MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) -- Welcome back, Thomas Vanek!
The Gophers All-American and nine-year NHL veteran signed a three-year contract with the Minnesota Wild, the National Hockey League (NHL) organization announced on Tuesday, just hours after the free agency period officially began.
"Thomas is an elite offensive talent who showed a strong desire to play in Minnesota," Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a release. "We are excited to welcome him to our organization."
In 663 regular-season NHL games, the Vienna, Austria native has tallied 556 points while his 277 career goals are the eighth most among all NHL players since the forward joined the league in 2006-06. At 6-for-2 and 217 pounds, Vanek has also added 30 points and 20 goals in 53 career playoff games. The fifth overall selection by Buffalo in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Vanek has spent the majority of his career with the Sabres organization before moving twice last season - first to the New York Islanders and later to the Montreal Canadiens. Between the three teams, Vanek totaled 68 points and 27 goals in 78 games last season.
"It doesn't get much better for me right now; in the end, we made it work," Vanek told Sportsnet. "What's more exciting is how good the team is...It's a team that is very deep, and I know I can add to that."
Prior to signing a professional contract, Vanek recorded 113 points and 57 goals in 83 career games over two seasons at the University of Minnesota. Vanek led the Gophers in scoring both years and helped the Gophers capture the 2003 NCAA title, having scored game-winning goals over both Michigan in the semifinal and New Hampshire in the championship game. The forward was named the Frozen Four MVP for the performance and went on to earn Second Team All-America honors the following season.
According to Mike Russo of the Star Tribune
, Vanek's deal with the Wild is for $19.5 million over three years while the Austrian will wear No. 26 as he did as a member of the Gophers.
The signing of Vanek now gives the Wild three Gopher Hockey alums as the forward joins Keith Ballard and Erik Haula on Minnesota's roster. Vanek and Ballard were teammates for two seasons at the University of Minnesota (2002-03, 2003-04) including the Gophers' national championship in 2003.
MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) - With Father's Day fast approaching, here's your chance to give dad the greatest seat in the house - his own club-level seat from Mariucci Arena.
Approximately 150 club-level seats from Mariucci Arena will go on sale to the public Thursday, June 12, through the University of Minnesota ReUse Center. Each seat costs 40 dollars while the inventory will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis. Any remaining inventory after Thursday will be available for purchase in person on the first Saturday of the month from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Each seat must be purchased in person at the University of Minnesota ReUse Center (883 29th Ave. SE).
Since opening in 1993, Mariucci Arena has seen the Gophers go 290-113-45 (.696 winning percentage) at the venue including a 48-10-6 mark (.790) since the beginning of the 2011-12 season. The Gophers went 15-1-3 at Mariucci Arena during the 2013-14 campaign - marking the fewest losses ever in the facility's 20 year history.
-Pride on Ice-
First Team All-American Mike Reilly
MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) - First Team All-American and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Mike Reilly will return to the University of Minnesota men's hockey program for his junior season, the defenseman told the team this week.
"I'm excited to be coming back to Minnesota next season," Reilly told GopherSports.com. "We've been incredibly successful over the last two years, and I'm looking forward to more of the same next year."
The Chanhassen, Minn., native was the first Gopher to earn First Team All-America honors since Ryan Stoa in 2009 and was also a First Team All-Big Ten selection for the 2013-14 campaign. The sophomore led all Big Ten defensemen and ranked among the top-10 defensemen nationally with nine goals, 24 assists and 33 points this season.
Reilly helped the Gophers win the inaugural Big Ten regular-season championship and advance to the NCAA Frozen Four championship game as a sophomore in 2013-14 and was a member of Minnesota's WCHA regular-season championship squad as a freshman in 2012-13.
In 78 career games, the defenseman has tallied 47 points, 12 goals and 35 assists over two years with the Maroon & Gold. Reilly has missed just three games so far in his Minnesota career after being named to the 2013 U.S. National Junior Team and helping the program to a gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia. The defenseman tallied a goal and two assists at the tournament.
In his junior season, Reilly could potentially become just the sixth Gopher in program history to repeat as a First Team All-American (Jordan Leopold, Mike Crowley, Brian Bonin, Jack McCartan, John Mayasich) while the Gophers will compete for their fourth-straight conference regular-season title and the team's third trip to the Frozen Four in four years.
The defenseman is one of three Reilly brothers on Minnesota's roster (Connor, Ryan) while their father, also Mike, is a Gopher Hockey alum.
Reilly was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the fourth round (98th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
-Pride on Ice-
Columbus head coach and Gopher Hockey All-American Todd Richards
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Nick Bjugstad with Cole Johnson
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.