Rosters Set for USA Hockey NJEC

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - USA Hockey announced today the blue and white team designations for its National Junior Evaluation Camp that will be taking place in Lake Placid, New York, Aug. 2-9. The 42 athletes participating in the camp have been separated into two groups for the first three days of practices and games vs. Finland and Sweden.


The Gophers feature five skaters at this year's evaluation camp. Michael Brodzinski, Ryan Collins and Hudson Fasching will skate for Team USA White while Taylor Cammarata and Vinni Lettieri will compete with Team USA Blue. Incoming freshman Leon Bristedt will also be competing at Lake Placid for Sweden. 

On Aug. 5, Team USA will trim its roster and a single U.S. squad will finish the camp with practices and games against Czech Republic, Finland and Sweden.

Team Blue will be coached by Kevin Patrick (Schenectady, N.Y./Univ. of Vermont) and Tony Granato (Downers Grove, Ill./Detroit Red Wings). Team White will be coached by Mike Ayers (Hingham, Mass./Boston College) and Mike Sullivan (Centerville, Mass.).

Notes: Of the 42 players invited to the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp, 14 competed in the United States Hockey League during the 2013-14 season, including 10 from USA Hockey's National Team Development Program ... Nineteen players competed in the college hockey ranks last season ... Thirteen of the 42 players participated in last year's camp ... The 2015 U.S. National Junior Team will be selected following a pre-tournament camp in December to be held in Boston ... At the 2015 IIHF World Junior Champio

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-

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-

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. 

Limited Mariucci Arena Seats for Sale

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MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) - With Father's Day fast approaching, here's your chance to give dad the greatest seat in the house - his own club-level seat from Mariucci Arena. 

Approximately 150 club-level seats from Mariucci Arena will go on sale to the public Thursday, June 12, through the University of Minnesota ReUse Center. Each seat costs 40 dollars while the inventory will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis. Any remaining inventory after Thursday will be available for purchase in person on the first Saturday of the month from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Each seat must be purchased in person at the University of Minnesota ReUse Center (883 29th Ave. SE). 

For more information about the University of Minnesota ReUse Program or the Mariucci Arena club-level seat sale, call 612-626-9152, email reuse@umn.edu, or visit www.facm.umn.edu/about/central-services/reuse.

Since opening in 1993, Mariucci Arena has seen the Gophers go 290-113-45 (.696 winning percentage) at the venue including a 48-10-6 mark (.790) since the beginning of the 2011-12 season. The Gophers went 15-1-3 at Mariucci Arena during the 2013-14 campaign - marking the fewest losses ever in the facility's 20 year history. 

-Pride on Ice-

Mike Reilly to Return for Junior Season

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Go Gophers!First Team All-American Mike Reilly
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MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) - First Team All-American and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Mike Reilly will return to the University of Minnesota men's hockey program for his junior season, the defenseman told the team this week. 

"I'm excited to be coming back to Minnesota next season," Reilly told GopherSports.com. "We've been incredibly successful over the last two years, and I'm looking forward to more of the same next year."

The Chanhassen, Minn., native was the first Gopher to earn First Team All-America honors since Ryan Stoa in 2009 and was also a First Team All-Big Ten selection for the 2013-14 campaign. The sophomore led all Big Ten defensemen and ranked among the top-10 defensemen nationally with nine goals, 24 assists and 33 points this season. 

Reilly helped the Gophers win the inaugural Big Ten regular-season championship and advance to the NCAA Frozen Four championship game as a sophomore in 2013-14 and was a member of Minnesota's WCHA regular-season championship squad as a freshman in 2012-13.

In 78 career games, the defenseman has tallied 47 points, 12 goals and 35 assists over two years with the Maroon & Gold. Reilly has missed just three games so far in his Minnesota career after being named to the 2013 U.S. National Junior Team and helping the program to a gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia. The defenseman tallied a goal and two assists at the tournament. 

In his junior season, Reilly could potentially become just the sixth Gopher in program history to repeat as a First Team All-American (Jordan Leopold, Mike Crowley, Brian Bonin, Jack McCartan, John Mayasich) while the Gophers will compete for their fourth-straight conference regular-season title and the team's third trip to the Frozen Four in four years. 

The defenseman is one of three Reilly brothers on Minnesota's roster (Connor, Ryan) while their father, also Mike, is a Gopher Hockey alum. 

Reilly was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the fourth round (98th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

-Pride on Ice-

NHL: Columbus, Richards Ink Two-Year Extension

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Go Gophers!Columbus head coach and Gopher Hockey All-American Todd Richards
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The Columbus Blue Jackets announced today that the organization has signed head coach and former Gopher Hockey All-American Todd Richards to a two-year contract extension through the 2016-17 season. 

Richards was a four-year letter winner at Minnesota (1986-89) and helped the Gophers reach the Frozen Four in all four years of his college career. The defenseman also helped Minnesota to WCHA MacNaughton Cups in 1988 and 1989 and tallied 158 points (30 goals, 128 assists) in 167 career games. Richards still holds the school record for career points by a defenseman and career assists by a defenseman. 

Press release from BlueJackets.com...

COLUMBUS, OHIO - The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed Head Coach Todd Richards to a two-year contract extension through the 2016-17 National Hockey League season, club General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced today. 

The club will hold a press conference with Richards on Wednesday, May 28 at 10 a.m. at Nationwide Arena, which will also be streamed LIVE on BlueJackets.com and the official Blue Jackets mobile app.

Richards, 47, has led Columbus to an 85-70-16 record in 171 games behind the bench, including a franchise-best mark of 43-32-7 in 2013-14. The Jackets qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in club history this past season and posted the first playoff wins in club history in a six-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series vs. the Metropolitan Division champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

"Todd has done an outstanding job for the Columbus Blue Jackets and we're pleased that he will continue to lead our team," said Kekalainen. "We believe he is one of the top young coaches in the NHL because of his knowledge of the game, work ethic and ability to communicate well and bring out the best in our players. He's played a significant role in our recent success and we look forward to having him continue to be a big part of our franchise moving forward."

Richards was named head coach of the Blue Jackets on May 14, 2012, signing a two-year contract after originally joining the club as an assistant coach on June 20, 2011 and taking over as interim head coach on Jan. 9, 2012. After guiding the club to an 18-21-2 mark over the final 41 games of the 2011-12 campaign, he led Columbus to a 24-17-7 mark and the highest winning percentage in team history (.573) in 2012-13. He has compiled a 162-141-32 record (.531) with the Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild during his NHL coaching career.

"I'm very excited to be a part of this club and I appreciate the support I've received from the McConnell family, Mike Priest, John Davidson, Jarmo Kekalainen and everyone at the Blue Jackets organization," said Richards. "Our management group has done a fantastic job assembling a competitive team and we've definitely taken some very positive steps over the past two seasons. I'm looking forward to continuing to help this club grow and achieve its ultimate goal of winning a Stanley Cup championship." 

After being named the second head coach in Wild history on June 16, 2009, Richards led Minnesota to a 38-36-9 mark (.512) in 2009-10 and a 39-35-8 record (.524) in 2010-11. In 2008-09, he served as an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks and helped the club capture the Presidents' Trophy with an NHL-best 53-18-11 record.

Prior to his stint with the Sharks, Richards spent two seasons as the head coach of the American Hockey League's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins from 2006-08, compiling a 98-49-13 record (.653) and leading the club to the 2008 Calder Cup Final. He also coached the PlanetUSA squad at the 2007 Rbk Hockey/AHL All-Star Classic in Toronto. He began his coaching career as an assistant with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals from 2002-06, helping the club to a pair of West Division titles, two appearances in the Calder Cup Final and the 2004 Calder Cup championship.

Richards, who was born on Oct. 20, 1966 in Crystal, Minnesota, played four seasons at the University of Minnesota from 1985-89. He was a three-time WCHA Second All-Star Team pick, helped the Golden Gophers win Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) titles in 1988 and 1989 and reach the NCAA title game in 1989. He served as the team's captain and earned Second Team All-America honors as a senior and is the school's all-time leading scorer among defensemen with 30-128-158.

Montreal's third pick, 33rd overall, in the 1985 NHL Draft, Richards made his professional debut in 1990 and appeared in eight career NHL games with the Hartford Whalers between 1990-92, collecting four assists and four penalty minutes. His playing career spanned 13 seasons, mostly in the AHL and International Hockey League. He helped Springfield win the 1991 Calder Cup championship, was a three-time IHL All-Star and won the 2001 Turner Cup title with the Orlando Solar Bears. He wrapped up his career in 2001-02 with Servette Geneve in Switzerland.

NHL: Vanek, Leddy Set for Conference Finals

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Go Gophers!Thomas Vanek 


Gopher Hockey will feature two alums in the 2014 Stanley Cup Conference Finals as Thomas Vanek and the Montreal Canadiens will take on the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals while Nick Leddy and the Chicago Blackhawks play the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals.

Vanek will be making his third career conference finals appearance and his first with Montreal. The nine-year NHL veteran previously reached the conference finals in his first two NHL seasons, losing to Edmonton in seven games in his rookie year of 2006 and then Ottawa in six games in 2007.

The Austrian forward, who started this season with Buffalo before being dealt to the New York Islanders and then again to Montreal, has eight points (five goals, three assists) so far this postseason in 11 games while his best statistical playoff year was 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 16 games in 2007. Vanek has 28 points (20 goals, eight assists) in 47 career playoff games.

Leddy, meanwhile, has made the playoffs in each of his four NHL seasons including last year when the defenseman helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup in six games over Boston.  This season marks Leddy's second appearance in the Western Conference Finals with the former Gopher tallying two assists in 11 playoff games for the Blackhawks this year. Leddy has seven points (one goal, six assists) in 47 career playoff games.

After 16 Gopher Hockey alums skated in the NHL during the regular season, eight earned berths to the Stanley Cup playoffs  - Vanek, Leddy, Erik Haula (MIN), Keith Ballard (MIN), Paul Martin (PIT), Alex Goligoski (DAL), Erik Johnson (COL) and Jordan Leopold (STL). Gophers alum and Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards also led his team to the playoffs as did newly appointed Philadelphia Flyers president Paul Holmgren. 

Haula Joins Finland at 2014 IIHF World Championship

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Gopher Hockey alum Erik Haula wrapped up his rookie NHL season on Tuesday as the Minnesota Wild were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

But the forward isn't quite ready to call it a season yet -- Haula will immediately leave for Belarus to skate for his native Finland at the 2014 IIHF World Championship. 

A native of Pori, Finland, Haula tallied seven points (four goals, three assists) in 13 playoff games for the Wild this season including the team's lone goal in Game Six -- a 2-1 overtime loss to Chicago to end Minnesota's season. Haula had 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 46 regular-season games for the Wild. 


Haula is the lone Gophers alum competing in this year's IIHF World Championship while his addition to Finland's roster now gives Minnesota a representative at each IIHF World Championship since 1995. 
This will mark the fourth time Haula has represented Finland in international competition. He collected seven points (4-3--7) in six games for Finland at the 2011 World Junior Championship. He helped Finland claim the bronze medal at the 2009 Under-18 World Championship totaling four points (3-1--4) in six games. Haula also played for Finland at the 2008 Under-18 World Championship and recorded four points (1-3--4).  

The top four teams from each eight-team group will advance to a crossover quarterfinal game on May 22. Semifinal games will be played on May 24, and medal games will be played on May 25.