MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) -- Former Gopher Erik Johnson was one of several heroes for Colorado on Thursday night as the Avalanche topped Minnesota 5-4 in overtime.
With his team down 4-3 with less than two minutes to play, Johnson made a sprinting lunge to prevent a clear attempt from going into the open net in his NHL playoff debut. The former No. 1 overall draft pick then turned around and set up Paul Statsny's game-tying goal with 14 seconds to play. The Avalanche would go on to win in overtime.
On the other side of the ice, Erik Haula also made his NHL playoff debut on Thursday night and tallied Minnesota's third goal of the night -- snapping a 2-2 tie late in the second period. With Colorado up 1-0 in the best-over-seven series, Minnesota will try to even things up in Denver on Saturday in Game Two (8:30 p.m. CT, NBC Sports, FOX Sports North).
In other action, Nick Leddy tallied an assist for Chicago in the Blackhawks' triple overtime loss to St. Louis. The defenseman set up Chicago's second goal of the night, putting the team up 2-1 in a five-goal first period, although the Blues went on to win 4-3 with a goal 26 seconds into the third overtime session. Game Two of that series is set for 2 p.m. CT on Saturday (NBC).
Two Gopher alums are in NHL playoff action tonight -- Thomas Vanek and the Canadiens lead Tampa Bay 1-0 heading into Game Two tonight (6 p.m. CT, CNBC) while Alex Goligoski and Dallas are a game behind Anaheim (9 p.m. CT, NBC Sports).
In just his second professional game, former Gophers forward Tom Serratore celebrated his first professional goal on Wednesday night for the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL. The Colorado Springs, Colo., native gave his squad a 3-2 lead in the second period as the Phantoms claimed a 5-4 shootout win over Syracuse.
Even more interesting, Serratore's former Gopher teammate and current Phantoms defenseman Mark Alt set up the goal for the forward, who joined Adirondack on Monday following Minnesota's Frozen Four run. Adirondack is 2-0 since signing Serratore to an amateur tryout contract.
Vanek, Martin Lead Teams to Game One Wins
The Stanley Cup Playoffs kicked off on Tuesday with three Gophers in action for their respective NHL squads -- Thomas Vanek (Montreal), Paul Martin (Pittsburgh) and Alex Goligoski (Dallas).
In an offensive battle between the Canadiens and Tampa Bay, Montreal came out with a one-game lead after a 5-4 overtime contest. Vanek tallied a goal -- his 15th playoff goal and 21st point in 37 playoff games -- midway through the third period to put the Canadiens up 4-3. The Lightning would tie the game less than two minutes later, but Dale Weise scored the winner for Montreal at 18:08 of overtime. Game Two of the series is set for Friday at 6 p.m. CT.
Meanwhile, Martin tallied two assists in Pittsburgh's 4-3 come-from-behind win over Todd Richards' Blue Jackets. Down 3-1 early in the second, the Penguins rallied off three-straight goals to take the lead in the third period. Martin, who finished with a game-high 23:51 of ice time, helped start the rally and capped it off by forcing a turnover and setting up the deciding goal for Pittsburgh. In his 68th playoff game, Martin now has 32 postseason points. Game Two of that series is set for Saturday at 6 p.m. CT.
In the third playoff game of the night, Goligoski tallied a game-high 28:39 of ice time in Dallas' 4-3 loss to Anaheim. Game Two of that series is set for Friday at 9 p.m. CT.
Five Gophers will take the ice on Thursday for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Nick Leddy and Chicago play Jordan Leopold and St. Louis tonight at 7 p.m. CT on the NBC Sports Network while Erik Johnson and Colorado face off against Keith Ballard, Erik Haula and Minnesota at 8:30 p.m. CT on CNBC and FOX Sports North. Johnson and Haula will be making their NHL playoff debuts.
MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) - Eight former Gophers are set to compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the postseason gets underway on Tuesday night.
Alex Goligoski, Erik Johnson, Keith Ballard, Erik Haula, Jordan Leopold, Nick Leddy, Thomas Vanek and Paul Martin will represent the Maroon & Gold in the NHL postseason as will Columbus head coach Todd Richards.
The group will try to add to Minnesota's 10 names already inscribed on the Stanley Cup with Goligoski (2009) and Leddy (2013) looking to become the first Gophers to earn two Stanley Cups as players (Bob Johnson coached Pittsburgh to a Cup win in 1991 and was posthumously included in 1992).
Gophersports.com breaks down each first round matchups with Gophers implications.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars
Dallas is making its first playoff run since 2008 while Gophers alum Alex Goligoski is back playing for the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2010 as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Goligoski has played in 15 NHL playoff games in his career with 10 points (two goals, eight assists). The All-American won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009 - his first full season in the NHL. The defenseman played in a career-best 81 games for the Stars this season with 42 total points (six goals, 36 assists).
Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild
This series boasts three former Gophers in action as Erik Johnson and the Avalanche face off against Keith Ballard, Erik Haula and the Wild.
The first overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Johnson will be making his first Stanley Cup playoff appearance in his seventh year in the league. He'll also do it playing against the team he grew up watching in Bloomington, Minn. Johnson had a career season for the Avalanche this year - setting career bests in games (80) and assists (30) while his 39 points tied his career best and his nine goals were one off his best year (both came in 2009-10 with St. Louis).
The Gophers' leading scorer a year ago, Haula signed with the Wild following the NCAA tournament and quickly made the climb to the NHL this season. The forward played in 46 games for Minnesota this season with 15 points (six goals, nine assists). The Pori, Finland native is making his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut in his rookie season.
Haula's teammate and fellow Minnesota alum, Keith Ballard is making his third career playoff appearance and his first with the Wild after signing with the team in the offseason. The blue liner played in 14 playoff games with Vancouver between 2011 and 2012 with one assist in the postseason. In 45 games this season with the Wild, Ballard tallied nine points (two goals, seven assists).
St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago
The second case of Gopher vs. Gopher in the playoffs comes in the form of Jordan Leopold and the Blues against Nick Leddy and Blackhawks.
Leopold is making his eighth-career playoff run with 65 playoff games under his belt. The 2002 Hobey Baker Award winner has 16 career assists in the postseason. The defenseman played in 27 games for the Blues this season with six points (one goal, five assists).
Now in his fourth NHL season, Leddy is making his fourth NHL playoff appearance. The blue liner helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup one year ago while the Blackhawks are trying for back-to-back titles this year and the team's third title in five years. Leddy has played in 36 career playoff games with five points (one goal, four assists). He played in all 82 games this season (tying a career best) while his seven goals were the most in his four-year career. Leddy added 24 assists in the regular season to total 31 points this year.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens
Thomas Vanek fans had a hard time following the former Gopher this season. The forward started the year with Buffalo, was traded to the New York Islanders 13 games into the season and was then dealt again at the trade deadline to Montreal. The moves worked out in the long-run for Vanek, as his final home for 2013-14 is the only one of his stops this season to make the playoffs.
Vanek is making his fifth playoff appearance this season with 36 games and 20 points (15 goals, five assists) to his credit.
The Austrian tallied 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists) in 78 games this season while it's also worth pointing out that Vanek spent the mid-season break representing Austria at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Russia.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Paul Martin's 67 NHL playoff games are the most among Gophers in this year's playoffs while the defenseman is making his 10th Stanley Cup run - having reached the postseason in every year he's played in the NHL (*2004-05 due to the NHL lockout). Martin has 30 career playoff points (five goals, 25 assists). Martin played in 39 games for the Penguins this season with 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) and battled injuries throughout the season. He was one of three Gophers to play for the U.S. at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Russia (Wheeler, Kessel).
It's also worth noting that Martin and the Penguins will take on Columbus, which is coached by former Gopher All-American Todd Richards. Richards has the Blue Jackets in the playoffs for just the second in time in the organization's brief history.
-Pride on Ice-
PHILADELPHIA (GopherSports.com) -- The University of Minnesota men's hockey program prepped for the program's 21st Frozen Four appearance on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
The Gophers open the event on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. CT against North Dakota in semifinal action on ESPN2/Watch ESPN while radio broadcast is set for the Gopher Radio Network and 1500 ESPN. Boston College and Union compete the in the first semifinal game earlier in the day.
Minnesota started the day of preparation by meeting with national broadcasting partners including ESPN talent John Buccigross, Barry Melrose and Quint Kessenich. For many of the Gophers, visiting with the trio was the day's highlight.
The low-point of the day? Well for some of the team that may have been competing in Adam Wilcox's Rubik's Cube Challenge. The Big Ten Player and Goaltender of the Year proved his skill with the gadget earlier this year (see the original video here
) and challenged his teammates, as well as coach Don Lucia, with the help of NCAA.com.
After practicing for the first time at Wells Fargo Center and then meeting with the media, the Gophers had one final on-camera moment for the night -- taking a team photo with the famous Rocky statue in downtown Philadelphia.
For those in Philly, check out the full list of Frozen Four fan activities happening around town (Click Here
). Back home? Head to Joe Senser's in Roseville or Bloomington for the official viewing parties in the Twin Cities (Click Here
SAINT PAUL, Minn. (GopherSports.com) - The Minnesota men's hockey program kicked off the 2014 NCAA Men's Ice Hockey West Regional on Friday with practice and a media session at Xcel Energy Center.
After breakfast at Mariucci Arena early Friday morning, the Gophers moved over to Xcel Energy Center and met with ESPN talent Clay Matvick and Sean Ritchlin to preview Saturday's game against Robert Morris - the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
Minnesota then practiced for an hour at the X before meeting the media.
"It's the greatest time of the year for college hockey. The NCAA tournament's here," Gophers head coach Don Lucia said. "I'm proud of our guys, proud of our team for what they've been able to accomplish so far this year. Certainly, winning a Big Ten title this year and being part of three-straight league championships, it's a real credit to them and the process that we've gone through this year. They've played at a pretty consistently high level all season long. I know that they're excited and can't wait for the puck to drop tomorrow night."
During Friday's press conference, Lucia (as well as captains Nate Condon and Kyle Rau) touched on facing off against an opponent they have never seen in the Colonials.
"You look at what they've been able to do the second half of the season. They've won 17 games," Lucia said. "They've scored a ton of goals here in the second half of the year. They certainly had to play their way into the tournament by winning six playoff games in the league. One thing that we've seen over the years is that whoever has come out of that league has played awfully well."
In addition to playing a new team, the Gophers also have a new crop of freshmen who will get their first taste of the NCAA tournament this weekend.
"We've been trying to set an example of just working hard all week in practice," Rau said. "You get one chance, and you're done. One mistake - game over - just like last year against Yale. That's just the way it is this time of year, and we've been trying to show them that you need to work hard and not take anything for granted."
The Gophers will take on Robert Morris in the regional opener on Saturday (4:30 p.m. CT, ESPN2) while St. Cloud State and Notre Dame will play in the second regional semifinal on Saturday (8:00 p.m., ESPNU). The NCAA West Regional Championship is set for 6:30 p.m. on Sunday on ESPNU with the NCAA Men's Frozen Four slated for April 10-12 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Minnesota begins their postseason odyssey this week with a
trip to the Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournament. The Gophers enter as the Tournament's top seed
after claiming the regular-season crown and will play their first game in
Friday night's semifinal at the Xcel Energy Center. Head coach Don Lucia and
select players met with the media Wednesday afternoon to discuss the beginning
of postseason play.
The Gophers are viewing the Big Ten Tournament as a chance
to build towards a successful postseason run. "We are excited about the regular
season we had, but that chapter is over. Now, we open up a new chapter this
weekend," Lucia said.
Minnesota will skate at the Xcel Energy Center the next two
weekends in the Big Ten Tournament and then in the NCAA West Regional. Coach
Lucia is confident the team will not be looking ahead to the NCAA Tournament.
"We are trying to win a championship this weekend, so there is a lot at stake."
There is no secret that last season did not end how the team
envisioned after a very successful regular-season campaign. "We were
dissatisfied. It has been a year of bitter taste. We finally get another shot
at it," goalie Adam Wilcox said.
Minnesota's regular-season success was rewarded this past
week by the conference's coaches and media. Adam Wilcox led the charge by being
named the Big Ten Player of the Year and Big Ten Goaltender of the Year. "He
has been our best player," Lucia said.
The Hobey Baker Award nominee was quick to give credit to
his teammates. "I could not have done it without the team," Wilcox said. "It is
a great individual award to have, but at the same time it is a team award."
Adam Wilcox's teammate and roommate Mike Reilly was named the
Big Ten Defenseman of they Year. "(He) made great strides with his play during
the course of the year. I think he deserved to be picked as the best defenseman,"
Mike Reilly said strides away from the rink translated to
his success on it. "It was a big summer for getting stronger with Cal Dietz in
the weight room."
Coach Lucia was also named the Big Ten Coach of the Year. "I
have been honored because we have so many good players," Lucia said. "I am fortunate
that I have a great staff to work with."
This week at the Xcel Center, the Gophers will be on an
NHL-sized rink for the third-straight week. "I think we are out of the
Olympic-rink mindset now," Wilcox said. "It is nice to have a couple of away
games to build that road-game mentality we will need in the playoffs." Minnesota
will see NHL-sized rinks the rest of the season.
Minnesota will play their first game of the tournament
Friday night at 7 p.m. CT. A win on Friday means a finals appearance Saturday
night. The title tilt will begin at 7 p.m. CT. All five games of the Big Ten Tournament
will air live on BTN.
-Story by Josh Brennock
The Gophers will close out the regular season with a trip this weekend to Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich., to take on the No. 13 Michigan Wolverines. Wednesday afternoon, coach Don Lucia and members of the team met with the media to discuss the opportunity in front of them.
Players and coaches have made a point all season not to focus on the Big Ten standings, but now the title is within their grasps. "It is a goal when the year begins to put yourself in the position to [win the regular-season championship,]" Lucia said. "We have had a great regular season and played very consistently from start to finish. Now, we have to do our job and try to get a win on the road this weekend."
The players want to go down as the first team to be Big Ten champions. "It would be a great start to our future in the Big Ten," defensemen Brady Skjei said.
With the Big Ten Tournament a week away, the team wants to build good postseason habits against the Wolverines. "I think the playoff mentality really kicked in last week," junior forward Travis Boyd said. "I think we learn a pretty good lesson [last Saturday] about what it takes to win at this time of year."
This is the Gophers first trip to Yost Ice Arena since 2009. "There is not a more difficult place to play in college hockey than Yost," Lucia said.
Michigan has lost just two games on home ice this season, but Minnesota is embracing the late-season challenge. "The tempo is going to be really high against Michigan. If we make a mistake, we are going to pay. These are important lessons this time a year as we head into the playoffs," Lucia said.
Travis Boyd is one of three current Gophers, with Brady Skjei and Hudson Fasching, who have experience playing at Yost as part of the National Team Development Program. However, entering Yost as a conference rival is an entirely different beast. "We were just a bunch of 17-year-old kids trying to go out and play," Boyd said.
Hudson Fasching is less than a year removed from his time in Ann Arbor and will face many of his former National Team Development Program teammates. "There will probably be some chirping going around and I am ready for that," Fasching said.
A trip back to the eastern time zone this week means the games begin earlier than normal. Friday's puck drop takes place at 5:30 p.m. CT and can be seen on ESPNews. Saturday's regular-season finale begins at 6:00 p.m. CT and can be seen on the Big Ten Network. Fans can listen to both games on 1500 ESPN with Wally Shaver and Frank Mazzocco.
-Story by University of Minnesota Communications In
Vanek with the Austrian National Team at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
The NHL trade deadline came to pass once again on Wednesday with several Gopher-related transactions and news including Thomas Vanek being dealt to Montreal, Hudson Fasching's NHL rights moving to Buffalo and Ryan Stoa making his season debut with the Washington Capitals.
Now on his third team for the 2013-14 season, Vanek has 53 points (21 goals, 32 assists) in 60 games with the Islanders and Sabres this season. The forward, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, has recorded 541 points (271 goals, 270 assists) and 396 penalty minutes in 645 NHL career games with the Sabres and Islanders.
"Knowing the history behind the team, I was very happy to learn the news," admitted Vanek, who was acquired alongside a conditional fifth round pick in the 2014 draft in exchange for prospect Sebastian Collberg and a conditional second round pick in 2014. "I've played in Montreal so often when I was with the Sabres and I've always loved coming here. The atmosphere at the Bell Centre is electric."
A native of Baden, near Vienna, Vanek was the Sabres' first round selection, fifth overall, at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
Vanek will join the team on Thursday in Phoenix.
Vanek's trade was the second related to the Gophers on Wednesday with Fasching's rights moving from Los Angeles to Buffalo earlier in the day.
Fasching leads all Big Ten rookies with 12 goals this season and ranks second in points scored by conference newcomers (one off the Big Ten lead). Fasching was originally drafted by Los Angeles in the fourth round (118th overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Meanwhile, Stoa made his season debut in the NHL last night as the Washington Capitals fell to Philadelphia 6-4.
The Bloomington, Minn., native and former First Team All-American was selected 34th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and has appeared in 37 career NHL games with Colorado, registering seven points (four goals, three assists) and 20 penalty minutes.
Stoa is the 16th former Gopher to skate in the NHL this season joining Keith Ballard (Minnesota), Nick Bjugstad (Florida), Alex Goligoski (Dallas), Erik Haula (Minnesota), Erik Johnson (Colorado), Phil Kessel (Toronto), Nick Leddy (Chicago), Jordan Leopold (St. Louis), Paul Martin (Pittsburgh), Aaron Ness (New York Islanders), Kyle Okposo (New York Islanders), Nate Schmidt (Washington), Jordan Schroeder (Vancouver), Thomas Vanek (Montreal Canadiens) and Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg).
Justin Holl, Michael Shibrowski, Tom Serratore, Jake Parenteau, Nate Condon
For five Minnesota seniors,tonight's game against Penn State marks their final time taking the ice at Mariucci Arena. Among their many accolades, this year's group of graduating seniors earned a trip to the 2012 NCAA Frozen Four, won back-to-back MacNaughton Cups as WCHA regular-season champions, set a Minnesota attendance record at the 2014 Hockey City Classic at TCF Bank Stadium and helped the Gophers capture the inaugural North Star College Cup. In their four years with the program, the Gophers 92-41-17 -- a .670 winning percentage. Gopher Hockey and the University of Minnesota will honor the senior class before tonight's 6:10 p.m. CT game.
Here's what the seniors had to say about their time with the Maroon & Gold.
Nate Condon | #16 | Forward | Wausau, Wis.
"Over the past four years, I have learned what a great honor it is to play for the Gophers. Minnesota has a storied history that I am very proud to say I could be a small part of. The time that I have been here has made me greatly appreciate the experience of college athletics, as well as recognize the efforts many have made to get me here. The drive to succeed and unwillingness to settle for anything less than exceptional is a value given to me by my parents, Barb and Tim, and my brothers, Nick and Ryan. Without them pushing me constantly I would not be in the situation I am today. I would like to thank them, my teammates, my friends, and everyone else who has made my experience at the 'U' something I will never forget."
Justin Holl | #12 | Defenseman | Tonka Bay, Minn.
"I am honored to be a part of the Gopher Hockey tradition. Playing in front of the best fans in college hockey at the best arena in college hockey has been an unbelievable experience that I will never forget. I would like to thank my family; my parents, Jerry and Sue, my brother, David, and my sister, Julia, for their love and support throughout my hockey career. I would also like to thank my teammates here at the University of Minnesota for an unforgettable four years. Thank you all for making my time here memorable."
Jake Parenteau | #6 | Defenseman | Franconia, Minn.
"I cannot begin to thank everyone who has helped me get to this point in my life, but I am incredibly grateful to have had so much support from so many people. Playing hockey at the University of Minnesota has been a dream come true for me, and I am so honored every time I get to put on my jersey. It has been a true privilege to play here at the 'U'. I want to thank my family - especially my parents, Tom and Shellee - and my friends for everything they have done to help me get here. I'd also like to thank all the coaches, teammates and fans who have supported me throughout my career."
Tom Serratore | #14 | Forward | Colorado Springs, Colo.
"I am very fortunate and honored to have been given a chance to wear the 'M' at the University of Minnesota. I am also very grateful to have been surrounded by so many incredible people who have helped me reach my goal of wearing the Maroon and Gold. I would like to thank my family, friends, teammates and coaches along the way who have supported me and helped me grow both on and off the ice. I would especially like to thank my parents, Frank and Carol, for helping me live out my dream of playing college hockey. Thanks for the memories!"
Michael Shibrowski | #1 | Goaltender | Andover, Minn.
"As a kid, I always dreamed of being a Gopher, so to have the opportunity to put on that jersey and wear the 'M' is pretty special. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to play for the University of Minnesota. I want to thank our staff for the opportunity and support along the way, my teammates for the memories and friendships I have created, and my family and friends for all the support. Specifically I'd like to thank my Dad, Gary, Mom, Kathy, and my brother, Aaron, who sacrificed so much to give me the opportunity to be here and for that I will always be grateful. Thank you to everyone who has helped me throughout my career. It has been a thrill to play in front of the best fans in college hockey."
Catch up on all the news around Gopher Hockey before this weekend's series with Penn State gets underway.
Reminder, Friday's series opener is set for 8 p.m. CT on the Big Ten Network and BTN2Go.com (Matt Shepard, Ben Clymer, Mark Strobel) while Saturday's finale is slated for 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Network (Dan Kelly, Ben Clymer). Friday's radio broadcast will be on 1500 ESPN while Saturday is on MyTalk 107.1. Both games will also be on the Gopher Radio Network (Wally Shaver, Frank Mazzocco).