Gophers Meet the Media: Big Ten Tournament

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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," Lucia said.

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

Gophers Meet the Media: Michigan

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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

Go Gophers! TopTen
Go Gophers!Vanek with the Austrian National Team at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
Go Gophers!

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).

Gophers Celebrate Senior Night on Saturday

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Go Gophers! MN_IND
Justin Holl, Michael Shibrowski, Tom Serratore, Jake Parenteau, Nate CondonGo Gophers!

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."

Gopher Hockey Press Report: Penn State

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Catch up on all the news around Gopher Hockey before this weekend's series with Penn State gets underway. 

Minnesota Daily: Bromance on ice

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).

Gopher Meet the Media: Penn State

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MINNEAPOLIS (Gophersports.com) -- The No. 2 Minnesota men's hockey program met with the media on Wednesday afternoon to preview this weekend's Big Ten series with Penn State. 

For Minnesota seniors Nate Condon, Justin Holl, Jake Parenteau, Tom Serratore and Michael Shibrowski, this weekend's series  will be their final games at Mariucci Arena. Hear what they had to say about the upcoming games. 

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). 

NHL: Catching Up with Nick Bjugstad

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We caught up with former Gopher All-American Nick Bjugstad last weekend when the current Florida Panthers forward was back in town during the Olympic break. Check out the video below to hear what Bjugstad had to say about his time as a Gopher, his first NHL game and transitioning to the pro game.  


Through 52 games this season with Florida, Bjugstad has 23 points for the Panthers while his 13 goals are tied for second on the team. Bjugstad was selected 19th overall in the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Panthers. 

During his three seasons with the Maroon & Gold, no Gopher scored more goals than Bjugstad with 54 while the forward tallied 98 total points in 109 career games. In Bjugstad's final two seasons with the program, the Gophers earned two-straight MacNaughton cups as Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) regular-season champions and two NCAA tournament berths including the team's run to the NCAA Frozen Four in 2011-12.

Gopher Hockey Press Report: Michigan

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Catch up on all the news around around Gopher Hockey as No. 2 Minnesota prepares for a Big Ten Conference series against No. 10/11 Michigan this weekend at Mariucci Arena. 

College Hockey News: Hudson Crossing

Alums:

Reminder, Friday's series opener with the Wolverines is set for 8:04 p.m. CT on the Big Ten Network (Dan Kelly, Ben Clymer, Fred Pletsch) while Saturday's finale is slated for a 7:10 p.m. puck drop on FOX Sports North (Doug McLeod, Ben Clymer, Kevin Gorg). Both games will also be streamed on BTN2Go.com. Radio broadcasts for both games will be on the Gopher Radio Network and flagship station 1500 ESPN (Wally Shaver, Frank Mazzocco). 

Gophers Meet the Media: Michigan

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The Gophers will be back inside the friendly confines of Mariucci Arena this weekend when they host No. 10/11 Michigan. Coach Don Lucia and members of the team met with the media Wednesday afternoon to discuss the clash with another one of college hockey's iconic programs.

Both teams will be hungry to reverse poor results from the past weekend. The Gophers were swept at Wisconsin for the first time since 1999 and Wolverines suffered a surprising 4-0 loss at Penn State. Minnesota knows their biggest problem is a lack of goal scoring. 

"It is not easy to score goals and it gets harder as the second half wears on," Lucia said. "We did a lot of things well over the course of the (Wisconsin) series. Hopefully, we will continue to do those."

The low goal totals have become a worrying trend for Minnesota. The Gophers have scored just one goal in four of their last eight games. "We have had plenty of opportunities. We just have to bear down and score," defenseman Brady Skjei said.

Defenseman Justin Holl is excited to put last weekend's disappointment in the rear-view mirror and face the challenge a program like Michigan presents. "I think we would rather have it this way instead of playing a softer team. I think is good that we play a tough team and test ourselves right away."

Minnesota has squared off with Michigan 259 times over the years, but not since 2010 when the Gophers captured a 3-1 victory. Fans can expect up-tempo games and lots of transition opportunities. "Michigan is like us. They might not have a dominate offensive player, but they have three lines that can score, a mobile defense, and a goaltender that is playing very well," Lucia said.

As we witness the beginning Big Ten hockey conference, there is a desire to see old rivalries get reinvigorated. The Minnesota-Michigan rivalry is one of those. "I think it will become a really good rivalry," Lucia said. "We had some big games with them and they have had great teams year in and year out. I think this is next rivalry to really ramp up in the Big Ten for us." With four of the Gophers' last eight regular season games against the Maize and Blue there is an expectation to see the rivalry flourish in the near future.

Minnesota goes back to a traditional Friday-Saturday series against the Wolverines. Friday's contest begins at 8 p.m. CT and air live on the Big Ten Network. Saturday's game starts at 7 p.m. CT and can be seen on Fox Sports North. Both games can be heard on 1500 ESPN with Wally Shaver and Frank Mazzocco.

Story by University of Minnesota Communications Intern Josh Brennock

 

Gopher Hockey Press Report: Wisconsin

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