NHL: Haula Nets First NHL Goal

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A belated congrats to Gophers alum Erik Haula, who scored his first NHL goal on Saturday night in a 3-2 overtime win for the Minnesota Wild over Alex Goligoski and the Dallas Stars. 

The native of Pori, Finland has taken a liking to Hockey Day Minnesota -- the forward has five points (two goals, three assists) in four career appearances in the event. Haula tallied the game-winning goal and two assists in his first appearance as a freshman for the Gophers (a 7-3 Minnesota win over Denver) before picking up an assist in last year's 4-4 overtime tie with North Dakota as a junior in his final collegiate appearance for HDM. 

In 17 games with the Wild this season, Haula has three points and two assists to go along with his first NHL goal -- he's also played 24 games with the organization's AHL affiliate in Iowa with 17 points (nine goals, eight games). 

Haula is one of 15 former Gophers to play in the NHL this season including four program alums (Thomas Vanek, Paul Martin, Blake Wheeler, Phil Kessel) who will compete in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games next month in Sochi, Russia. 

Fan Vote Open for Hobey Baker Award

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St. Paul, Minn. - As college hockey enters the second half of the season, fans of the collegiate game can now help determine the winner of the 2014 Hobey Baker Award.

Awarded annually to college hockey's top player, the Hobey Baker's highly popular fan-voting phase opens at noon CT on Tuesday, January 14. Visit the Hobey Baker website: www.hobeybakeraward.com. Click on the Vote for Hobey icon and follow the prompts to make your selection from this year's outstanding crop of college hockey players.  Please spend some additional time to check out our redesigned website.

This first phase of fan balloting will run now through March 9, 2014. Phase two of fan balloting will begin on March 20 from the list of Top Ten Hobey Baker finalists. The fans' vote accounts for a full 1 percent of the total ballot in each phase in selecting this year's award recipient.

Award criteria include candidates emulating the exceptional character traits exhibited by the award's namesake, Hobey Baker. A legendary American hero, Baker was a World War I fighter pilot and was known as America's greatest amateur athlete in his day, excelling at hockey and football at Princeton University. Award candidates must demonstrate strength of character both on and off the ice, contribute to the integrity of his team and display outstanding skills in all phases of the game. Consideration should be given to scholastic achievement and sportsmanship. 

Key Hobey Baker announcement dates for 2014 include:

*Top Ten list of candidates:  March 20

*Hobey Hat Trick of three finalists:  April 2

*Hobey Baker Award announcement:  April 11

The 2014 Hobey Baker Award winner will be announced from a field of three Hobey Hat Trick finalists on Friday, April 11, 2014 during the NCAA Frozen Four Championships in Philadelphia, PA. The 34th annual award announcement honoring college hockey's top player will be televised live. For more info on the Hobey Baker Award or to access the Hobey logo, please visit www.hobeybakeraward.com.

Olympics: Vanek to Skate for Austria at Sochi

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Go Gophers!Thomas Vanek
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Austria announced its Olympic team for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Tuesday with former Gopher and current New York Islander Thomas Vanek headlining the squad. 

Vanek will make his Olympic debut this year with Austria, which has qualified for the Winter Olympics for the first time since 2002. The forward has previously represented his home country on the 2004, 2005 and 2009 Austrian National Teams as well as the Austrian National Junior Team at the 2004 IIHF World Junior Championships.

With Vanek's roster spot locked up, the Gophers now have four former players skating at the 2014 Winter Olympics -- Paul Martin, Phil Kessel and Blake Wheeler will skate for the U.S. National Team. Additionally, former Gopher All-American and current Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards will serve as an assistant coach for the U.S. men's program while Hobey Baker Award winner Robb Stauber will serve as the goaltenders coach for the U.S. women's team. 

Gopher Hockey has sent a representative to every Winter Olympics since 1936 with six representatives in 2014 serving as the most since the 'U' sent six players to Sarajevo in 1984. 

The men's ice hockey competition at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi runs from Feb. 13-13. 

Don Lucia Radio Show Airs Tonight

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

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 23rd annual Mariucci Classic last weekend that saw the Gophers tie Colgate 2-2 in overtime (Colgate advanced to the championship game via a shootout and then beat No. 2 Ferris State 3-0) and top RPI 6-2. We'll also look ahead to this weekend's Sunday-Monday series at Penn State -- the first-ever series with the Nittany Lions. 

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. 

Gophers Represent on U.S. Olympic Roster

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Go Gophers! Go Gophers!
Four former Gophers will be headed to Sochi next month as part of the  2014 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team. USA Hockey announced the squad on Wednesday as part of the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic festivities in Ann Arbor, Mich. 

Former Gophers Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler and Paul Martin were named to the U.S. roster while current Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards will serve as an assistant coach with the U.S. team. 

"We went through a very thorough process to get to today and could not be happier with the team we've selected," said David Poile, general manager of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team and also the GM and president of hockey operations for the NHL's Nashville Predators. "We're fortunate to have probably the deepest talent pool we've ever had in our country and that made for some very difficult decisions. In the end, however, we're confident we've selected a group of players that puts us in the best position to have success in Sochi."

The Gophers have had at least one representative in the last 18 Winter Olympic Games, dating back to 1936. While all three Gophers have skated for USA Hockey in the past only Kessel hasskated for the U.S. Olympic team previously, earning a silver medal at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Richards, meanwhile, competed as a defenseman for the U.S. at the 1994 Games in Lillehammer. 

"We appreciate the work done by David (Poile) and all those involved in putting this roster together," said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. "We look forward to what will be a great Olympics in Sochi, where hockey will be at the center of attention."

The men's ice hockey competition at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi runs from Feb. 13-23. For more information on the games as well as the U.S. squad, visit USAHockey.com. 

Related Links: 
Martin Pumped for Opportunity to Play for USA (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Stauber Named to U.S. Women's Olympic Team Staff (Gophersports.com)

Guentzel Fills in for the Don Lucia Radio Show

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Go Gophers! TopTenGo Gophers!Mike Guentzel
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Listen to tonight's show: 1500ESPN.com | Archived Radio Broadcasts

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. 

For tonight's show, associate head coach Mike Guentzel fills in for Lucia with the show airing live from 6:00-6:30 p.m. CT on 1500 ESPN with co-hosts Wally Shaver and Jeff Dubay.

With Lucia serving as head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships in Sweden, Guentzel will serve as acting head coach during the winter break as well as Minnesota's two games of the Mariucci Classic (against Colgate at 7 p.m. CT on Jan. 3 and against either Ferris State or RPI at 7 p.m. on Jan. 4). 

This week's radio show will examine Minnesota's preparations for a busy month of January as the Gophers return to action with the Mariucci Classic, then travel to Penn State for the first time in program history in a rare Sunday-Monday series before returning home for a short week of practice before the Hockey City Classic at TCF Bank Stadium on Friday, Jan. 17. The Gophers then participate in Hockey Day Minnesota the following day at Mariucci Arena. The following week, Minnesota hosts the inaugural North Star College Cup on Jan. 24-25 at Xcel Energy Center. 

Guentzel will also talk about Minnesota's first half of the season that saw the Gophers go 12-2-2 including the first-ever Big Ten win and sweep against Wisconsin and the league's first-ever shootout last Friday against Michigan State. 

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. 

AHL: Ryan Potulny Signs with Hershey

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Go Gophers!Ryan Potulny
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Gophers alum Ryan Potulny has signed an American Hockey League (AHL) contract with the Hershey Bears, Bears President/General Manager Doug Yingst announced over the weekend. 

The two-time All-WCHA selection was a member of the Minnesota hockey program from 2003-06 and registered 118 career points (68 goals, 50 assists) in 100 games.The Gophers made the NCAA tournament in each of his three years at the 'U' including a run to the 2005 NCAA Frozen Four in his sophomore season. As a freshman, Potulny helped Minnesota to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) playoff title. 

In 2005-06 (his final year at Minnesota), Potulny was a First Team All-American and led the nation in scoring with 38 goals and 63 points. The forward was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the Gophers captured the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA regular-season champions. 

Potulny joins former Gophers Nate Schmidt, Jeff Taffe and Ryan Stoa on Hershey's roster.

More from HersheyBears.com...

Following his signing by the Washington Capitals to a two-year deal in July of 2011, Potulny played a total of 127 regular-season games in a Hershey sweater. In his first season with the Bears, the 6-0, 179-pound native of Grand Forks, North Dakota led the team and tied for third in the AHL with 33 goals. His 65 points placed him third among his Hershey teammates. Of his 33 tallies, 19 came on the power play, which paced the entire American Hockey League. Potulny also led the Bears with five game-winning goals.

In 2012-13, Potulny led the Bears with 19 goals, while his 41 points ranked fourth on the squad.

During through the season prior to joining the Bears, Potulny was acquired by the Ottawa Senators and came to the AHL to help the Binghamton Senators capture the Calder Cup championship. His 14 goals and 26 points in the 2011 run to the title led all postseason players.

A 2009 member of the Planet USA All-Star squad, Potulny has produced 299 points (147 goals, 152 assists) in 370 AHL games with Philadelphia, Springfield, Rockford, Binghamton and Hershey.

Potulny has also appeared in 126 NHL games with Philadelphia, Edmonton, Chicago and Ottawa, registering 49 points (22 goals, 27 assists). He was originally selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the third round (87th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

NHL: A Pair of Tip-In, Power-Play Game Winners

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On Friday's 1500 ESPN morning show, Jeff Dubay talked at length about former Gopher Thomas Vanek's goal-scoring ability -- specifically his talent at tipping pucks in front of the net. 

Last night, Vanek showed off that ability -- netting the eventual game winner 1:18 into the third period with a power-play goal as the New York Islanders topped the New York Rangers 5-3. The goal was Vanek's 11th of the season (23rd point) while fellow Gophers alum Kyle Okposo picked up the primary assist on the score (Okposo has 11-20--31 this season as well). 

Speaking of tip-in, game-winning power-play goals, Blake Wheeler picked up one for Winnipeg in a 5-2 victory over Nick Bjugstad and the Florida Panthers. The former Gopher captain now has 12 goals and 26 points this season as the Jets ended Florida's five-game winning streak. Wheeler now has five goals in his last five games. 

Bjugstad added a goal for the Panthers -- his seventh goal of the season and 14th point -- after picking off an errant pass in the Jets' defensive zone. 

Eyes on Sweden: USA Falls in Exhibition Game

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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, Gophers Brady Skjei and Hudson Fasching are competing for a roster spot on next year's U.S. squad. 

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".


ANGELHOLM, Sweden (From USA Hockey) - The U.S. National Junior Team lost to Sweden, 4-2, tonight in pre-tournament action at Lindab Arena. Ryan Hartman (West Dundee, Ill.) and Dan O'Regan (Needham, Mass./Boston University) supplied the U.S. goals.

Team USA is holding training camp for the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Angelholm until Dec. 23. The U.S. has a final pre-tournament game Sunday (Dec. 22) vs. Finland. Tournament play in Malmo, Sweden, begins Dec. 26.

"There was a lot to like in how we played tonight," said Don Lucia, head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team. "I thought we had vast improvement in our game since we last played. I thought we played with very good energy, especially after the first period. We got pucks in deep and a lot of good looks. Unfortunately, it was one of those nights where their goalie made some outstanding saves. Five-on-five, we scored a couple good deflection goals. The minus was that we gave up two power-play goals."

During a power play at 6:54 of the first period, Sweden's Andreas Johnson one-timed a shot from the left slot high into the net for a 1-0 advantage.

Sweden doubled its lead with 21 seconds left in the opening frame when Alexander Wennberg swatted a high rebound into the goal from the edge of the crease.

Neither team scored in the second period, though USA doubled Sweden in shots on goal, 12-6, for a two-period shot advantage of 23-12.

Hartman cut the U.S. deficit in half at 1:43 of the third period. Ian McCoshen (Hudson, Wis./Boston College) stopped a Sweden clearing attempt and wristed a shot that Hartman tipped out of midair in the low slot.

Sebastian Collberg reclaimed Sweden's two-goal lead by speeding through the right circle and firing a hard wrist shot into the near top corner.

While on the power play, Sweden buried a rebound at 17:25 to gain a 4-1 advantage.

Team USA capped the scoring at 19:04 when O'Regan redirected a left point shot by Jaccob Slavin (Erie, Colo./Colorado College). Riley Barber (Pittsburgh, Pa./Miami Univ.) also assisted.

Anthony Stolarz (Edison, N.J.) made 19 saves in the loss. His counterpart, Oscar Dansk, stopped 36 shots.

Team USA is back on the ice Sunday (Dec. 22) when it takes on Finland in the pre-tournament finale in Angelholm, Sweden. Game time is 1:30 p.m. (7:30 a.m. ET).

NHL: Ballard Breaks Drought

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We might be a little partial since he was a Gopher All-American and helped Minnesota win back-to-back national championships, but Keith Ballard is without question one of our favorite NHL players and favorite people in hockey. 

So it was great to see him snap a 12-game point drought last night with an assist in Minnesota's game at Pittsburgh (to be fair, he had three assists in two games before the stretch). Ballard has five assists this season with the Wild after signing with the organization in the off-season. 

*Alex Goligoski had a team-high 25:58 of ice time in Dallas' 4-1 win at Vancouver last night. 

*Nick Bjugstad and the Florida Panthers topped Ottawa 4-2 on Thursday for the team's fifth-straight win.