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.

NHL: Vanek, Canadiens Force Game 7

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Gopher Hockey alum Thomas Vanek scored twice on Monday night in Montreal's 4-0 Game Six win over Boston as an already dramatic second-round Stanley Cup playoff series now heads to a deciding Game Seven. 

The Austrian forward put the Canadiens up 3-0 with a power-play goal late in the second period and then added an empty netter in the third -- Vanek now has eight points (five goals, three assists in 10 playoff games this season. The nine-year NHL veteran has 28 points (20 goals, eight assists) in 46 career playoff games. 


Game Seven is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT in Boston (NBC Sports Network). 

Up Next

Plenty of Gopher Hockey alums in action tonight in the Stanley Cup playoffs as Paul Martin and Pittsburgh take on the New York Rangers in Game Seven of their second-round playoff series (6 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Network) while Nick Leddy and Chicago take on Erik Haula, Keith Ballard and the Minnesota Wild (8 p.m. CT, CNBC, TSN). The Blackhawks hold a 3-2 lead in the series. 

NHL: Haula's End-to-End Lamp Lighter

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Although the final score didn't go his team's way, Gopher Hockey alum Erik Haula continued to impress on Sunday night with the Wild's lone goal in a 2-1 loss to Chicago in Game Five. Game Six is set for 8 p.m. CT on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center (CNBC and TSN will broadcast the game). 

Here's the Finnesotan's goal from Sunday night: 


The Pori, Finland native is in the midst of his first playoff run during his rookie season with Minnesota. Haula has played in all 12 playoff games for the Wild and has six points -- his three playoff goals are tied for the league rookie goal scoring lead. 

Five Gopher Hockey alums are still in the hunt to hoist the Stanley Cup come year's end -- Eric Haula (MIN), Keith Ballard (MIN), Nick Leddy (CHI), Thomas Vanek (MTL) and Paul Martin (PIT). Minnesota had a total of nine representatives open the playoffs including Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards while a total of 16 Gopher Hockey alums played in the NHL during the regular season. 

NHL: Haula Nets Game Winner in Game Three

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Former Gopher Erik Haula netted the game winner on Tuesday night as the Minnesota Wild blanked Chicago 4-0 in Game Three of the second round series at Xcel Energy Center. 

Check out the Pori, Finland native's goal that snapped a scoreless tie and ignited a four-goal third period for the Wild. 


Haula, making a playoff run with Minnesota in his rookie season with the squad, has been one of the team's standouts in both this series with the Blackhawks and the first round series with Colorado that went to seven games. The forward now has five points (two goals, three assists) while playing in all 10 playoff games for the Wild. He had 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 46 regular-season games for Minnesota this year. 

Down 2-1 in the series, the Wild are back at it on Friday night (8:30 p.m. CT) at Xcel Energy Center. The NBC Sports Network will broadcast Game Four of the series. 

Erik Haula Press Report
Star Tribune: Speedy Haula cashes in on second chance (Chip Scoggins)
Pioneer Press: Haula continues to shine (Andy Greder)

Vanek Helps Habs to 2-1 Series Lead

Meanwhile, Thomas Vanek continues to contribute regularly for Montreal in its second round series with Boston. The Canadiens went up 2-1 in the series with a 4-2 win over the Bruins while Vanek added the primary assist in the game's opening goal. The Austrian now has six points (three goals, three assists) in seven games for Montreal. 

Montreal and Boston meet for Game Four on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. CT on the NBC Sports Network. 

Up Next

Only one Stanley Cup playoff game on the docket for Wednesday -- Paul Martin and the Penguins looks to increase their 2-1 series lead in Game Four with the Rangers tonight. Game time is 6:30 p.m. CT on the NBC Sports Network. 

Bjugstad Surprises Student with Season Tickets

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Go Gophers!Nick Bjugstad with Cole Johnson 
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Gopher Hockey student season tickets went on sale earlier this morning with one lucky fan getting something more than he expected -- free tickets from Gophers alum and Florida Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad. 

Bjugstad surprised University of Minnesota student Cole Johnson by stopping by the Mariucci Arena ticket office on Friday morning and paying for the freshman's season tickets for 2014-15. Johnson, who arrived at Mariucci at 8 a.m. this morning (an hour before the office opened), was the first student in line and said he couldn't believe it when the All-American from Blaine showed up and offered to pay for his tickets. 

"I saw the post on facebook saying that there would be some cool surprises, but I didn't know what to expect. It was awesome to meet Nick Bjugstad and it was really nice that he bought my tickets for me," Johnson said. "It'll be great to have the football, basketball, & hockey package because I really enjoy all of the sports here, but I really enjoy hockey."

Last year, associate head coach Mike Guentzel met the first student in line for student tickets and picked up the tab, but with the coaching staff in Florida for meetings on Friday, Bjugstad said he wanted to step in and continue the tradition. 

"I always loved how much support we got from the student section during my time here, they're by far the best fans in college hockey," Bjugstad said. "I can't really explain how much of a thrill it was to take the ice and have so much intensity and excitement in the building. It was really special, and this is just a small way of showing our fans how much we appreciated that support." 

In his first full season in the NHL, Bjugstad didn't disappoint. The forward led Florida with 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists) including four game-winning goals. 

Season tickets packages are available at MyGopherSports.com or by visiting the ticket office at Mariucci Arena. 







Glover, Collins Win Gold in Finland

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Jack GloverGo Gophers!

USA Hockey Recap

Two members of this year's Gopher Hockey signing class won gold on Sunday as members of the U.S. Men's National Under-18 Team.

Jack Glover and Ryan Collins helped the U.S. to a 5-2 win over the Czech Republic as the Red, White and Blue captured its eighth gold medal at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's Under-18 World Championships in Lappeenranta, Finland.

The U.S. went 6-1 at the tournament and rallied six-straight wins to clinch gold at the tournament. After falling to Switzerland (2-4) in the opening game, the U.S. topped the Czech Republic (3-0), Denmark (7-0) and Finland (4-3) in the preliminary round. The team then beat Slovakia (6-2) in the quarterfinals, Sweden (4-1) in the semifinals and finished off the tournament against the Czech Republic (5-2) in the gold-medal game. The U.S. also topped Germany (9-1) in a pre-tournament game.

Both defensemen for the U.S., Glover and Collins played in all seven tournament games. Glover tallied four points at the event with a goal and two assists while Collins notched a pair of assists for the U.S.  including one in the gold-medal game.

Glover and Collins have been long-time teammates with the U.S. National Development Team Program (USNDTP) in Ann Arbor, Mich., as well as helping Benilde-St. Margaret's to the Minnesota State Class AA title in 2012.

A Golden Valley, Minn., native, Glover has 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 24 USHL games this season for the U.S. Under-18 Team while Collins, who hails from Bloomington, Minn., has skated in 26 games for the team this season with two assists.

Both Glover and Collins participated in the 2013 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game last September in Pittsburgh and are eligible for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. 

NHL: Goligoski Scores, Martin Stays Hot

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All three NHL Stanley Cup Playoff series were evened up at 2-2 last night with four former Gophers in action including Alex Goligoski, who scored his first goal of the playoffs to put Dallas up 4-2 on Anaheim in Game Four of that series. 

Goligoski now has two points (one goal, one assist) in four playoff games this season while the defenseman has 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 19 career playoff games. The Minnesota alum as tallied four blocks, four hits and was plus-two  in the win while also recording a game-high 32:48 of ice time as the game's No. 1 Star. 


Paul Martin, meanwhile, stayed hot for the Pittsburgh Penguins also the team lost to Todd Richards' Columbus squad 4-3 in overtime. For the fourth-straight game, Martin tallied a pair of assists for Pittsburgh and now leads all NHL skaters with eight points and eight assists in this year's playoffs. Martin, who has made the playoffs in each of his 10 NHL seasons, needs just three points to match his career best 2-9--11 in 15 games last season). 

In the third and final game on Wednesday, Nick Leddy and the Blackhawks topped Jordan Leopold and the Blues 4-3 to even that series at 2-2. 

Up Next

Only one Stanley Cup Playoff game with Gopher implications on the docket for Thursday as the Wild look to even the series against Colorado. Game Four is set for 8:30 p.m. CT on CNBC and FOX Sports North. 

Gophers Alum Laylin Named Hamline Head Coach

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Go Gophers!Cory Laylin
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Gopher Hockey alum Cory Laylin has been tagged as the new head men's hockey coach at Hamline, the university athletic department announced on Wednesday. 

The St. Cloud, Minn., native was a four-year letter winner for Minnesota from 1989-92 and totaled 107 points (58 goals, 49 assists) during his career. The forward's 170 career games are tied for 14th all-time at Minnesota -- 12 games off the school record of teammate Larry Olimb with 182. 

In his tenure with the Maroon & Gold, Laylin helped the Gophers to WCHA MacNaughton Cups in 1989 as a freshman and again as a senior in 1992. 


Cory Laylin is returning to where his coaching career started. The St. Cloud, Minn. native, whose first coaching assignment was an assistant at Hamline, is returning to the school as its new head men's hockey coach.
 
"I'm very excited to be coming back to Hamline. It's where I got the coaching bug," Laylin said. "I learned about D-III hockey in my time here. This is a great, very competitive league. I'm looking forward to getting to work to build this team into a being a contender."
 
Laylin was an assistant at HU in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. The Pipers won 32 games in that time span, advancing to the MIAC postseason title game in his first year and making the playoffs the next year as well.
 
Two Pipers who played here when Laylin was an assistant coach expressed delight with the choice. "He helped me immensely," said Chris Berenguer, the 2011 Division III Player of The Year. "He knows defense very well. He also helped me prepare to move on in hockey from Hamline."
 
Dustin Fulton, who finished his HU career with 144 points (second all-time), added, "Cory brings a lot of excitement to the team and to the alums. He has great playing experience and great coaching experience."
 
For the past two seasons, Laylin has been the general manager and head coach of the Brookings Blizzard of the North American Hockey League. He also spent one season as the co-head coach at Buffalo High School and coached a pro team in Carldaro in the Italian professional league.

Prior to coaching, Laylin, who scored 58 goals in four years for the University of Minnesota, played 16 seasons professionally, much of it overseas. His best statistical season was in 1999-2000 when he scored 32 goals in 53 games for Iserlohn, a team in a league based in Germany.
 
In addition to his ice hockey resume, Laylin played four seasons of professional roller hockey.

 

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