch made me excited that she is going to become a Gopher. The rest of my time is spent hanging out with my friends and family on the lake and playing fetch with my puppy. As I write, she is begging me to go outside with her, and I can't resist any longer. I am off to play! I hope you all are enjoying your summer as much as I am!

Skjei Excited to Return in 2014-15

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Go Gophers!Brady Skjei at the 2014 Hockey City Classic at TCF Bank Stadium.
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MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) - Gopher Hockey defenseman Brady Skjei has confirmed he will return to the University of Minnesota for his junior season in  2014-15. 

The Lakeville, Minn., native is currently participating at the New York Rangers Prospect Development Camp at Madison Square Garden Training Center and informed the National Hockey League (NHL) organization of his decision on Thursday.

"I can't wait to come back and build off of what we accomplished last year," Skjei said. "It's a new season and a new team, but I'm excited about our potential." 

Skjei has helped Minnesota to two-straight regular-season conference titles since joining the team in 2012-13 including the inaugural Big Ten title in 2013-14 while the Gophers also advanced to the NCAA national championship game last season. 

The defenseman posted career highs across the board in his sophomore campaign with 14 points, six goals and eight assists in 40 games while also earning All-Big Ten Honorable Mention and Academic All-Big Ten honors. For his career, Skjei has tallied 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 76 games for the Gophers. 

Skjei has also been part of a defensive unit that has ranked third nationally and first in its conference for goals allowed per game in each of the last two seasons.

A product of the U.S. National Development Team Program (USNDTP) in Ann Arbor, Mich., Skjei missed one game in 2013-14 to compete at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden alongside Gophers teammate Hudson Fasching and under head coach Don Lucia. 

The 19th Gopher to be selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft, Skjei was selected 28th overall by the Rangers in 2012. 

-Pride On Ice-

M.A.G.I.C. Weekly Update (6/30/14)

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Pitino Blog: Early Summer Update

Good morning Gopher Fans,

Hope everyone is having a great summer like we are.  Personally it has been a lot of fun welcoming my two-month-old Jack into this world. Jill, Ava, Bernie and I are extremely fortunate and lucky.

This summer has been much different than last year.  The culture has been introduced and expectations for how to operate on a daily basis have been laid out. That is always the toughest part of taking over a new job. These next few months are all about taking the next step as a team and a program.  We have had a few weeks of individual instruction so far as well as workouts in the weight room.  

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Head coach Richard Pitino gives his thoughts on the state of the Gophers.

This summer I have chosen to stay away and watch from afar.  This gives my assistant coaches an opportunity to grow as coaches because when the season starts, I am the main voice everyone hears.  It also gives our players an opportunity to get some much needed space from the pressures of being coached by the head coach.  It's a long season for everyone.  My hope is that when we start back up in the fall, our guys will be fresh and eager to get back to work.

First Impressions.....

Carlos Morris- Has put on significant weight since he has gotten here and still has a ways to go in the weight room.  I have full faith that he, with our strength coach Shaun Brown, will be ready to compete at the Big Ten level.  He will need to come in and make an immediate impact. "Squirrel" is a very good ball handler and passer; he can get to the basket and make others better on the court.  There's no reason why he can't make a difference from day one.

Nate Mason- Pleasant surprise!  Think Andre Hollins, Gopher fans - very similar games.  Nate has a great disposition on the court.  He seems unfazed at all times.  He does a little bit of everything well and can
play multiple positions.  I am very excited about his potential.

Josh Martin- I watched him work out yesterday for the first time of the summer because we have been resting him due to a minor knee issue (I repeat, MINOR).  One word when describing his athletic ability... WOW.  Josh has an infectious personality on the court and is always encouraging his teammates.  He has a chance to be a very, very good player.  Fan favorite!

Zach Lofton- The sky is the limit for Zach.  He has all the tools and talent to be a big-time guard.  Phenomenal athlete, great length and has the ability to get his shot off at any time.  We need him to be ready next year.

Gaston Diedhiou and Bakary Konate-  Both guys are working hard physically as well as academically to finish up strong.  We expect both to be on campus and ready to go come the fall.  Very excited to coach both student-athletes.  Phenomenal kids!

Returners- Who has made the biggest jump over the summer?  This award goes to Daquein McNeil.  That small forward spot will be a fun competition.  I really like the direction Day Day is headed.

My staff and I hit the road on Wednesday to go find the next great Gopher. Recruiting has been going very well.  Year one was good, I hope year two can be GREAT.

Hope everyone has a great 4th of July!  Go Gophers!  

Richard Pitino

 

NHL: Bickel Signs with Minnesota Wild

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Stu Bickel


MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) - The Minnesota Wild have signed Gopher Hockey alum Stu Bickel to a one-year, two-way contract, the National Hockey League (NHL) organization announced on Tuesday evening. 

The Chanhassen, Minn., native had eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 24 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack in 2013-14 and appeared in 67 games for the New York Rangers from 2011-13 with nine assists. The defenseman also appeared in 18 playoff games for the Rangers in 2011-12. 

Bickel skated for the Gophers during the 2007-08 season and notched seven points (one goal, six assists). 


Vantastic: Vanek Signs with Wild

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Go Gophers!Thomas Vanek
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MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) -- Welcome back, Thomas Vanek!
 
The Gophers All-American and nine-year NHL veteran signed a three-year contract with the Minnesota Wild, the National Hockey League (NHL) organization announced on Tuesday, just hours after the free agency period officially began. 

"Thomas is an elite offensive talent who showed a strong desire to play in Minnesota," Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a release. "We are excited to welcome him to our organization."

In 663 regular-season NHL games, the Vienna, Austria native has tallied 556 points while his 277 career goals are the eighth most among all NHL players since the forward joined the league in 2006-06. At 6-for-2 and 217 pounds, Vanek has also added 30 points and 20 goals in 53 career playoff games. The fifth overall selection by Buffalo in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Vanek has spent the majority of his career with the Sabres organization before moving twice last season - first to the New York Islanders and later to the Montreal Canadiens. Between the three teams, Vanek totaled 68 points and 27 goals in 78 games last season. 

"It doesn't get much better for me right now; in the end, we made it work," Vanek told Sportsnet. "What's more exciting is how good the team is...It's a team that is very deep, and I know I can add to that."

Prior to signing a professional contract, Vanek recorded 113 points and 57 goals in 83 career games over two seasons at the University of Minnesota. Vanek led the Gophers in scoring both years and helped the Gophers capture the 2003 NCAA title, having scored game-winning goals over both Michigan in the semifinal and New Hampshire in the championship game. The forward was named the Frozen Four MVP for the performance and went on to earn Second Team All-America honors the following season. 

According to Mike Russo of the Star Tribune, Vanek's deal with the Wild is for $19.5 million over three years while the Austrian will wear No. 26 as he did as a member of the Gophers.

The signing of Vanek now gives the Wild three Gopher Hockey alums as the forward joins Keith Ballard and Erik Haula on Minnesota's roster. Vanek and Ballard were teammates for two seasons at the University of Minnesota (2002-03, 2003-04) including the Gophers' national championship in 2003.