AHL: Seven Gophers Set for Calder Cup Playoffs

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Link: Rau is Rampageous for Playoffs (San Antonio)

MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) - Seven Gopher Hockey alums are set to compete in the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs, starting Wednesday night with eight quarterfinal, best-of-five series. 

Hershey Bears 

Hartford Wolf Pack

Rockford IceHogs

Syracuse Crunch

San Antonio Rampage

Richards to Coach U.S. National Team

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Todd Richards
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Link: USA Hockey

MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) - Former Gopher Hockey All-American and current Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards has been named the head coach of the U.S. Men's National Team ahead of the upcoming 2015 IIHF Men's World Championships next month, May 1-17, in Ostrava and Prague, Czech Republic. 

The Crystal, Minn., native was a four-year letter winner (1986-89) at the University of Minnesota and remains the school's all-time top scoring defenseman with 158 points (also leads all Minnesota defensemen with 128 assists) in 167 career games. Richards was a Second Team All-American as a senior in 1989 and led the Gophers to Frozen Four berths in each of his four seasons with the Maroon & Gold. Minnesota also won back-to-back WCHA regular-season titles in his final two campaigns. 

Richards, who is representing the United States in international competition for the third time, will be making his debut as head coach of the U.S. Men's National Team. Previously, he served as an assistant coach for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team in Sochi, Russia, and also the 2010 U.S. Men's National Team during the IIHF World Championship in Germany.

Currently, Richards serves as head coach of the National Hockey League's Columbus Blue Jackets. His team was plagued by injuries for much of the 2014-15 season, however, finished the regular season with wins in 16 of its last 17 games. Prior to being named head coach on May 14, 2012, Richards was the interim head coach for 41 games during the 2011-12 season after holding the position of assistant coach for the first half of that year. He began his NHL head-coaching career in 2009-10 with the Minnesota Wild where he spent two seasons. Prior to joining the Wild, he was an assistant coach for the San Jose Sharks in 2008-09 and helped lead the club to the NHL's best regular-season record.

Richards coached in the American Hockey League from 2002-06, including as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Admirals during the team's 2004 Calder Cup championship. He returned to the Calder Cup Final in 2008 as head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. 

As a player, Richards enjoyed a 13-season professional career, including eight games in the NHL with the Hartford Whalers.

-Pride On Ice-

NHL: Eight Gophers Set for Playoff Action

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Paul Martin
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Link: 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs Central

MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) - Eight Gopher Hockey alums have helped their teams earn NHL playoff berths and the right to battle for this year's Stanley Cup starting Wednesday, April 15.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Paul Martin - Reached the playoffs in each of his 11 NHL seasons dating back to 2004 (2005 campaign was lost to the lockout)... six playoff appearances with New Jersey and now five with Pittsburgh...38 career playoff points (five goals, 33 assists) in 80 games...his 33 career playoff assists rank second among former Gophers (Neal Broten: 63) while Martin ranks fourth all-time among Gopher alums with 38 career playoff points (Broten: 98, Paul Holmgren: 51, Mike Antonovich: 42).

Minnesota Wild

Thomas Vanek - 53 career NHL playoff games...has made six career playoff appearances with three different teams...30 points (20 goals, 10 assists)...Vanek's 20 playoff goals are third most all-time among Gopher Hockey alums (Broten: 35, Mike Antonovich: 22) while his 30 points are fifth all-time among Gopher alums.

Jordan Schroeder - NHL playoff debut.

Jordan Leopold - Minnesota is the sixth team that Leopold has helped reach the playoffs...ninth overall playoff appearance with 17 assists in 71 games.

Erik Haula - Tallied seven points (four goals, three assists) in 13 playoff games last year for the Wild.

Winnipeg Jets

Blake Wheeler - First playoff appearance with Winnipeg and his third overall (helped Boston reach the playoffs in 2009 and 2010 - his first two NHL seasons)...has six points (one goal, five assists) in 21 career playoff games.

New York Islanders

Nick Leddy - Fifith-straight playoff appearance and first with the Islanders (four with Chicago including a Stanley Cup championship in 2013)...one of nine Gophers on the Stanley Cup (Mike Polich, Frank Pietrangelo, Bob Johnson, Tom Chorske, Neal Broten, Chris McAlpine, Ben Clymer, Alex Goligoski, Nick Leddy)...10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 54 career playoff games.

Kyle Okposo - Second playoff appearance...tallied four points (three goals, one assist) in six games for the Islanders during the 2013 playoffs.

-Pride On Ice-

NHL: Alt Makes NHL Debut with Flyers

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Go Gophers!Mark Alt
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MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) - Gopher Hockey alum Mark Alt is set to make his NHL debut this afternoon after being called up by the Phildelphia Flyers, making the defenseman the 17th Gopher Hockey alum to play in the NHL this season.

Alt will wear No. 39 as the Flyers host the San Jose Sharks at the Wells Fargo Center.

A three-year letter winner for the Gophers (2011-13), Alt tallied 39 points (seven goals, 32 assists) in 117 career games.

-Pride On Ice-

NHL: Leopold Comes Home to Minnesota Wild

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Go Gophers!2002 Hobey Baker Award winner Jordan Leopold
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MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) - Welcome home, Jordan Leopold! The 2002 Hobey Baker Award winner and two-time First Team All-American for Gopher Hockey has been acquired at the NHL trade deadline by the Minnesota Wild.

A native of Golden Valley, Minn., Leopold has played in 677 NHL games over a 12-year NHL career, tallying 213 points (67 goals, 146 assists) for seven different organizations (Calgary, Colorado, Florida, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, St. Louis and Columbus). Leopold also represented the U.S. at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.

In 164 career games at the University of Minnesota, Leopold scored 45 goals (the most ever by a Gophers defensemen) and had 99 assists (fourth-most among Gophers defensemen) for a career total of 144 points (third most among Gophers defensemen and 32nd all-time at Minnesota). The blue-liner's college career culminated with a memorable weekend in St. Paul as Leopold was named the fourth Hobey Baker Award winner in school history and then proceeded to lead the Maroon & Gold to a national championship the following day at Xcel Energy Center.  

The Minnesota team captain twice earned First Team All-America accolades as well as WCHA Defensive Player of the Year honors (2001, 2002) and earned All-WCHA distinctions in each of his four seasons with the Maroon & Gold (First Team: 2000-01, 2001-02; Second Team: 1999-2000; Third Team/All-Rookie Team: 1998-99).  

One of 16 Gopher Hockey alums to play in the NHL this season, Leopold is now the sixth former Gopher in the Minnesota Wild organization - joining Thomas Vanek, Erik Haula, Jordan Schroeder, Stu Bickel and Keith Ballard. Ballard and Leopold were teammates on Minnesota's national championship squad in 2002.                                                                                                                   

NHL: Leddy Signs Seven-Year, $38.5 Million Deal

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Go Gophers!Nick Leddy
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The New York Islanders announced today that Nick Leddy has agreed to terms on a seven-year contract, signing through the 2021-22 season. The deal is reportedly worth $38.5 million. 

The 23-year-old defenseman has 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) with a plus-12 rating in 61 games with the Islanders this season. The Eden Prairie, MN, native leads all Islanders defensemen in goals, ranks second in points and plus-minus rating and has appeared in every Islanders game to date. 

"Nick has proven to be an elite defenseman in this league at a young age," Islanders General Manager Garth Snow said. "He's the type of player on the ice, in the locker room and in the community that we're thrilled to add as a cornerstone of our defensive core."  

The Islanders acquired Leddy, along with goaltender Kent Simpson, from the Chicago Blackhawks on October 4, 2014 in exchange for defensemen TJ Brennan, Ville Pokka and goaltender Anders Nilsson.

"We have something special in this locker room and I'm excited to be a part of it for seven more years," Leddy said. "From the start of my time here, the Islanders have been a first-class organization. I'm honored by their commitment to me and look forward to challenging for the Stanley Cup for years to come."  

Selected by the Minnesota Wild in the first round (16th overall) of the 2009 National Hockey League Draft, Leddy has 118 career points (28 goals, 90 assists) in 319 regular season games with Chicago and the Islanders. 

Leddy won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013. In 54 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, the 6'0, 194-pound defenseman has 10 points (two goals, eight assists). 

A former Mr. Hockey Award winner as the top High School player in Minnesota, the Eden Prairie High School alumnus played one season at the University of Minnesota in 2009-10, earning the team's Rookie of the Year award. 

Gopher Hockey Seniors Setting the Tone

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MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) - In the midst of a six-game unbeaten streak and tied for first in the Big Ten for the first time this season, Gopher Hockey's senior class has come on strong as Minnesota looks to defend its inaugural Big Ten regular-season title.

Since starting the six-game unbeaten streak on Jan. 30, no class in college hockey has totaled more goals than Minnesota's seniors with 16 as the group has scored more than half of the team's 29 goals during the stretch.

"Our seniors are playing great hockey right now," Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. "That's what you have to have this time of year during the stretch run. Your seniors have to lead, and they are playing their best hockey right now."

All six seniors have recorded points over the unbeaten streak with the class totaling 37 points during the run including the top three scorers on the team in Boyd (4-6--10), Ambroz (6-3--9)and Rau (5-3--8). Meanwhile, Sam Warning isn't far behind with six assists over the span while Ben Marshall and Christian Isackson have both tallied two points each.

The Gopher Hockey senior class has helped Minnesota to a program-record three-straight regular-season conference titles and two trips to the NCAA Frozen Four in their three years with the squad. The quest for a fourth-straight conference crown continues this weekend at Penn State.

-Pride On Ice-

NHL: Kessel, Johnson Earn ASG Invites

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MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) - Gopher Hockey alums Phil Kessel and Erik Johnson have been named to the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game, the league announced over the weekend.  The 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game is set for Sunday, Jan. 25 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio (4 p.m. CT, NBC Sports). 

Kessel will be making his third-straight All-Star Game appearance (2011, 2012) for the Toronto Maple Leafs - tied for second most among Gophers with Reed Larson (1978, 1980, 1981). Only Mike Ramsey has made more All-Star Game appearances among Minnesota alums with four (1982, 1983, 1985, 1986). In 42 games this season, Kessel ranks 10th in the NHL with 43 points and tied for eighth with 19 goals. The forward has 502 points (241 goals, 261 assists) in 628 career NHL regular-season games with another 21 points (13 goals, eight assists) in 22 career playoff games. 

Johnson will make his first appearance at the All-Star Game this season as a member of the Colorado Avalanche. In 41 games this year, Johnson leads all NHL defensemen with 12 goals and has another 10 assists for 22 points. The defenseman has 192 points (48 goals, 144 assists) in 450 career NHL regular-season games with another two points (one goal, one assist) in seven career playoff games. 

A total of 16 Gopher Hockey alums have seen NHL action so far this year - Keith Ballard (MIN), Nick Bjugstad (FLA), Alex Goligoski (DAL), Erik Haula (MIN), Erik Johnson (COL), Phil Kessel (TOR), Nick Leddy (NYI), Jordan Leopold (CBJ), Paul Martin (PIT), Kyle Okposo (NYI), Nate Schmidt (WAS), Thomas Vanek (MIN), Blake Wheeler (WPG), Jordan Schroeder (MIN), Stu Bickel (MIN), Seth Helgeson (NJD).

-Pride On Ice-

Hobey Baker Award Fan Voting Now Open

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Three Gophers are among the nominees for this year's Hobey Baker Award, and fans can help them earn college hockey's top honor by voting online through March 8. 

All-Americans Mike Reilly, Adam Wilcox and Kyle Rau represent the Gophers on the nomination form. 

Awarded annually to college hockey's top player, the Hobey Baker's highly popular fan-voting opened on Wednesday, January 7. Visit the Hobey Baker website: www.hobeybakeraward.comClick on the Vote for Hobey icon and follow the prompts to make your selection from this year's outstanding crop of college hockey players.  Please spend some additional time to check out the detailed bios on each candidate.


This first phase of fan balloting will run now through March 8, 2015. Phase two of fan balloting will begin on March 19 from the list of Top Ten Hobey Baker finalists. The fans' vote accounts for a full 1 percent of the total ballot in each phase in selecting this year's award recipient.


Award criteria include candidates emulating the exceptional character traits exhibited by the award's namesake, Hobey Baker. A legendary American hero, Baker was a World War I fighter pilot and was known as America's greatest amateur athlete in his day, excelling at hockey and football at Princeton University. Award candidates must demonstrate strength of character both on and off the ice, contribute to the integrity of his team and display outstanding skills in all phases of the game. Consideration should be given to scholastic achievement and sportsmanship. 


Key Hobey Baker announcement dates for 2015 include:

  • Top Ten list of candidates:  March 19
  • Hobey Hat Trick of three finalists:  April 2
  • Hobey Baker Award announcement:  April 10


The 2015 Hobey Baker Award winner will be announced from a field of three Hobey Hat Trick finalists on Friday, April 10, 2015 during the NCAA Frozen Four Championships in Boston, MA. For more info on the Hobey Baker Award or to access the Hobey logo, please visitwww.hobeybakeraward.com.



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.