Back in late March of 2010, my family moved to a new house over a weekend. So I was offline for about 3 days. I get back to work on the following Monday morning only to find out that LONG TIME Gopher Hockey TV announcer Frank Mazzocco had been canned by FoxSports North. I was literally shocked about the news. I was also really pissed off as well. The voice of Gopher Hockey had been cast to the side without any regard to what the fans thought. What made everything worse was that FSNorth was replacing Frank with Anthony LaPanta. Yikes! I cannot stand LaPanta and a majority of the fans were not big fans of the decision either.
So 2 years have gone by since LaPanta took over for Mazzocco. I must say that I often turned off the TV volume and listened to Wally Shaver call the games on the radio. Since then, Frank has taken over for Glen Sonmor as a color commentator in the radio booth. So Wally & Frank, who used to call games on TV a long time ago are back together on the radio and I love it. But TV still sucked. Well, that was the case until recently.
This year FSNorth decided to change announcers for the Minnesota Wild and have pulled LaPanta from the Gopher broadcasts over to the Wild. Me, along with a ton of Gopher fans, rejoiced! But who were they going to get to replace LaPanta? Well after the fallout with Mazzocco, there was no way they would bring him back. Which is a bummer. So what did FSNorth do? They brought back a TV/Radio guy from the Gopher and North Stars past... Doug McLeod.
Doug has called Gopher hockey games on TV and Radio off and on from the late 70's to the early 90's. He also called quite a few State Hockey Tournament games as well. I have always loved how McLeod calls a game. So I am pretty excited to get reacquainted with his game calls. Here is what he told GopherSports.
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After posting some BigTen financial numbers on USCHO.com this afternoon that added 2010 figures, I decided to see what all of MEN'S college hockey did for 2010. So I decided to get those numbers and see what they looked like. I got the numbers from the Equity in Athletics website by the Department of Education. You can find that site here: http://ope.ed.gov/athletics/
So I have the overall numbers. Then current conference numbers. Then just for fun I rearranged the conference numbers to show what it will look like in 2013 when everything changes.
Some notes on the numbers:
- This is just fun project I wanted to do. I can't officially tell you that the numbers are spot on. So don't complain to me about it. I am just giving you the numbers that I pulled from the website.
- I have no idea how or why many schools break EXACTLY even. Maybe they are just playing with the numbers or something. I really don't know. All I can do is just post the numbers I have.
- Two hockey schools do not provide numbers. Those 2 are Air Force and Army. I am guessing it has something to do with them being Military schools.
- I pulled what they call the 2010 numbers. Those are the most recent numbers available. Now I have no way of know exactly the time period for them. Are they calendar year 2010 numbers? OR are they 2009-10 school year numbers. I just don't know.
Some of my observations:
- There is little doubt that Minnesota is the big dog when it comes to money in college hockey. No one is close to them. MN made more than 3x the profit on the next closest team UND in 2010. They keep there expenses low for such a huge program and then knock it out of the park with revenue. It will be interesting to see how far the gap widens in future years with the new seating costs coming.
- The current WCHA is the KING. Pr...
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…I’ve never seen a Jeff Jackson team in person, but it’s easy to see why this guy has had a lot of success in the past and why he’s having it currently. His team is so well coached defensively – players are in perfect position almost all the time and there seemed to be two guys on every loose puck in their zone. When the Irish went up 3 – 1 late in the second period, it was pretty much lights out with the way the Gophers have been playing.
…As impressed as I was with Jeff Jackson – the rest of the Notre Dame staff can get bent. Just a total bunch of babies that threw a huge tantrum in the press box after Ambroz’s penalty wasn’t called a major and game. Look at the replay, idiots, it wasn’t even a penalty!
…Skill wise – this Gopher team is pretty decent. But for half of the game they couldn’t figure out how to beat Notre Dame through the neutral zone. Their passing was awful and for awhile I was questioning their battle level. They seemed fairly disinterested and the crowd felt it as it was very, very quiet in the building. The players and coaches confirmed that after the game. They focused all week on starting off the first 10 minutes well - but they were totally flat and that is a major issue right now. This is a totally different team than the one that started the year.
…I talked out loud several times before the season started that this Gopher team was good enough for a top 3 finish in the league. But their play since sweeping the team formerly known as Sue has me questioning what is happening with this team. It reminds me of four years ago. The team shot out of the gate with Ryan Stoa back from his ACL injury and Jordan Schroeder going nuts his freshman year. But it ended with no NCAA trip and things haven’t been the same since. I’m worried about next weekend – UND is playing a lot better than when they visited here and we are not.
…This loss puts us at 4 – 4 – 1 in our non-conference schedule. The Gophers were already hurting vs. the CCHA af...
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….I’m fairly certain that Erik Haula’s comment to the Star Tribune on Friday night about ‘Playing down to their level’ was plastered all over Mankato’s locker room tonight. It’s why Zach Lehrke was all over Haula from the drop of the puck (first giving him a big stick check to the shoulder at the faceoff dot just before he took his opening-game penalty). Troy Jutting was very respectful in answering questions after the game, but it seemed at any second he was going to blow up. His face was totally red and the frustration level was way off the charts – even more than when he almost got into an altercation with a ‘U’ police officer a few years back.
….Jutting also mentioned about how his team had five breakaways on the weekend, and this and that about momentum when you score on those and the other team gaining momentum when you don’t. Kent Patterson was huge this weekend – after a bit of an off weekend against the Spartans last week, he was awesome. Had a few great saves both nights and kept Mankato from scoring on any of those breakaways.
….I’m getting a bit worried about how the Gophers have been playing lately, but I’m hoping that it’s just a matter of it being a young team and them needing a bit of a break as they really haven’t had one yet. Get four points against Tech next weekend and then it’s a 2 week break before the Mariucci Classic. Four points next weekend are a must as they were this weekend.
….If the Gophers can sweep Tech, win the Mariucci Classic, then beat Notre Dame, they’ll be in great Pairwise shape again. As it stands now, the Vermont loss hurts badly, but just as bad was the loss and tie against Michigan State. Beating a possible Hockey East opponent in Northeastern then following up against a CCHA team would do wonders for the Gophers later on. Having teams like Duluth and North Dakota keep winning is huge also.
….The refs were bad overall this weekend, but just brutal in the third period tonight. Kyle Rau’s open ice hit was a tex...
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St. Cloud Weekend Thoughts
….Big congrats to Kent Patterson on his 6th shutout of the season tonight. Six shutouts and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet? The only question mark surrounding him right now is why did he not get more playing time before his senior season? I’ll try to squeeze that in to Lucia later on in the season if the opportunity presents itself. It’s a legit question.
….Nick Bjugstad had a great game on Saturday night. Lucia called him out though a little bit afterwards. Said that he was responsible defensively for a couple of St. Cloud’s goals on Friday night and he was happy that “Bjugie” responded because “that’s what elite players do”. Bjugstad HAS to be on a short list for the Hobey Baker, right?
…I thought Justin Holl has slowed down a lot since the start of the season. He had trouble handling the puck and didn’t make many crisp passes out of the Gopher zone tonight.
…Seth Ambroz – demoted to the 4th line tonight. I thought he had a decent game though, and Lucia agreed. He needs to score a goal, and maybe that will get his confidence going. But he did a nice job along the wall tonight and blocked some shots which was great to see. He did get hit low on his knee and played the 3rd period clearly in pain.
Not much else to say about the weekend. The Gophers are clearly a better team than St. Cloud so only getting 2 points is a bit frustrating. But you’re going to lose games here and there, and it was nice to see them rally and almost tie it on Friday. And again, team speed is very evident – even to a team like St. Cloud that isn’t exactly slow. Husky coach Bob Motzko referenced it after the game saying “we had trouble with their speed all weekend”.
On to East Lansing and then home for two series in which we should really take a lot of points. Good luck to everyone driving home in the goat rodeo that is the streets of the Twin Cities metro area…....
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Fun weekend at Mariucci, wasn’t it? A few thoughts:
….Good crowds both nights – I attended as a rube on Friday and for GPL on Saturday. Seemed to be a lot more North Dakota fans at the game tonight; maybe it was because of their lack of chances on Friday vs. Saturday. Who knows, just a thought from being down low in the crowd as opposed to up high in the press box.
….A lot of good things came out of this weekend for sure. I want to make sure to address Kent Patterson first, as I didn’t mention him more than once in the recap. He was awesome in a couple of ways. First, he made a couple of great saves – especially the one on Brock Nelson just after Nick Larson tied it up in the third. Yeah – Ben Blood didn’t make the best move and Kent telegraphed it, but wow he moved quickly and got the pad out to – really – save the game. Plus, he went through large periods where he didn’t have to face much in the way of shots. He’s clearly on top of his game…and the more he plays like this the more I’m convinced he’ll play just about every minute of every game this year.
....Kyle Rau, true freshman. 8 goals, 4 game winners. Can't wait to see him in March.
….Not that I want to address anything North Dakota related….but after thinking about it all weekend and then reflecting a bit on my last point on Patterson – the only word I can think of when it comes to North Dakota right now is…impotent. They are no different than any other team, as they’ll have years where their offense is not as good as other years, etc. But this team is frighteningly awful when they have the puck. They are basically a pure dump and chase team right now. They had a two-on-one in the third period with a chance to go up by two goals and it appeared as though that kind of a chance never happened to them before. Rocco Grimaldi is a college star in the making – at least he appears to have those types of skills – but aside from him and Danny Kristo (who seemed to be more than a bit off this weeken...
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It was nice to get a sweep this weekend, no doubt.
But I don’t know how much you can take from this weekend aside from two wins that they had to have.
This was my first time seeing the team in person as I didn’t attend last night. Two things stick out very clearly though, in comparing this team to last year’s team.
1) This team has a lot of speed. I don’t recall Jake Hansen getting up and down the ice like this before. Condon was flying this weekend, and some freshman like Sam Warning really can move their feet.
2) Aggressiveness in terms of going to the net. I also don’t recall many Gophers in the past 3 – 4 years going to the net like this. As soon as the Gophers had puck possession in the offensive zone, almost the entire game, two Gophers were forcing their way to the slot.
I liked watching Ben Marshall also. He’s kind of their replacement for Aaron Ness. Now, Marshall doesn’t have nearly the quickness that Ness did, but Marshall is totally fearless and did some things that I never watched Ness do, namely follow the puck into the zone and actually cross over into the slot. He scored his first goal tonight, and it was simply hockey sense. Jake Hansen held the puck behind the net; Marshall saw it a mile away. He went to the net, Hansen’s pass got through traffic, and – boom – goal.
Their face-offs improved a bit over the course of the game but this is still an area that they’ll need to improve at big time.
The power play is going to take awhile to rebuild. The forwards and defensemen didn’t seem to be on the same page. Passes were not quick or that crisp. I still think that their penalty kill will be a strength all season long though. Having Serratore and Matson on that top PK unit is a huge plus for the Gophers.
Coach Lucia mentioned something afterwards that they are trying to get the kids to shoot more, especially Haula. Erik also mentioned it and it showed this weekend that he’s got a good wrist shot, especially his fast release. Those F...
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It was nice to be back at Mariucci Arena today.
Covering this team the last few seasons has beaten me down a bit, and by the end of last season I was fairly burned out. But it’s the start of a new season, and I’m going to try and do things a bit differently this year. I’ll write a recap after games like normal, but for the games/events that I attend (Saturday home games and a few short road trips), I’m going to throw up (figuratively) a blog post with some less than PC talk about what’s going on with our favorite college hockey team/program. As always, I appreciate any kind of feedback, either on the blog posting, to the GPL or my Twitter accounts (@gopherpucklive, @jeffoftos). No time to start like the present.
We’ve all got a certain level of confidence in the ability of the Gophers to compete with anyone, anywhere, at any time. But the way this program has regressed over the last few seasons that confidence just isn’t there (for me) anymore, or maybe a better way of saying it is that it’s not where I want it to be.
Not to jump the gun on anything, but today felt a little different.
Without question, this was the happiest, most energetic and quite honestly – nicest, that I’ve ever seen Coach Lucia.
Don Lucia knows what GPL is and he knows who I and Ryan represent. And he hasn’t always been the most receptive to me (not speaking for Ryan). But he was very outgoing and cheerful today, and took the time to speak to me at length about a couple of topics – mostly in regards to scheduling (more on that in a minute).
Is it because his health is finally back to a 100% type level? Is it because new associate-head coach Mike Guentzel is back controlling the defense and penalty kill – allowing him to focus on what he does best (coaching forwards)?
Ultimately – who knows; generally things like Media Day just get the same old questions and the same canned answers that sports fans expect from players and coaches, leaving it up to us to figure out what they are re...
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Last night, Jup, Hammy, and myself record the first-ever GPL Podcast, which you can download here as an MP3. It should also be available via iTunes later this week.
This should be a weekly bit once the season gets up and running, and though of course the focus will be on the Maroon and Gold, we'll touch on other WCHA and NCAA headlines of the week as well, so -- in theory -- it should be a decent listen for all college hockey fans, or at least that's the goal.
On this week's show, which was about an hour long, we recapped the offseason from a Gopher point-of-view, hitting on the changes to the coaching staff, some early departures, and the changes to radio broadcast team and station. Then we talked big-picture and looked at the forthcoming changes in college hockey with the Big Ten and NCHC. We then got back to the Gophers and gave our thoughts on the 2011-12 version of the team that hopes to return to the NCAA Tournament. Finally, we gave our predictions for the WCHA this year, going from first to last in the league and then predicting Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year players.
This is for sure a work in progress since none of us are "radio experts" so to speak, but hopefully we get better as the season moves along....
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As Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald first reported, the Big Ten Hockey Conference won’t be the only new kid on the block during the 2013-14 college hockey season. WCHA members Colorado College, Denver, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota, and Minnesota-Duluth, along with the CCHA’s Miami (Ohio), will all leave their respective conferences to join a new “Super Conference” that will start-up during the fall of 2013, leaving both the WCHA and CCHA shells of their former selves and leaving the remaining programs in peril.
And to think that this was all started by Penn State announcing last September that they would elevate their club program to D-I status.
That of course triggered the formal creation of the long-rumored Big Ten Hockey Conference, which resulted in Minnesota and Wisconsin announcing they were leaving the WCHA after the 2012-13 season, and CCHA’ers Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State doing the same.
It sounds like Notre Dame and/or Western Michigan could also become members of the “Super Conference” later this summer. Details of the conference will be announced next week so we could learn more then.
First of all, how lucky is Minnesota Duluth? A few years ago, there was next to nothing separating them from the likes of St. Cloud and Mankato, but they were good / fortunate enough to win the NCAA title and open their new building all within the last eight months, and now they are riding high alongside the Denvers and North Dakotas of the world. Kudos to the Bulldogs.
Conversely, this really sucks for Bemidji State. They spent a ton of time and money getting into the WCHA as College Hockey America, their previous conference, disbanded, and now they are left as high and dry as anyone here.
So what does this mean for the “reject” teams and college hockey as a whole? I’m sure over the next several weeks you’ll see lots of college hockey wonks making bold statements of gloom and doom, and certainly the writing on the wall isn’t pretty, but it’s...
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It's been over a year since we have used this space, so I thought it was time to get it back up and running again. Ryan Cardinal and Jeff Oftos may write here if they want, but I will leave that up to them. I personally plan to use it just to get some thoughts out there. I am not a writer, so don't expect much from me. I leave the real writing to Ryan & Jeff... On to the main topic today.
Back in April I put a poll up on GPL asking the current season ticket holders if they plan on renewing their season tickets for the 2011-12 season. In past years, this poll would have resulted with an overwhelming "Yes" vote. After 3 dismal seasons, I had a feeling that people may feel different this year. Results: Yes = 39%, No = 39% and Undecided = 22%. So it was apparent right away that some of the season ticket holders are not happy right now.
Well... Those renewals are happening right now. The feeling that I am getting from the message board is mixed just like the poll was. Some are renewing. Some are still on the fence. Some are dropping their tickets.
5 years ago, I don't think this would have been an issue at all. Most would renew without hesitating. Others that were on the waiting list would keep waiting. But in recent years thing have changed quite a bit. Renewal rate is down for Gopher Hockey. Many have dropped their tickets and a ton of people who were on the waiting list have had their number called. The list used to move 5-15 people a year. These days it not unheard of for someone who is hundreds deep on the list to get a call.
So what's going on? Have many fans given up on Gopher Hockey? Have a few bad seasons turned off long time fans? Gopher season tickets are the most expensive in college hockey. Has the cost become too much with how the team has performed recently?
What do you think it going on?
Here is what the GPL users have been saying recently.
"Orion" wrote: It's also just ge...
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I realize that the 2010-11 schedule is listed on the message board, but i thought it would be a good idea to post it on the Blog as well. This way we can update it with any changes that we hear about and people can come to one place to see those changes. This schedule is not "official" from the 'U' yet, so things still may change. I assume that it will be official some time this summer. We'll keep it as updated as we can.
Sun., Oct. 3 UBC (exhibition)
Fri., Oct. 8 Massachusetts
Sat., Oct. 9 Massachusetts
Fri., Oct. 15 Nebraska Omaha
Sat., Oct. 16 Nebraska Omaha
Fri., Oct. 22 St. Cloud State
Sat., Oct. 23 St. Cloud State <---- (possibly moved to Sun., 10/24 due to Football conflict?)
Fri., Oct. 29 at Colorado College
Sat., Oct. 30 at Colorado College
Fri., Nov. 5 Wisconsin
Sat., Nov. 6 Wisconsin
Fri., Nov. 19 at Michigan Tech
Sat., Nov. 20 at Michigan Tech
Fri., Nov. 26 Michigan State
Sun., Nov. 28 Michigan
Fri., Dec. 3 at Minnesota State
Sat., Dec. 4 at Minnesota State
Fri., Dec. 10 Minnesota Duluth
Sat., Dec. 11 Minnesota Duluth
Fri., Dec. 31 Union - Dodge Holiday Classic (Bemidji State, Ferris State, Union)
Sat., Jan. 1 Ferris State - Dodge Holiday Classic
Fri., Jan. 7 U.S. Under-18 Team (exhibition)
Fri., Jan. 14 at North Dakota
Sat., Jan. 15 at North Dakota
Fri., Jan. 28 Alaska Anchorage
Sat., Jan. 29 Alaska Anchorage
Fri., Feb. 4 at Minnesota Duluth
Sat., Feb. 5 at Minnesota Duluth
Fri., Feb. 11 Denver
Sat., Feb. 12 Denver
Fri., Feb. 18 at Wisconsin
Sat., Feb. 19 at Wisconsin
Fri., Feb. 25 Michigan Tech
Sat., Feb. 26 Michigan Tech
Fri., March 4 at Bemidji State
Sat., March 5 at Bemidji State
Mar. 11-13 WCHA First Round
Mar. 17-19 WCHA ...
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The Frozen Four is happening this weekend, and I’m trying not to think about Wisconsin winning a seventh national title--which by the way would tie them with Denver and North Dakota for the second most NCAA hockey titles behind Michigan’s nine. Meanwhile, Minnesota enters another summer stagnated at five titles. If Lucia can pull off another back-to-back run, then the program will be back with the class of the WCHA. Stay positive, right?
We’re nearly a month into the off-season and while Jordan Schroeder discovered his scoring touch again in the AHL, a couple seniors have moved on to pro hockey, we can hopefully assume the flight risks for 2009-10 are settled. UMD radio voice Bruce Ciskie reported that Fairchild is coming back, http://bit.ly/dpkJs5, and looking back to GPL Writer Ryan Cardinal mid-March musings on next year’s roster, http://bit.ly/a4BGuc, we can look at ahead to November when Lucia tries to right the ship. I thought it might be nice to summarize things outside of the 50 page, 215000 viewed committed recruits thread.
It’s looking like there will be at least 17 forwards available for 12 or 13 spots each night in 2010-11 including four seniors and five juniors. More importantly maybe though is that there will be two 23-year-olds, two 22-year-olds, and seven 21-year-olds, and the youngest three players are physically mature (Budish 6-3 220, Bjugstad 6-3 190, and Ambroz 6-3 205). The defensive corps won’t have quite the same maturity, but will feature a 22-year-old, two 21-year-olds, two 20-year-olds, and three 19-year-olds.
Forwards - 17
23-year-olds: Barriball – Sr – 5/27/87, Miller – Jr – 9/11/87
22-year-olds: Cepis – Sr – 12/21/87, Matson – Jr – 9/16/88
21-year-olds: N. Larson – Jr – 1/16/89, White – Sr – 1/28/89,...
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In a way, it's kind of nice to be able to focus on things like the WCHA FInal Five and the NCAA Tournament without having your team, in this case for the the Gophers, in the mix. Don't get me wrong; I realy wish they would have been a part of both this year and every other year. But in trying to put a positive spin on a pretty poor time in the program's recent past, it's fun and somewhat refreshing to not feel the 'fan pressure' and stressing out about how they will do.
The tourney gets underway Friday afternoon and, as always, there is going to be some great hockey over the next few weeks. This upcoming may be the best of the season from a television viewing standpoint since there are games on all the time. Hopefully FSN and some other channels pick up the syndicated games, but with almost every game on ESPNU, there's plenty of hockey to be watched.
I'll make a fool of myself and predict the games:
ALBANY, N.Y. -- EAST REGIONAL
1-Denver vs. 4-RIT, 2 p.m. Friday, ESPNU
As Gopher fans know, teams from Atlantic Hockey (cough ... Holy Cross ... cough) can be tough, and Denver isn't playing great, having lost two in a row at the Final Five, but at the end of the day this would be a big upset should RIT win. Look for Denver to get back on track, at least for a day.
2-Cornell vs. 3-New Hampshire, 5:30 p.m. Friday, ESPNU
One of the more intriguing first round matchups. Cornell is hot; they have one loss in their last nine games, have given up an average of just 1.1 goals per game over that stretch and have shutout their last three opponents thanks to the goaltending of senior Ben Scrivens, a Hobey Baker finalist. The Big Red already won at New Hampshire this year on the big ice, and this rematch will be on an NHL-sized rink, which favors Cornell. UNH won the Hockey East regular season title but lost in the first round of the conference tourney at home to Vermont. The Wildcats will be rested -- three of last ...
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Yesterday, in this blog entry by Roman Augustoviz of the Star Tribune, Minnesota Head Coach Don Lucia was asked to talk about the Minnesota Wild's trading of Nick Leddy and, more specifically, the comments made by the organization following the trade.
Wild Assistant General Manager/Player Personnel Tommy Thompson was quoted in a story by Star Tribune Wild beat writer Michael Russo on Feb. 12, the day Leddy -- this Wild's first round pick in last summer's NHL Entry Draft -- was dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks. Russo initially blogged about the trade on Friday, when it took place, and said that the Wild weren't impressed with Leddy's development so far at Minnesota. Then, in the story in Saturday's paper, the main article ran with supporting quotes from Thompson.
[size=85]Reached Friday while on a scouting trip in Vienna, Austria, Wild chief scout Tommy Thompson said getting Barker meant the team would "have to give up something that hurts."
Leddy -- a former Eden Prairie High School standout in his freshman season with the Gophers -- was the odd man out in this situation.
The Wild was willing to move Leddy partly because it was not pleased with Leddy's current status.
"It's just the general situation there," Thompson said of the struggling Gophers. "They've had a poor year with their team, and the whole team. Every guy on that team just looks, there doesn't look like there's a passion to them.
"It's nothing particular against Nick. He was one of their best guys, maybe their best guy the night I saw him in St. Cloud. But it seems collectively, it was a disappointment to watch them."
The Gophers played in Denver on Friday night, losing...
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Minnesota (13-13-2 overall, 8-10-2 WCHA) at Denver (18-6-4 overall, 12-4-4 WCHA)
The Gophers are the more desperate team, as two losses here would assure a first round WCHA playoff roadtrip for them and make it so the only way they make the NCAA Tournament is to win the WCHA Final Five. They had last week off, while Denver played a pair of non-conference games; will the week off help Minnesota or hurt them? Getting Mike Hoeffel back from mono will certainly be a boost, but Don Lucia said that the junior won't be 100 percent. Junior goalie Alex Kangas is going to have to be stout and hang blow-for-blow with DU's Marc Cheverie.
Win and a Tie for Denver
North Dakota (13-10-5 overall, 8-9-3 WCHA) at St. Cloud State (18-8-4 overall, 13-6-3 WCHA)
The main storyline here is will the Sioux seek retribution for SCSU's Aaron Marvin's hit on UND senior defenseman Chay Genoway back in November when these two teams split at North Dakota. I'm guessing they will, but they won't be stupid about it since these games are crucial for UND's NCAA Tourney hopes. SCSU is looking to maintain a No. 1 seed for the NCAAs and also looking to make a run at their first MacNaughton Cup. UND has had a lot of trouble scoring and again will be without sophomore Brett Hextall, who is still out with a leg injury. Sioux goalie Brad Eidness will need to be sharp against the high-scoring Huskies.
Minnesota State (12-14-2 overall, 6-13-1 WCHA) at Wisconsin (16-7-4 overall, 11-6-3 WCHA)
These two teams split in Mankato way back in October, but at this point it's pretty clear that UW is an elite team and MSU is not. Now, that being said, the Mavs are an older team that plays a physical brand of hockey, and could give the Badgers a tight game on one of the two nights this weekend. UW's goaltending has been a little shaky, but it seems like junior Scott Gudmandson ...
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Once upon a time, the Golden Gopher hockey team left the borders of the State of Hockey to play non-conference hockey games, though it would appear as though those days are, for the most part, in the rear-view mirror.
Yes, the Gophers play on the road at Michigan and Michigan State every other year due to the College Hockey Showcase, but even the future of that is in question after Wisconsin Head Coach Mike Eaves recently spoke of the tournament format changing or even going away.
Outside of those games though, the Gophers rarely head out East for unique / different non-conference games, unlike many other WCHA schools.
This of course hasn’t always been the case. After winning the national championship in 2002, the Gophers played at New Hampshire early in the 2002-03 season. Then to start the following campaign, they – along with Wisconsin and Maine – played at Nebraska-Omaha in the Maverick Stampede Tournament. The following season, they played in the Nye Frontier Classic up in Anchorage to open the season, and also mixed in a trip to Boston to take on BU in early January. Finally, in 2006-07, the team took on Ohio State in Columbus in early October.
But since those games against the Buckeyes, the Gophers’ run of playing good non-conference opponents outside of Mariucci Arena has dried up. There are some things out of the hockey program’s hands when it comes to this. The team plays 28 WCHA games each season, and then can play six non-conference games, though in years that they travel to Anchorage, the NCAA awards them two more non-conference games. I’ve also heard that the athletic department mandates that at least six of the program’s non-conference games be at home due to the big gate the U can pull from home hockey games.
The U also hosts the annual Holiday Classic Tournament, which locks them into two non-conference home games each season.
Finally, some games, li...
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In a curious move, the Gophers have -- according to Chris Heisenberg -- added another forward recruit for next fall in the form of Jared Larson of the Fairbanks Icedogs of the NAHL.
Larson is third on the Icedogs in total points with 41 in 46 games played. The Apple Valley native, who played high school hockey at Eastview, is finishing up his second full season in the NAHL. Last year, with Fairbanks, he had 36 points in 53 games. He's currently 6-3, 180 lbs., and will turn 21-years-old just prior to school starting in the Fall.
The move certainly looks good on paper. Larson has good size, plays center, and should be a solid depth player that will be here four years, which is what many fans have been clamoring for.
However, it would appear as though the Gophers already have a good deal of forwards slated to be on the team when next season rolls around.
Up front, the team will lose three seniors: Mike Carman, Ryan Flynn, and Tony Lucia. Fellow senior Jay Barriball is slated to red shirt this year and return next fall due to a knee injury he suffered earlier this season. So, the forwards coming back next fall look like this:
Senior - Barriball
Senior - Jacob Cepis
Senior - Mike Hoeffel
Senior - Patrick White
Junior - Nick Larson
Junior - Taylor Matson
Junior - Joey Miller
Junior - Nico Sacchetti
Junior - Jordan Schroeder
Junior - Jake Hansen
Sophomore - Josh Birkholz
Sophomore - Zach Budish
That's 12 players right there. Now, of that group, I think it's safe to assume that Schroeder is gone for sure, and it's likely that at least one other will leave as well, just based on the fact that this program has a "mysterious departure" about every six months these days, so they are due for another this summer. Hoeffel could leave based on his merits / play I suppose, though I would assume he'll be back.
Other freshmen slated to come in next fall include Jake Youso, Ryan Walters, Nick Bjugstad, Seth Ambroz, Christian Isackson, Max Gardiner, Erik Haula...
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Minnesota Athletic Director Joel Maturi, the same person that recently extended the contract of University of Minnesota football coach Tim Brewster, recently told Inside College Hockey that Gophers hockey head coach Don Lucia "will be coaching Gopher hockey next year unless he chooses not to."
Maturi also added that “I think we’ve got to just take a deep breath and stay the course. Nobody’s happy that we’re not winning more. I’m concerned and we’re all concerned. But I’m not concerned about the competencies and talents of Don Lucia.”
There are a million things to consider when looking to make a coaching change, and I think most fans will be of the belief that a change should be made if the Gophers miss out on their second consecutive NCAA Tournament birth, which certainly appears like the most likely outcome to this season.
The part of Maturi's quote that intrigued me a bit as the "unless he chooses not to" part. In all walks of sport, we've seen coaches "resign" when it's generally accepted that they were fired. Look no further than former U of M assistant Mike Guentzel's departure. He technically "resigned," but most close to the situation believe Lucia forced Guentzel out for a variety of reasons.
If Lucia wanted to "resign'," he would have plenty of reasons to sight to save some face. He will have two years left on his contract following the current season. When that contract is up, his youngest son -- Mario -- will have graduated high school. Mario is currently played for Wayzata though could move on to the USHL like his older brother, Tony, did at some point, since Mario is likely going to play D-I hockey at a very high level somewhere. What if Mario moves on after the current season ...
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Aside from the on-ice product at Mariucci Arena being sub-par over the past few seasons, another key area for this fan that has dropped in recent years has been the poor (and that’s being kind) quality of replica jerseys available for purchase for Golden Gopher hockey fans.
This photo illustrates the disparity between the on-ice product and what fans have the ability to sport.
Several years ago, Nike made very nice replica jerseys for the Maroon and Gold faithful. The fabric was very high in quality, the ‘M’ on the front (or, later on, the cursive ‘Minnesota’) was accurate and very close to what the on-ice product featured.
However, since then, the replica jerseys have gotten progressively worse. The team switched from Nike to Mission has the jersey supplier heading into the 2002-03 season. Mission, which is now solely focused on roller hockey, made jerseys that were very short in length and the quality of the fabric was way worse than what Nike used, though the upside to those jerseys was that you could get a name put on the back, which wasn’t possible given the way the striping of the replica Nike ones was done. Still though, the ‘M’ on the front was really awkward looking, which is mind-boggling. How hard can it be to make the shape of the ‘M’ on the authentic on-ice jerseys the same as the replica?
Apparently this is a tough thing to do, since Easton, who the Gophers switched over to after a few years with Mission, had the same problem making the ‘M’ look half decent. The fabric was different than what Mission used but was still crap compared to the original Nike ones.
Then, the U went back to Nike, and fans like me were hopeful that the replica jersey selection’s quality would go back to where it was in the early 2000s. Wrong. These Nike ones are arguably worse than anything Mission or Easton did.
One of the bigger, over-arching issues here is the lack o...
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In getting prepared for this weekend' Sioux/Gophers showdown at Mariccui, I -- like most fans -- read the preview articles and blog entries on the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press' websites. Like many of the past write-ups of this nature between the two teams, there were quotes from Gopher players about the rivalry.
"These teams hate each other, a lot," Jacob Cepis said. "It is going to be brutal out there. It is going to be a war. Everybody knows that. That is what I hear from the guys."
"It's really exciting to play [the Sioux]," Mike Hoeffel said, "and we are really going to be pumped up."
"We understand how the game's going to be," Don Lucia said about the North Dakota series. "It's going to be competitive. ... We're the type of team where we're not going to rely on one or two guys.
"It was unbelievable," Nick Leddy said of the season-opening series in Grand Forks vs. the Sioux. "It was crazy. It was a crazy atmosphere. It is super loud even from the get go when they did the [video] before they [announced] the starting lineups.
"They had that big screen showing their guys hitting our guys in the past," Leddy said. "I couldn’t really see, but I knew what was going on. [Fans] were going crazy. They did it to get the crowd into it and they definitely did."
"Hopefully we can match their intensity," Cade Fairchild said.
And before the season, Gophers captains Ryan Flynn and Tony Luica both talked about this Gopher team needing to be tougher to play against, and head coach Don Lucia echoed those thoughts.
So, I ask my favorite team, heading into this weekend: please back up your words.
You always hear the Gophers talk about how they hate the Sioux, etc. But yet when it comes to the games, particularity over the ...
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Per the Goal Gophers blog at StarTribune.com, the Gophers will have a goalie recruit from outside the State of Hockey in for a visit this weekend, according to Don Lucia's comments at yesterday's Blueline Club Luncheon. Much has been made on GPL over the last few years about where the Gophers get their players from, and if the team should do more to land out-of-state recruits as the program has taken a tumble in recent times. But aside from that, I find it interesting that the team is bringing in a goalie recruit at this point in time, since it would seem that the goalie situation for the foreseeable future is clear.
Currently, the Gophers have three goalies on their roster: junior Alex Kangas, sophomore Kent Patterson, and sophomore Jake Kremer. Kremer's standing with the program will almost certainly be in the role of a practice goalie for his final two-plus years on campus, so in terms of playing time, he's really a non-factor.
So, unless Kangas or Patterson leave the program, Minnesota will have both goalies back next fall. Down the road, Minnesota has a commitment from South St. Paul junior netminder Adam Wilcox, who verballed this past fall. He will join the Gophers in either 2011 or 2012, though the preferred arrival date is certainly 2012, as goalies with any less than one year of junior hockey experience – Wilcox will probably leave South St. Paul after this season, and the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL have his rights – are likely going to have a tough time playing in the WCHA.
Kangas is this team’s clear cut No. 1 goalie, but hasn’t put up amazing stats to warrant him leaving after his junior season. Goalies generally take a long time to develop, so it’s not as though he’s going to play a year or two in the minors and step right into the NHL; only the best of the best college goalies leave early, and while Kangas is solid, he’s not elite. So it would appear as though he’s in no rush to turn pro.
Patterson is an interesting case. He stepped in...
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