Islanders: Okposo Takes Game To Next Level

| No TrackBacks
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
                                
  Go Gophers!     TopTen
     Go Gophers!Kyle Okposo
     Go Gophers!
Former Gophers forward Kyle Okposo is off to a hot start this season, leading the New York Islanders with 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) in 15 games. The forward is now skating with fellow Gophers alum Thomas Vanek on the Islanders' top line following Vanek's trade from Buffalo late last month. 

Cory Wright of NewYorkIslanders.com recently profiled Okposo's success -- read the entire article here.

----------------------------------------

Skating on the New York Islanders top line, 25-year-old Kyle Okposo is enjoying the hottest start of his career. The Isles top right winger leads the team in scoring with 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) and is keeping pace with the NHL's scoring leaders.

Okposo is also the hottest Islander at the moment, scoring seven points (one goal, six assists) in his last three games. He scored multiple points in each of those games, including a three-assist effort in a 3-1 win against Boston last Saturday. At the 15-game mark, Okposo has had three, three-game point streaks. 

"Our line has been pretty good with Thomas (Vanek) on it so far," Okposo said. "And playing with Johnny (John Tavares), you know you're going to get opportunities. I'm just taking advantage of my opportunities."

Okposo is making the most of playing on the top line and top power play unit, but he's also contributing to the success of his teammates. Tavares and Isles goal-scoring leader, Frans Nielsen, have benefited from Okposo's playmaking.

"I love how hard he works and how strong he is on the puck," Tavares said of the Islanders assists leader. "Being with a guy that you have confidence in going to the corners and coming out with pucks, skating through the neutral zone, carrying the play and not getting knocked off the puck, it makes the game much easier."

At 6'1, 216 lbs., Okposo has the build and power to drive to the front of the net and grind defensemen down low. What his teammates and coaches are seeing now is the confidence to impose his will in the offensive end, a confidence that stemmed from last years' stretch drive and series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.


"It's no secret he had a good finish to the year last year and he really built off it," Tavares said. "It's really good to see him doing what he's doing. It makes our team so much better and more dangerous.

Head coach Jack Capuano said Okposo's offensive success is being driven by his play without the puck and hard work.

"He's always been a really good player," Capuano said. "When a player realizes how he has to play within the team concept and how he has to play as an individual, it's going to lead to success."

He added, "Kyle's puck protection and the way he's playing in the offensive zone is a function of him being in constant motion and moving his feet."

Last year's playoffs were also an eye-opener for Okposo, who got a taste of the intensity of playoff hockey that has motivated him ever since. He's been an everyday player since 2008-09, but Okposo changed his offseason routine this summer.

"I worked a lot this summer with different people," Okposo said."I did some different training and talked to different people about my game and skill work I had been doing. It's paying off."

He travelled to Toronto and spent a few days with Tavares, who noticed a new focus in Okposo's approach to his off-ice training regimen.

"He's become more of a guy that likes to learn and gets to know how things off the ice impact your game, instead of just going to the gym and doing what you're doing," Tavares said. "He's really gotten to understand that a lot more from what I've seen. He takes a lot of pride in that and he's not satisfied in what he's accomplished. He expects more of himself."

Sitting as the team's leading scorer and playing at over a point-per-game pace, Okposo has definitely delivered for himself and the Islanders so far this season.

Gophers Meet the Media: Notre Dame

| No TrackBacks
Go Gophers! TopTen
Go Gophers!Mike Reilly
Go Gophers!

No. 1 Minnesota returns to action this week with a trip to South Bend, Ind. to take on No. 3/4 Notre Dame. Minnesota staff and players met with the media Wednesday afternoon to discuss this weekend's difficult-road test after last weekend's bye. 

Minnesota head coach Don Lucia believes the bye week came at a good time for the Gophers.

"(The bye week) was good for us. We did have a few guys that would not have been able to play and they are close to 100% now." 

Senior captain Nate Condon believes the team is recharged after the week off. 

"A bye week always gives guys time to hang out and rest. It gives you time to recover and bring back that fresh lineup."

The Gophers will need a fresh lineup against a Notre Dame team that has won 11-straight games at home dating back to last year. "This is a veteran group," Lucia said. "They are very disciplined and pride themselves on defense, so it will be a really good test for us."

In the last ten years, Notre Dame has evolved into one of the nation's premier college hockey programs. Over the last few seasons, the Irish and Gophers have developed a healthy rivalry.

"They have a lot of talented players. Every time we play them it is something to look forward to and one of those games you circle on the schedule," Condon said.

Coach Lucia's son, Mario, is a forward for the Irish, but coach will try not to approach this weekend any differently. "No family reunions. It is a business trip." Father and son did face-off last year at Mariucci Arena with the Gophers coming out on top. 

Gopher defenseman Mike Reilly is also very familiar with Mario Lucia. The childhood friends roomed together two years ago as members of the Penticton Vees. 

"It is definitely going to be a fun experience," Mike Reilly said. "I am looking forward to competing against him."

Friday's game is at 7:00 p.m. CT can be seen on the NBC Sports Network. Saturday's contest will start at 6:00 p.m. CT and will be streamed online at NBCsports.com.

-Story by University of Minnesota Communications Intern Josh Brennock

Don Lucia Radio Show Airs Tonight

| No TrackBacks
Go Gophers! TopTen
Go Gophers!Don Lucia
Go Gophers!


Listen to tonight's show: 1500ESPN.com | Archived Radio Broadcasts

The Don Lucia Radio Show returns to the airwaves of 1500 ESPN for the 2013-14 season, airing live on Mondays during the year from the Beacon Public House inside the Commons Hotel on campus. 

Join Coach Lucia and co-hosts Wally Shaver and Jeff Dubay on Mondays throughout the season with each show airing live on 1500 ESPN from 6-6:30 p.m. CT. 

This week, the Don Lucia Radio Show looks ahead to the upcoming weekend's series at No. 3/4 Notre Dame as well as looking back on the Gophers' bye weekend that included a special event with Minnesota Hockey and the Hendrickson Foundation

For the second-season in a row, Beacon Public House will host a live viewing of the Don Lucia Radio Show with food and drink specials every Monday night for Gopher Hockey fans. Learn more about Beacon Public House here

Xcel Energy Center Named Finalist for Future Frozen Fours

| No TrackBacks

Go Gophers! TopTen
Go Gophers!Xcel Energy Center
Go Gophers!

The NCAA and the Men's Ice Hockey Committee has announced finalists to host the 2015-18 Frozen Fours with the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul among the 10 finalists. 

The potential host cities also include: Boston, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Chicago, Columbus, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa, and Washington D.C. All but Chicago and Brooklyn have hosted Frozen Fours before. Pittsburgh hosted the Frozen Four last year while Philadelphia is hosting this year.

The Committee is expected to name the four winning bids some time in late November.

Xcel Energy Center has previously hosted the NCAA Frozen Four twice, most recently in 2011. The facility first hosted the national championship in 2002 with the Gophers topping Maine to win the fourth overall NCAA title in program history and the first of back-to-back national titles. 


NHL: Vanek Makes Islanders Debut

| No TrackBacks
Go Gophers! TopTen
Go Gophers!Thomas VanekGo Gophers!

Former Gopher standout Thomas Vanek made his debut with the New York Islanders on Tuesday night in a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers, two days after the eight-time 20-goal scorer was traded to the team from the Buffalo Sabres. 

Tuesday marked Vanek's 599th career NHL game with the forward likely skating in his 600th game on Friday against Ottawa. Vanek is also three points shy of 600 for his career (254-243--497). 

"It's a fresh start for me and hopefully I can help these guys out right away," Vanek told the Islanders on Monday. "I'm just happy to be here right now, taking it all in. An opportunity like this doesn't come around much. I'm going to try to make the most of it."

Go Gophers!
Kessel Contributes in Win Over Edmonton

Phil Kessel contributed on all four of Toronto's goals in Tuesday's 4-0 shutout over Edmonton, tallying two goals and adding two assists in the victory. It didn't take long for the former Gopher to find the stat sheet on Tuesday, scoring just 1:08 into the first period for the eventual game-winning goal. 


Here's Kessel's second goal of the night (all four points can be seen on Leafs TV): 


Through 13 games this season, Kessel has 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) -- tied for second most in the NHL with Steven Stamkos and two shy of Sidney Crosby for the league lead. 

Wheeler Nets Another Goal in Loss to Blues

Blake Wheeler added his ninth point of the year (five goals, four assists) with a goal in Winnipeg's 3-2 loss to Jordan Leopold and the St. Louis Blues. Nice looking goal for the former Gopher. 

Gopher Hockey Press Report: Boston College

| No TrackBacks
Go Gophers! TopTen
Go Gophers!Adam Wilcox
Go Gophers!

Catch up on all the news around Gopher Hockey with this week's Gopher Hockey Press Report.

*High scoring top line is clicking for Gophers hockey (Star Tribune)

*Adam Wilcox braces for tough test in goal (Pioneer Press)

* The Big Ten Network will highlight Minnesota's 1979 national championship on Big Ten Elite. The show premieres at 9:30 p.m. CT on Friday following the Gophers/BC game on BTN. (BTN)

*Gopher hockey coach downplays No. 1 ranking (FOX Sports North)

*No. 1 rank irrelevant so early in season (Minnesota Daily

*Gopher Athletics set to hold annual food drive (Gophersports.com)

*Freshman Faceoff: Hudson Fasching (Gophersports.com)

*Gophers Meet the Media: Boston College (Gophersports.com)

*Larry Ross was one of 10 Gophers to be inducted into the 'M' Club Hall of Fame on Thursday (Gophersports.com)

Reminder -- Friday's game is set for 7:10 p.m. CT (Big Ten Network, 1500 ESPN, BTN2Go.com) with Sunday's finale set for 1:10 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North, 1500 ESPN, BTN2Go.com). 

Freshman Faceoff: Hudson Fasching

| No TrackBacks
Go Gophers! TopTen
Go Gophers!Gophers freshman Hudson Fasching is tied for the Big Ten rookie scoring lead. 
Go Gophers!

We caught up with freshman Hudson Fasching to get to know a little more about him as he continues his first campaign with the Gopher men's hockey team. 

Through four games this season, Fasching is tied with teammate Justin Kloos for the Big Ten rookie scoring lead with six points (two goals and four assists). The native of Burnsville, Minn. was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Draft and comes to the Gophers with plenty of high-level experience after spending two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team Program. Hudson will be counted on to use his size and add toughness to the Gophers this season. 

What does it mean to you to play for the Gophers?
"I am a Minnesotan, born and raised. I grew up around Mariucci my whole life watching Gopher games and finally being able to put the jersey on means the world to me."

Describe the type of game you like to play for people who may not know you?
"I am a power forward. I go in the corners and like to grind it out. I want to bring pucks to the net hard and just play hard in general."

Is there an NHL player you like to watch and model your game after?
"Yeah! David Backes of the St. Louis Blues. I like to model my game after him. He plays hard in all aspects of the game, and that is what I like to model from him."

We're just a few weeks into the season, but you seem to have found some success playing alongside Sam Warning and Kyle Rau. How has that experience been?
"Coming in as a younger guy on the team, it's great to be able to play with two of the veterans on this team. They're good at moving the puck around and setting up scoring chances, and we've had some success so far. They're both great players, and they're great examples for me in terms of how I want to develop as a player." 

You spent the last two seasons playing with the USA Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., how did the experience help your game develop?
"Being away from home for a couple years around great coaching and great teammates really helps me mature a lot as a person and as a player. It is very competitive over there. Bringing all those aspects to Minnesota will be huge for me."

You had the opportunity to travel to some cool places with the USA Development Program. Which was your favorite?
"I got to go to Sochi, Russia for the Under-18 World Championships. Just the experience of being in another country, eating their food, and being in their culture is eye opening. You don't really know what it is like over there until you get there. It was a really fun experience."

You played at Apple Valley High School with fellow Gopher A.J. Michaelson. What does it mean to be playing with him again?
"Yeah! A.J. and I grew up together. We played all through youth hockey together. It is awesome that I get to play with one of my childhood buddies out here. It should be a lot of fun. Hopefully, we can get on a line together sometime during the year."

What kind of music do you like to listen to before the game?
"I am a rocker type of guy. Just anything that gets be going is good for me. "

What are some of the nicknames you have received from guys on the team?
"Some of the guys call me Huddy-Buddy, but most of the guys just call me Fasch."

Gophers Meet the Media: Boston College

| No TrackBacks

Minnesota welcomes Boston College to Mariucci Arena this weekend for a two-game series. The No. 1 Gophers will face a stiff test from No. 5 Boston College. The Eagles come to the Twin Cities soaring high after dispatching Wisconsin, 9-2, last Friday night in Chestnut Hill, Mass. Coach Don Lucia and members of the team met with the media Wednesday afternoon to discuss the clash with another member of college hockey's elite.

Boston College features another crop of dynamic playmakers this season. "They are going to be skilled and fast. We need to play our game and use our speed to hang with them all weekend," defenseman Brady Skjei said. Lucia knows the Gophers must value puck possession. "(Boston College's) transition game is really good. If you make a mistake with the puck you are going to pay."

Boston College's ability to post nine goals against Wisconsin caught the eyes of Gopher coaches and players. "They scored nine five-on-five goals, which is not easy to do," Lucia said. "(Our defensemen) are going to get tested this week. They are going to get tested taking care of the puck coming up the rink and down low defending." 

Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox was surprised to see Boston College's overwhelming success against the Badgers and knows he will be tested. "I have to be on top of my game. I have to be communicating with the defensemen and be good right in front of our net."

This week, Minnesota took over the nation's number one ranking in both the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll from Miami University. The players and coaches did their best to downplay early-season rankings. "It is something to look at, but not something to put too much on right now," Wilcox said.

The early success of the top-two lines is based on the immediate contribution of the freshmen. Lucia said the genesis of Hudson Fasching playing on the top line started in the summer. "He showed me something at the World Junior camp when I had the opportunity to be on the ice with him that week,"-- second-line center Justin Kloos has really impressed line mate, and captain, Nate Condon with his commitment to do all the little things. "(Justin) is obviously talented offensively, but the big thing with him is that he is a big, hard worker." 

This weekend's series takes place on Friday and Sunday with Gopher football home Saturday afternoon. Friday's hockey contest is at 7:10 p.m. CT and can be seen nationally on the Big Ten Network. Sunday's game takes place at 1:10 p.m. CT and will be shown on Fox Sports North. Both games this weekend can be heard on 1500 ESPN and will be streamed on BTN2Go.com. 

-Story By University of Minnesota Communications Intern Josh Brennock

Eyes on Sweden: Mariucci Arena to Host Training Camp

| No TrackBacks
Go Gophers! TopTen
Go Gophers!Don LuciaGo Gophers!


On March 23, 2013, Minnesota head coach Don Lucia was named the head coach of the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team by USA Hockey. With Lucia behind the bench, the Red, White and Blue will compete at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship Dec. 26, 2013 - Jan. 5, 2014, in Malmo, Sweden. 

In addition to Lucia, five current Gophers are competing for a roster spot on next year's U.S. squad. Sophomore defenseman Brady Skjei, freshman forward Hudson Fasching, freshman forward Taylor Cammarata and freshman defenseman Michael Brodzinski are currently participating at the 2013 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid. Freshman defenseman Tommy Vannelli is also in the hunt for a roster spot for the U.S. team. 

Next year, the U.S. program will seek its fourth medal in five years including a gold-medal performance in 2013 with Gophers defenseman Mike Reilly on the roster and assistant coach Grant Potulny on staff. As the tournament approaches, Gophersports.com will provide updates using "Eyes on Sweden".

-------------------------------------------------------------

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - USA Hockey announced today that the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team will hold a four-day training camp Dec. 15-18 in Minneapolis. Five practices are scheduled at the University of Minnesota's Mariucci Arena, while a pre-tournament game at Minnesota State University is set for Dec. 17. Team USA will defend its gold medal at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden, Dec. 26, 2013-Jan. 5, 2014.

The preliminary roster for the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team will be unveiled in early December.

From Minneapolis, training camp will move on to Angelholm, Sweden, Dec. 19-23. The U.S. will play pre-tournament games Dec. 20 vs. Sweden and Dec. 22 vs. Finland. The final 23-player U.S. National Junior Team roster will be announced Dec. 23.

In August, 44 players attended the 2013 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. Complete details from that camp can be found here.

NOTES: Practices at Mariucci Arena will be open to the public ... Team USA has medaled in three of the last four IIHF World Junior Championshipswinning gold in 2010 and 2013, plus bronze in 2011 ... Don Lucia(Plymouth, Minn.), head coach of the University of Minnesota men's ice hockey team, was named head coach of the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team on March 23Bob Motzko (St. Cloud, Minn.), head coach of the St. Cloud State University men's ice hockey team, Greg Brown (Scituate, Mass.), associate head coach of the Boston College men's ice hockey team, and David Lassonde (Denver, Colo.), assistant coach of the University of Denver men's ice hockey team, will serve as assistant coaches. The video coordinator isDan Muse (Clinton, Conn.), assistant coach of Yale University's men's ice hockey team ... Jim Johannson(Colorado Springs, Colo.), USA Hockey's assistant executive director of hockey operations, is serving as the general manager of Team USA for the fifth consecutive year ... Don Waddell (Detroit, Mich.), an international consultant to USA Hockey, is assisting with player identification for Team USA Team USA will compete in a group with Canada, Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. For more information about the tournament, click here.

2014 U.S. National Junior Team Training Camp Schedule
Dec. 15-23 | Minneapolis, Minn. & Malmo, Sweden

DateEventVenueLocationTime
Sun., Dec. 15PracticeMariucci ArenaMinneapolis, Minn.6:30-8 p.m. CST
Mon., Dec. 16PracticeMariucci ArenaMinneapolis, Minn.10-11:30 a.m. CST
 PracticeMariucci ArenaMinneapolis, Minn.5-6 p.m. CST
Tues., Dec. 17PracticeMariucci ArenaMinneapolis, Minn.10-11:30 a.m. CST
 at Minnesota State UniversityVerizon Wireless CenterMankato, Minn.7:37 p.m. CST
Wed., Dec. 18PracticeMariucci ArenaMinneapolis, Minn.9:30-10:30 a.m. CST
Fri., Dec. 20vs. SwedenLindab ArenaAngelholm, Sweden7:30 p.m. CET
Sun., Dec. 22vs. FinlandLindab ArenaAngelholm, Sweden1:30 p.m. CET

Don Lucia Radio Show Airs Tonight

| No TrackBacks
Go Gophers! TopTen
Don Lucia

Listen to tonight's show: 1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Don Lucia Radio Show returns to the airwaves of 1500 ESPN for the 2013-14 season, airing live on Mondays during the year from the Beacon Public House inside the Commons Hotel on campus. 

Join coach Lucia and co-hosts Wally Shaver and Jeff Dubay on Mondays throughout the season with each show airing live on 1500 ESPN from 6-6:30 p.m. CT. 

This week, the Don Lucia Radio Show looks back at the Gophers' two-game sweep over Bemidji State last weekend and previews the upcoming nonconference series against Boston College this weekend. Lucia, Shaver and Dubay will also discuss Minnesota's new No. 1 ranking in the national polls as well as the hot hands of NCAA leading scorer Sam Warning and rookies Hudson Fasching and Justin Kloos, who are both tied for the Big Ten rookie scoring lead. 

For the second-season in a row, Beacon Public House will host a live viewing of the Don Lucia Radio Show with food and drink specials every Monday night for Gopher Hockey fans. Learn more about Beacon Public House here