NHL: Schmidt Re-Signs with Capitals

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ARLINGTON, Va. (GopherSports.com) - Gopher Hockey All-American Nate Schmidt has re-signed with the Washington Capitals, general manager Brian MacLellan announced on Wednesday. Schmidt signed a two-year, one-way contract that will see the St. Cloud native earn $750,000 in 2015-16 and $875,000 in 2016-17. 

"I'm just so excited to be back. It's an awesome organization to be a part of," Schmidt said during a media teleconference on Wednesday. "This is where my heart is...I couldn't be more excited." 

Schmidt, 23, registered four points (one goal, three assists) in a career-high 39 games with the Capitals last season. The St. Cloud, Minn., native made his NHL debut in 2013-14 and earned six points (two goals, four assists) in 29 games. Schmidt registered his first NHL point with an assist at Calgary on Oct. 26, 2013, and scored his first NHL goal on Dec. 7, 2013, against Nashville. In 68 career NHL games, Schmidt has registered 10 points (three goals, seven assists) and 16 penalty minutes.

Schmidt appeared in 19 games with Hershey (AHL) during the 2014-15 season, recording nine points (three goals, six assists). The 6'0", 193-pound defenseman registered an AHL career-high three points (two goals, one assist) in his AHL season debut on Jan. 10 against Norfolk. Schmidt has recorded 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) in 65 career games with the Bears.

A three-year letter winner with the Gophers, Schmidt tallied 74 points in 96 career games and closed out his career as a Second Team All-American and a First Team All-WCHA honoree in 2012-13 (Schmidt was a two-time All-WCHA defenseman). In his final two seasons with the Maroon & Gold, Schmidt helped the Gophers capture two MacNaughton Cups as WCHA regular-season champions and two-straight NCAA tournament berths including a trip to the 2012 NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa. 

Stanley Cup Catch Up with Ben Clymer

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Go Gophers!Ben Clymer in Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals.
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With Tampa defeating Chicago 3-2 on Monday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals, we caught up with a former member of the Lightning who knows a thing or two about winning titles in Tampa.

Gopher Hockey alum Ben Clymer.

A native of Bloomington, Minn., Clymer is one of just eight Gophers to have their name etched on the Stanley Cup - having won the 2004 Stanley Cup as a member of the Lightning in a seven-game series against the Calgary Flames.

GopherSports.com: It seems pretty obvious given your history, but who do you like in the Stanley Cup Finals?

Ben Clymer: I've been asked that like fifty times. Chicago is such a talented team, but my heart is always going to say Tampa. The irony of Tampa playing the Rangers in the conference finals was that I had teammates on the Rangers, Martin St. Louis and Dan Boyle, who I played with in Tampa. So I didn't know how to feel. The people who I went through this with are playing for the other team, but now it's a much easier decision that's for sure.

GS: What do you remember from playing Stanley Cup Finals games in Tampa? What do you recall from that?

BC: The day of Game Seven is a day that I will never forget, and this is kind of how the day went. Now normally you would have your pre-game skate and there's a lot of activity and meetings. This pregame skate and meeting it was like, I mean it was quite, not church quiet, but for a hockey team and environment it was really quiet. You go back to the hotel, you'd have your meal, and then you'd go and take a nap and get ready for the game. Well, I knew that I wasn't going to sleep, so I brought an iPod back then it when was like the latest technology. I put my earbuds in, I was going to listen to some music and drift off to sleep and take all the pressure away. Well, I mean obviously that wasn't going to happen so about after a half hour I took them out, looked up at my roommate he was up and I was like "Do you just want to go down stairs?" So we went downstairs, Marty St. Louis and Freddy Modin were down there in our team area and within an hour there were fourteen guys in the room because no one could sleep. So that actually felt great just to be able to take and share some of that stress you were feeling for that Game Seven coming up. Then we went back up to the room, got dressed, and we were a block from the rink at the hotel we were staying at and I remember the suit and the shirt I was wearing. I was wearing a blue shirt and walking that block in June in Tampa, sweated through the whole shirt and just disgusting. And I remember looking at Nolan Pratt and just us saying "we've come too far to lose at this point, like we are winning this game". And I think that sense of just determination was probably across the board for our team and I think why we were able to come back from being down three games to two to win at home. But that walk and sitting in that disgusting blue shirt -- walking a couple hundred feet, it will be something I never forget.  

GS: For guys that are doing this for the first time, think back to maybe the Game One experience. How would you describe that experience of the moment when you kind of realize you're in the Stanley Cup Finals and you're playing for the cup?

BC: Yeah, the first couple years I was in the league, we were so far out of everything...winning the Stanley Cup wasn't even on my radar. It didn't seem possible although I was playing in the NHL. Then we make the playoffs, and the first year we made the playoffs we beat Washington, lost in New Jersey, and we didn't play overly well in the second round, then they won the Stanley Cup and it was like...that could have been us. They weren't that much better than us. Then taking those steps that next year, beating Philly in the conference finals, was more of the moment of realization that we were here, and this is our chance, it may never come again. I mean, Brenden Morrow, who's playing for Tampa right now, won the Stanley Cup as a rookie fifteen years ago and hasn't been back to the Stanley Cup finals since. You get one kick at the can, two, three if you're super lucky. You better cash in. 

GS: So what did you do when you had your chance with the cup, one-on-one?

BC: I was lucky...I had it two days. This is a long story.

So, after you win the Cup there's some stuff that goes on after, and one of the things, the guys come in from the Hall of Fame and they tell you about what's going to happen. Then they give you this book about the problems you're going to face and you don't think you're going to face any of them- guarantee you read it after and you'll face them all. So I read that book and one of the things was if you fall off schedule, say no, just say no to somebody and walk on. Rather disappoint one than slowly disappoint everyone if you get off kilter.

So, I was going to get the cup at like seven o'clock at night, it was going to come in, I was going to bring it to a fire station because my trainer was also a part-time fireman and share that with him because it was important . Kevin's been there as my trainer since I was twelve-years old, I owe him so much. And... it showed up late. It showed up at like nine o'clock and I had dinner reservations at Chino Latino with family and friends in Uptown, and wow, man this is a tester. Man, this guy who's helped me since I was twelve-years old, I'm going to say no to him? I stuck to the plan, and I said no. I said, "You know what Kevin, I'm really sorry." 

So I went to Chino Latino, you walk down this hallway, and there was this 16-18 year old hostess looking at me like I'm holding a fire hydrant, like no clue what's going on. And I'm like, "Clymer table for 10?" And I didn't want them to know, I just wanted to have it be random, and she's like, "Oh it's this one back in the corner" and I'm like "I kind of want that one in the middle," and the manager's like, "Just take it, just go." She's looking at me like, "Who is this guy? What is he doing?" So before I know it, it's crazy, there's chaos, and fun. But then Kevin calls me and goes, "Hey, so I talked to some of the guys at the fire station. What if we bring the fire trucks to you?" I'm like "That would be awesome!" So before I know it, there's an open area there, there's lights, sirens, and Hennepin and Lake is shut down with fire trucks and before I know it I'm on top of the fire truck with the Stanley Cup which was such a cool experience and it actually happened because I said no, which was good. So, that was a fun thing still to be able to share with him but it was a much better way to do it that way. Although, I'd never think I could shut down the intersection.

The next day, I tried to go places I went on a daily basis. You know, I went to Caribou Coffee all the time in Uptown. Me and Mike Bolt, one of the handlers that I had, sat down and had a coffee, explained to me all the history and the misspellings and why and all that was neat. I went to restaurants that I ate at on a daily basis to say thank you. I took it to the Bloomington Ice Gardens to share it with kids in the Bloomington Hockey community, I took it to Westwood Sports who sponsored so many Bloomington teams when I was growing up to say thank you. Then one of the cooler things that I did from a, just reaching a lot of people, I had a party at Olympic Hills for friends, family, teammates throughout mites on up and their parents. My mites coach was there! I hadn't seen my mites coach in twenty years! To be able to share it with all those people at once was maybe the best move I did because it was a chance to say thank you to people who had huge influences on me. That was really fun. Then I brought it on campus here for a little bit and then I had another party that night and by then I was ready for some sleep.

GS: How do you watch these games now? As you mentioned, you still know guys on the team. What's the experience like to watch them play? I mean it's got to be nerve wracking for you even though you're not on the ice.

BC: I watch those games and I watch them with the feel of jealousy. In terms of I know the fun, I know the intensity that they're playing the game with. I love the purity and the finality of the Stanley Cup Finals versus watching a game in January. I think it is awesome. You know, how you line up at a faceoff and you're playing against maybe the player right next to you. It's you versus me essentially for these next 45 seconds and we're going get off, do it again, we're going to do that 20 times in a game, and then seven games. I love that it's just two teams at that point. You don't get that in life. That's part of the reason I play golf. I love that it gives me some of that competition again. I look and I'm envious of the experience those players are having. That being said, I wouldn't wish to be on the losing end of that. I can't imagine how that would feel, to go all that way and come up short.

That's how I watch the games. I'm envious of the fun that they are having and enjoying the competition.

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-


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