NHL: Wheeler Nets Two in Loss

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After tallying a pair of goals in the effort, former Gopher Blake Wheeler was named the No. 2 Star last night in Winnipeg's 4-3 shootout loss to Erik Johnson and the Colorado Avalanche. 

Wheeler's first tally of the night didn't take long -- 24 seconds to be exact -- as the Jets went up 1-0 on home ice. 


Wheeler added his ninth goal of the season later in the game during a third period power play. The Jets forward now has 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in 33 games this season. 


Okposo Nets 10th of the Year: 

We certainly appreciate the double shout out during last night's Islanders/Coyotes broadcast, but it was even better to see Kyle Okposo score his 10th goal of the season soon after. 


Through 33 games this season, Okposo has 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) while the forward may challenge for his best season to date (52 points in 80 games during the 2009-10 season). 

Noteworthy: 

*Gopher alums Thomas Vanek and Aaron Ness added assists on John Tavares' second period goal.

*Alex Goligoski had a team-high 26:34 of ice time in Dallas' 3-1 loss at Nashville. 

*Phil Kessel added an assist in Toronto's 6-3 loss to St. Louis. 

*Ben Gordon had 3-2--5 in a 6-4 win for Tulsa (CHL) over Brampton (via Let's Play Hockey). 

*Erik Haula had 2-1--3 in a 4-2 win for Iowa (AHL) over Abbotsford. 





NHL: Big Goals for the Gophers


This slick goal from former Gopher and current Florida Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad was just one of a handful of big goals by Minnesota alums last night in NHL action. 

    

Bjugstad's late third period tally tied the game at 2-2 while the Panthers would go on to beat Detroit 3-2 in a shootout. The former first-round draft pick has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) for Florida this season. 

Much like Bjugstad and the Panthers, Kyle Okposo, Thomas Vanek and Aaron Ness of the New York Islanders (Dinkytown East as we like to call the team) scored late in the third and then topped San Jose 3-2 in a shootout.

Okposo, who has 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists) in 32 games this season, assisted on Vanek's goal at 0:51 of the third period and then tallied the game-tying goal with less than two minutes left with this extra-attacker goal off the draw.  


Both Vanek and Okposo would score in the shootout with Okposo sealing the win for the Islanders. 


While we're at it, here's Vanek's regulation goal from less than a minute into the third period -- the forward now has 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) this season: 

USA: Stauber Named to U.S. Women's Olympic Team Staff

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Robb Stauber
Go Gophers!

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Former Gopher All-American and 1988 Hobey Baker Award winner Robb Stauber has been named to the 2014 U.S. Olympic Women's Team coaching staff , USA Hockey announced tonight. Stauber and the U.S. squad will compete at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, set for Feb. 7-23, 2014. 

Stauber, who will serve as goaltending coach and scout, has been involved with the U.S. Women's National team since 2009, focusing on coaching and development of its goaltenders. The 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia will mark Stauber's first appearance at the Olympics as an assistant coach for the U.S. 

The former netminder has 10 years of professional hockey experience, including four seasons in the National Hockey League with the Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres. The Duluth, Minn., native also spent time in the IHL and AHL. 

At the University of Minnesota, he was the first goaltender to win the Hobey Baker Award (1988). He was also the recipient that year of the WCHA Player of the Year award and was named All-WCHA First Team and All-America First Team. Additionally, Stauber was recognized as WCHA Goaltender of the Year in 1988 and 1989. Stauber also represented the U.S. at the 1987 IIHF World Junior Championship and 1989 IIHF Men's World Championship. 

In addition to his playing career at the University of Minnesota, Stauber served as the goalie coach for the University of Minnesota's men's team from 1998-2008, helping the program win back-to-back national championships in 2002 and 2003.

With tonight's news, Gopher Hockey will now have representatives on both the U.S. Olympic Men's and Women's Teams (Gophers All-American and current Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards will serve as an assistant coach for the men's team with seven former Gophers set to attend training camp). Minnesota will also have representatives on the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team with Don Lucia serving as head coach and Brady Skjei and Hudson Fasching set to attend training camp before competing at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships in Malmo, Sweden Dec. 26, 2013 - Jan. 5, 2014. 

NHL: Schmidt Nets First NHL Goal, Then Another

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In case you missed it, former Gopher All-American Nate Schmidt scored his first NHL goal on Saturday night in a 5-2 win for Washington over Nashville, and then the Capitals defenseman added his second lamp lighter on Sunday as Washington topped the New York Rangers 4-1. 

Here's Schmidt's first NHL goal: 


From the Washington post: 

"The first thing anyone notices about Schmidt is that he's always smiling. There's yet to be a practice, game or any other team activity where he hasn't had a grin on his face and his teammates are glad to see the rookie with a persistently sunny outlook get rewarded."

Schmidt's rise to the NHL is truly an impressive story. An undrafted defenseman, Schmidt tallied just one assist and played in just 13 games as a freshman at Minnesota in 2010-11 before developing into one of the program's leaders in his final two years with the Gophers (Schmidt played in every game of his sophomore and junior seasons). 

In 2011-12, Schmidt earned Second Team All-WCHA with 41 points in 43 games. His 38 assists that year were the most among NCAA defensemen while Schmidt also added three goals as the Gophers returned to the NCAA Frozen Four for the 20th time in program history and the first time since 2005. Perhaps his most memorable college goal helped the Gophers clinch  the 2012 MacNaughton Cup as WCHA regular-season champions in a 2-1 win over Wisconsin in the season finale. 


In his final year with the program -- 2012-13 -- Schmidt earned Second Team All-America honors to join an elite group of Gopher defensemen under head coach Don Lucia and associate head coach Mike Guentzel that includes fellow NHL blue-liners Alex Goligoski, Paul Martin, Jordan Leopold (2002 Hobey Baker Award winner) and Keith Ballard. Schmidt tallied a career-best nine goals as a junior and ended the year with 32 points and 23 assists as the Gophers repeated as conference champions and went on to the program's 34th NCAA tournament. 

Schmidt signed an entry-level deal with Washington soon after last year's NCAA tournament and played the final eight regular-season games with the team's AHL affiliate -- the Hershey Bears -- registering four points (one goal, three assists). Schmidt added two assists in five AHL playoff games as well. 

The 2013-14 season saw Schmidt play in one game with the Bears (he registered a goal in the game) before being called up for his NHL debut with the Capitals. In 26 games this season, Schmidt has six points (two goals, four assists). Here's Schmidt's goal from Sunday: 


Schmidt is one of 15 former Gophers who have played in the NHL this season along with 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), Jordan Schroeder (Vancouver), Thomas Vanek (New York Islanders) and Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg).

Guentzel Fills in for the Don Lucia Radio Show

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Mike GuentzelGo Gophers!


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 as it prepares for 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

Gopher Hockey Press Report: Michigan State

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

*Gophers forward Ambroz breaking out on, off ice (Star Tribune)

*No. 1 Gophers Travel to Michigan State (FOXSportsNorth.com)

*Ambroz finds niche as vocal leader (Minnesota Daily)

*Gophers hockey pair Skjei, Fasching on preliminary U.S. Junior National Team roster (Star Tribune)

*Seth Ambroz leads with his own style (Pioneer Press)

*A Jester, A Scorer (FOXSportsNorth.com)

*Gophers Close First Half at Michigan State (Gophersports.com)

*Gophers Meet the Media: Michigan State (Gophersports.com)

*Big Ten Honors Ambroz as First Star (Gophersports.com)

Reminder: Friday's game is a 6:06 p.m. CT puck drop (FOX Sports North PLUS, BTN2Go.com, 1500 ESPN) while Saturday is set for 3:06 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North, BTN2Go.com, MyTalk 107.1). Here's the FSN PLUS Channel Guide for Friday night.


Gophers Meet the Media: Michigan State

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This weekend Minnesota will play its' first ever Big Ten-road series when it travels to East Lansing, Mich., to take on the Michigan State Spartans. On Wednesday, players and coaches met with the media to discuss the team's final series of 2013 and the events of the previous week.

Michigan State enters this weekend with a record of 5-7-0, but Minnesota players and coaches caution that the Spartans are better than their record indicates. 

"I think they are an improving team," Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. "When the year began a couple of their key guys were out due to surgery, in John Deager and Matt Berry. They are just starting to play again, and I think that is why you saw them win a couple of games this weekend." 

The Spartans swept Princeton by scores of 4-1 and 8-2.

Seth Ambroz was named the Big Ten's First Star of the week after he tallied four goals against Wisconsin, including the game-winning goal late in Saturday's contest. 

"It was probably the biggest goal I have scored so far as a Gopher," Ambroz said. "It was against Wisconsin and the game winner."

Ambroz has become a vocal leader on the team, a role coach Lucia would not have initially pegged him for.

"I don't know if I have every been around a player who has grown so much as a person than Seth has from when I first met him at age 15 to where he is today." 

Seth says he likes to make sure his teammates are having fun on and off the ice. 

"We have a young team with a lot of quiet guys. I like to joke around and get them smiling."

Earlier Wednesday, USA Hockey announced their preliminary roster for the 2014 World Junior Championship. Lucia will be the head coach of this year's American entrant, who will look to repeat as gold medalists.

"We are excited about our group. I thought we had a good summer and improved a lot over the course of the evaluation camp in Lake Placid."

Two of the players that make up Lucia's American forces are Gopher teammates Hudson Fasching and Brady Skjei. Fasching is currently tied for the freshman scoring lead in the Big Ten with 14 points. 

"With the type of first half he has had offensively, he really earned his way on the team," Lucia said. "He put himself in good position this summer and continued to elevate his play during the course of the fall."

Brady Skjei was one of the last cuts off last year's American roster. He is eager to write a different script this year. 

"I definitely have a chip on my shoulder," Skjei said. "Anytime you put on the USA jersey it is pretty special, but you watch the U-20s on TV over Christmas. It is definitely something you look forward to your whole life."

Coach Lucia is familiar with Skjei's game and has a good idea about the role he will play for the USA. "He will have to play in a shutdown-type role with the team and be a good penalty killer."

This week's games at Michigan State will take place Friday night at 6:00 p.m. CT, and Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. CT. Friday's game will be shown live on FSN Plus and Saturday's rematch will be live on Fox Sports North.

Story by University of Minnesota Communications Intern Josh Brennock

 

Eyes on Sweden: Preliminary Roster Announced Wednesday

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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, four current Gophers are competing for a roster spot on next year's U.S. squad. Earlier this year, sophomore defenseman Brady Skjei, freshman forward Hudson Fasching, freshman forward Taylor Cammarata and freshman defenseman Michael Brodzinski participated at the 2013 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid.

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".

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MINNEAPOLIS -- USA Hockey will announce the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team Preliminary Roster on Wednesday morning, the organization announced earlier this week. 

The training camp for the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team is Dec. 15-18 at the University of Minnesota's Mariucci Arena. For camp details, click here, and to request credentials, click here ... Practices at Mariucci Arena will be open to the public ... Training camp continues Dec. 19-23 in Angelholm, Sweden. The final roster will be named Dec. 23.

The 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship is being held in Malmo, Sweden, Dec. 26, 2013 - Jan. 5, 2014. Team USA will compete in a group with Canada, Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia For more information about the tournament, click here.



Don't Miss Tonight's Don Lucia Radio Show

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Go Gophers!Don Lucia


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

This week, the Don Lucia Radio Show looks back at the Gophers' sweep over Wisconsin in the program's first-ever Big Ten Conference series. Minnesota topped the Badgers 4-1 on Friday afternoon for the first-ever Big Ten game before battling to a 4-3 victory on Saturday. Seth Ambroz tallied a pair of goals in both games including both game winners and has now scored six goals in the last four games against Wisconsin. Tonight's show will also look ahead to this weekend's conference series at Michigan State -- the Gophers' final series before breaking for the holidays. Minnesota is 103-43-12 all-time against Michigan State including a two-game sweep over the Spartans to open the 2012-13 campaign. 

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

Haula Makes NHL Debut with Wild

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Former Gopher Erik Haula made his NHL debut last night with the Minnesota Wild and picked up his first NHL point with an assist in the Wild's 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. 

Wearing No. 56 for the Wild, Haula is the 15th former Gopher to play in the NHL this season, joining Keith Ballard (Minnesota), Nick Bjugstad (Florida), Alex Goligoski (Dallas), 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 (New York Islanders) and Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg). Former Gopher defenseman Seth Helgeson was re-called by the New Jersey Devils earlier this week but has not seen action. 

Here's the first NHL point for Haula, who was drafted by Minnesota in the seventh round (182nd overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft:


Three former Gophers played in the Wild/Avalanche game with Keith Ballard (Minnesota) and Erik Johnson (Colorado) joining in on Haula's debut. Johnson assisted on the eventual game winner and finished the contest +2 with two blocks and two hits. Ballard contributed a pair of blocks and a hit in the loss for the Wild. 

A native of Pori, Finland, Haula totaled 124 points (42-82--124) in 114 career games for the Gophers from 2010-13 and was the first Gopher since Ryan Potulny (2003-06) to finish his collegiate career with an average of more than a point a game. The forward ranks 49th all-time at Minnesota in scoring. 

The forward led Minnesota in scoring each of the last two years as 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 Frozen Four in 2011-12.

Haula improved his offensive performance in each of his three seasons with Minnesota, starting with a 24-point freshman campaign in 2010-11. Haula's sophomore season saw the forward lead Minnesota in scoring with 49 points and a career-high 20 goals as the Gophers captured the team's first MacNaughton Cup since 2006-07 and returned to the NCAA Frozen Four for the 20th time in program history and the first time since 2005.  

In his final season with the team, Haula served as an alternate captain and recorded Minnesota's first 50-point season since 2005-06, finishing the season with a career-best 51 points and 35 assists. An All-WCHA Second Team selection in 2012-13, Haula recorded 19 power-play points to spark the nation's best team on the advantage. Minnesota, which added a second-straight MacNaughton Cup in 2012-13, also led the nation in scoring offense during Haula's final two seasons with the program.