Best of luck to former Gopher defenseman Nick Leddy as he and the Chicago Blackhawks open the 2013 Stanley Cup Final tonight against the Boston Bruins. Game One is set for 7 p.m. CT in Chicago and can be seen on NBC.
A native of Eden Prairie, Minn., Leddy notched a career-high six goals in this year's shortened regular season and skated in all 48 games for the Blackhawks -- collecting a total of 18 points. The defenseman finished the regular season as a plus-15 -- the highest rating of his career.
One of 15 former Gophers to play in the NHL this season, Leddy has also skated in 17 playoff games with two assists.
COMPLETE STANLEY CUP FINAL SCHEDULE (TIMES CDT)
Game 1: Wednesday, June 12, 7 p.m., Chicago, Ill., NBC
Game 2: Saturday, June 15, 7 p.m., Chicago, Ill., NBC Sports Network
Game 3: Monday, June 17, 7 p.m., Boston, Mass., NBC Sports Network
Game 4: Wednesday, June 19, 7 p.m., Boston, Mass., NBC
* Game 5: Saturday, June 22, 7 p.m., Chicago, Ill., NBC
* Game 6: Monday, June 24, 7 p.m., Boston, Mass., NBC
* Game 7: Wednesday, June 26, 7 p.m., Chicago, Ill., NBC
Defending The Blue Line (DTBL) is proud to announce that the organization will host a NHL Players Charity Hockey Game on Saturday, August 3 at 3:00 p.m. at Ridder Arena on the University of Minnesota Campus. The game will feature U.S. born NHL players vs. Canadian born NHL players.
On Monday, July 1, tickets to the game and the player autograph session will go on sale exclusively at www.DefendingTheBlueLine.org. An initial roster of players participating will also be released and jerseys for the event will be unveiled at Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub on July 1 from 6 to 9 p.m.
"We are very thankful for the great support NHL players continue to show our organization," said Shane Hudella, Defending the Blue Line President. "This game will provide hockey fans an excellent opportunity to watch NHL players away from the pressure of the pro game, and at the same time, help ensure military kids can play the game we all love."
Defending The Blue Line is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created by a group of National Guard soldiers from Minnesota. The charity assists families of all branches of the military with costs associated with hockey. They provide financial assistance for registration fees, free equipment, summer hockey camps, and send many deserving families to watch National Hockey League games.
Defending The Blue Line is excited for this opportunity to further help military families and celebrate the service of our military heroes. Keeping the kids of military families focused and active in hockey is a great way to help keep their minds off of a parent's upcoming deployment.
Larry Ross during his tenure as head coach at International Falls High School (Duluth News Tribune)
Gopher hockey All-American and long-time International Falls High School coach Larry Ross will be one of 10 individuals inducted into the University of Minnesota "M" Club Hall of Fame this year.
A native of Duluth, Minn., and graduate of Morgan Park High School, Ross was a First Team All-American in goal for the Gophers in 1951 after serving in the Navy. The netminder would go on to an incredible prep coaching career at International Falls High School -- leading the Broncos to six Minnesota state titles and a 566-169-21 record including a 58-game unbeaten streak from 1964-66.
He received numerous honors and accolades, and even wrote a book entitled "Hockey For Everyone." He was later honored by his peers in 1983, when he was named Coach of the Year by the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association. Then, in 1985, he was awarded the National High School Special Sports award by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association, while in 1988, he was the recipient of the John Mariucci College Award for his contribution to College Hockey by the American College Hockey Coaches Association.
Ross, who passed away in 1995, was elected to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.
The 2013 class of inductees are Jon Andresen (baseball), Jim Carter (football/hockey), Natalie Darwitz (women's hockey), Rick Naumoff (men' tennis), Charlie Sanders (football), Krissy Wendell Pohl (women's hockey), Gary Wilson (Women's Cross Country and Women's Track & Field), Lloyd LaMois (men's track), Louis Lick (men's golf) and Larry Ross (men's hockey). La Mois, Lick and Ross will be inducted into the Pioneer Division, which honors those who were at Minnesota prior to 1955.
The official induction of the 2013 class will take place during a ceremony to be held in the DQ Club Room at TCF Bank Stadium on Thursday, Oct. 24. A social hour beginning at 6 p.m. will kick off the event, with the main program starting at 7 p.m. Tickets for the event will be available for purchase through the Gopher Athletics Ticket Office online at mygophersports.com or by calling 1-800-U-Gopher beginning August 15.
The University of Minnesota "M" Club is a nonprofit organization representing all letterwinners from University of Minnesota athletics teams. The purpose of the Hall of Fame is to honor achievements and to preserve the tradition of those athletes, coaches and athletic staff members who have contributed in an outstanding and positive way to the University of Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletics Department.
The criteria for induction to the University of Minnesota "M" Club Hall of Fame include four different categories: significant accomplishments by a former student-athlete; significant achievements by a former coach or administrator; significant contributions of time, talent or resources to the athletics department by someone other than an athlete, coach or administrator, and significant professional achievement by a former Minnesota student-athlete.
Former student-athletes inducted for significant accomplishments become eligible for selection five years after the expiration of their eligibility, while former coaches and staff members must have served the department for five years to be eligible.
Former Gopher great and 14-year NHL veteran Corey Millen has been named the head coach of the Minnesota Wilderness of the North American Hockey League, the organization announced yesterday in a press release.
Millen is a Cloquet, Minnesota native and has had previous head coaching experience in the NAHL with the Wasilla Spirit and Alaska Avalanche organization, mostly recently during the 2011-12 season.
"I am very excited to be back coaching in the NAHL," said Millen. "My experiences in the league have been a lot of fun and ones that are memorable." As for going back to his home state of Minnesota and hometown of Cloquet, Millen said that he is looking forward to the familiarity and opportunity. "It is a great opportunity because of the people I know and the knowledge I have of the area. The location of the Wilderness is very exciting because the league continues to grow the footprint into areas that are passionate about hockey and located close to so many NCAA schools. I think it will give us a great chance to be successful on the ice and also moving players onto the next level."
One of the most productive players to ever come through the University of Minnesota, Millen ranks third in program history with 241 points (119 goals, 122 assists in 149 career games) behind only John Mayasich and Pat Micheletti. The forward was a Second Team All-American in 1986 and a three-time All-WCHA honoree (1984-85, 85-86, 86-87). He also captained the Gophers program in the 1986-87 season before starting a pro career that lasted 14 years and included stints with the New York Rangers (who drafted Millen in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft), the Los Angeles Kings, the Dallas Stars and the Calgary Flames. In 331 professional games, Millen tallied 209 points and 90 goals.
"We are excited to welcome Corey Millen to the Wilderness organization," said Wilderness Owner and Governor Scott Thielen. "With his vast hockey knowledge and coaching experience, particularly at this level, we are confident he will lead our organization to become one of the best in the league."
University of Minnesota student Morgan Adams had a busy schedule to keep on Wednesday morning -- going to class before rushing to Mariucci Arena to be the first in line for Gopher hockey student season tickets around 8 a.m.
"Last year I couldn't buy season tickets, so I wanted to make sure that I got them for the upcoming season," Adams said, "I'm really excited to go to the games!"
Adams got more than she bargained for once the Gopher Athletics ticket office opened at 9 a.m. as Minnesota associate head coach Mike Guentzel surprised her by picking up the tab on her tickets as a thank you for supporting the Gophers.
"It was really cool to meet Coach Guentzel. It was so awesome that he bought my tickets! He was a really nice guy."
Yesterday, we brought you NHL.com's feature on former Gopher Kyle Okposo and the St. Paul native's stellar play over the last month.
Okposo continued to produce for the New York Islanders with a goal (his third goal and fourth point in four playoff games) in last night's 6-4 win over Paul Martin and the Pittsburgh Penguins that tied the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series at 2-2.
But it's not just that Okposo is scoring goals...it's how he's scoring them.
Last night, Okposo evened the game at 3-3 in the second period (New York would go on to outscore the Penguins 3-1 in the third) when he threw a backhanded attempt from behind the net off Marc-Andre Fleury into the net.
In game three's 5-4 overtime loss, Okposo tipped a no-look pass to himself to setup this shorthanded goal that started a two-goal rally to force overtime.
Former Gopher Kyle Okposo and the New York Islanders are back in action tonight with game four of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series with Paul Martin and the Pittsburgh Penguins. And while the Islanders are down 2-1 in the series, NHL.com's John Kreiser points out that the St. Paul native is playing his best hockey right now for New York.
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- It's not surprising that the New York Islanders' best player thus far in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins is one of their first-round picks in a past NHL Draft. The surprise is which one.
While John Tavares, the first player chosen in 2009, is the focal point of the Islanders, 2006 first-rounder Kyle Okposo has been playing the best hockey of his career and given New York the kind of two-way production the team has been looking for since making him the seventh player chosen seven years ago.
Okposo and linemates Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey were arguably the Islanders' best forward unit in April, when New York used a season-closing 8-1-4 run to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007. Okposo has carried his improved play into the postseason, scoring the winning goal in the Islanders' 4-3 victory in Game 2 and scoring the first shorthanded goal of his career to spark a third-period rally in Game 3 before the Penguins won 5-4 in overtime.
"I'm playing with a bit more of an edge," Okposo said after Monday's practice when asked what was different in his game. "You try to go out there and make an impact on the game, and I've been doing a better job of that. I didn't start the regular season [the way] I wanted to. I'm just trying to have a better postseason."
The Islanders have been waiting for Okposo to be a difference maker since they brought him to the NHL late in the 2007-08 season. He's shown flashes of the talent that attracted the Islanders, but has battled injuries and inconsistency throughout his career.
After finishing the 2011-12 season on a hot streak that led to a career-high 24 goals, the Islanders moved him to right wing on Tavares' line to start this season. But the chemistry wasn't there, and he was moved back onto a line with Nielsen and Bailey. The trio took a while to click, but by late March they had provided the Islanders with a viable second scoring line -- preventing opponents from devoting all their energy to shutting down Tavares' line.
"We had confidence playing together from the past, and I think it carried over into this season," said Bailey, a first-round pick in 2008 who's had his own ups and downs. "We liked our game through the last portion of the season especially."
Bailey, who was moved to Tavares' line in Game 2, said Okposo has brought his game to a new level.
"He's been a horse for us all season," Bailey said. "But I think now you're really seeing the determination that he has and that he plays with. Lots of us have fed off that."
Through the first three games of this series, Okposo has done two things he'd never done before in his five-plus NHL seasons. He helped turn the momentum in Game 2 by battling Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Niskanen in his first NHL fight, then scored the first shorthanded goal of his career in Game 3.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano said the lockout and the quick start to the season may have hurt Okposo's game.
"Some players with the lockout [had a] late start," Capuano said. "Midway through the season, he started to play like the Kyle Okposo we need him to play like.
"He's a great leader for us. He stepped up in Game 2 and did what he had to do. When a player is playing with confidence, he's moving his feet -- it lifts his whole game."
Perhaps the most notable trait Okposo has shown in recent weeks is his relentlessness. He's made life miserable for puck-carriers and has taken his compete level to a new high.
"I don't know if I would say more aggressive," he said when asked about changes in his play. "It's just finishing your hits and [being] harder on the puck. I think one of my best attributes is winning battles, and I've tried to elevate my battle level and try not to be denied."
Phil Kessel and Toronton fell to 5-2 to Boston on Monday night as the Bruins took a 2-1 lead in the NHL first-round playoff series.
The former Gopher did notch his second goal of the playoffs in the contest, knocking home a loose puck just 47 seconds into the third period to make it a 4-2 game (Boston added an empty netter with just over a minute left).
Game four of the series is set for Thursday at 8 p.m. CT.
-Also in NHL playoff action, Jordan Leopold and St. Louis fell 4-3 to defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles to even the series at 2-2. The New York Rangers topped Washington 4-3 to cut the series to 2-1 in favor of the Caps. Former Gopher Stu Bickel was a scratch for the Rangers.
-Lots of Gophers in NHL action tonight. Paul Martin and the Pittsburgh Penguins take on Kyle Okposo, Aaron Ness and the New York Islanders tonight at 6 p.m. CT on the NBC Sports Network. Pittsburgh holds a 2-1 lead in the series. Nick Leddy and Chicago also hold a 2-1 lead over Minnesota and will hit the ice tonight at 8:30 CT on FOX Sports North and the NBC Sports Network. Jim O'Brien and Ottawa are up 2-1 on Montreal, and Keith Ballard and Vancouver are in a must-win game tonight against San Jose, down 3-0 in the series.
-Still some Gophers in AHL action -- Hershey (Nate Schmidt, Ryan Potulny, Jeff Taffe, Ryan Stoa, Mike Carman) takes on Providence in a deciding game five of an Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series tomorrow night. Jake Hansen and Springfield have already advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals after winning a best-of-five series with Manchester 3-1.
-Reminder: Minnesota has three alums in action today at the 2013 IIHF World Championships. Team USA (Nick Bjugstad, Erik Johnson) returns to action on Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. CT against Russia on the NBC Sports Network. Thomas Vanek and Austria take on Latvia today.
We had more Gopher vs. Gopher NHL playoff action on Sunday as Paul Martin and the Pittsburgh Penguins topped Kyle Okposo and the New York Islanders 5-4 in overtime to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round playoff series.
Martin, who returned to the Penguins' lineup for the regular-season finale after an injury sidelined him for nearly a month, added a pair of assists in the win including this helper on Chris Kunitz's game-deciding, power-play goal at 8:44 of overtime.
Martin now has three assists in three playoff games this season.
Okposo, meanwhile, added a goal and an assist on Sunday after tallying the game winner on Friday for the Islanders. The former Gophers' short-handed goal on Sunday stopped a New York slide that saw Pittsburgh score four-straight goals after going down 2-0 early and started a rally that forced overtime.
IIHF World Championships Update
The U.S. Men's National Team added a 4-1 win over Latvia on Sunday in Helsinki with Erik Johnson picking up an assist. Team USA returns to action on Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. CT against Russia. Tuesday's game airs live on the NBC Sports Network.
Meanwhile, Thomas Vanek and Austria fell 3-1 to France on Sunday with the former Gopher scoring Austria's only goal -- and his first of the tournament. Austria returns to action on Tuesday against Latvia.