Thursday, July 20, 2017

Jake Ratzlaff commits to Minnesota

Minnesota has received its first verbal commitment from a player born in 2002. Rosemount, MN defenseman Jake Ratzlaff announced his decision Thursday (July 20, 2017) that he intends to play hockey for the Gophers.
Ratzlaff, who shoots right, is also the first verbal since Scott Bell was hired as Minnesota's assistant coach in June. He spent this week among the best in his age group participating in USA Hockey's Boys Select 15 Camp.

A physically developed player for his age, he would be eligible to arrive on campus in fall 2020 at the earliest.

Ratzlaff joins others making a verbal commitment prior to suiting up in a high school hockey game. While being a move that becomes more and more frequent as the recruiting game gets younger and younger, the Gophers technically held off compared to recent years. Normally the team's first in an age group ends up coming earlier in the spring than after Model and Select Camps.

Recent first verbal commitments to Minnesota by birth year:
2002: Jake Ratzlaff (7/20/17)
2001: Kaden Bohlsen (4/18/16)
2000: Jaxon Nelson (4/16/15)
1999: Brannon McManus (4/27/14)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Gopher women finalize 2017-18 schedule and roster

After releasing a tentative WCHA and non-conference schedule last month, Minnesota finalized dates for its 2017-18 campaign. The season officially begins September 29th at Ridder Arena against Merrimack.

For the most part the Gophers feature a consistent schedule across the board. All except two early season home series, including a major showdown with 2016 NCAA runner-up Wisconsin, feature games on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. All weekend games are in the afternoon.

For complete times click here.


2017-18 Minnesota Schedule

All games Friday/Saturday unless noted

9/24/17 (Sunday) - Korean National Team (Exhibition)
9/29/17 - Merrimack
10/1/17 (Sunday) - Merrimack
10/6/17 - Ohio State*
10/7/17 - Ohio State*
10/13/17 - at Bemidji State*
10/14/17 - at Bemidji State*
10/20/17 - at Minnesota Duluth*
10/21/17 - at Minnesota Duluth*
10/28/17 - Wisconsin*
10/29/17 (Sunday) - Wisconsin*
11/3/17 - at Minnesota State*
11/4/17 - at Minnesota State*
11/10/17 - at Mercyhurst
11/11/17 - at Mercyhurst
11/17/17 - St. Cloud State*
11/18/17 - St. Cloud State*
11/25/17 - at Lindenwood
11/26/17 (Sunday) - at Lindenwood
12/1/17 - Bemidji State*
12/2/17 - Bemidji State*
12/8/17 - Minnesota Duluth*
12/9/17 - Minnesota Duluth*
1/5-1/7/18 - BYE
1/9/18 (Tuesday) - St. Cloud State
1/12/18 - Vermont
1/13/18 - Vermont
1/19/18 - at Ohio State*
1/20/18 - at Ohio State*
1/26/18 - Minnesota State*
1/27/18 - Minnesota State*
2/2/18 - at St. Cloud State*
2/3/18 - at St. Cloud State*
2/9-2/11/18 - BYE
2/16/18 - at Wisconsin*
2/17/18 - at Wisconsin*

2018 WCHA Tournament
2/23-2/25/18 - WCHA Quarterfinals (best of three)+
3/3/18 - WCHA Final Face-Off Semifinals (Ridder Arena)
3/4/18 - WCHA Final Face-Off Championship Game (Ridder Arena)

2018 NCAA Tournament
3/10-3/11/18 - NCAA Quarterfinals+
3/16/18 - Frozen Four Semifinals (Ridder Arena)
3/18/18 - Frozen Four Championship Game (Ridder Arena)

*WCHA Conference Game
+Home ice at higher seed (In case of WCHA Tournament, #1 seed receives a bye to WCHA Final Face-Off.)

--
Minnesota also finalized its roster, adding five freshmen and a redshirt junior transfer to a team that will be missing Kelly Pannek (USA) and Sarah Potomak (Canada) due to Olympic centralization. (Amy Potomak, who signed a Letter of Intent to play at Minnesota and is the youngest player trying to make Canada's Olympic roster, will push back enrolling a year.) The five Gopher freshmen are forwards Taylor Wente and 2017 Minnesota Ms. Hockey Grace Zumwinkle, defenders Emily Brown and Olivia Knowles, and goaltender Alex Gulstene.

Edina native Jackie Pieper, transferring home from Merrimack, is the other new addition to Minnesota. The 5'7" forward, a high school teammate of Taylor Williamson, was fourth on the Warriors in 2016-17 with six goals in 34 games.

Spending the past two seasons captaining Merrimack, Pieper should be eligible to play immediately. NCAA rules allow women's hockey players to transfer without penalty out of conference (in conference can be different - i.e. those transferring within the WCHA, such as Nicole Schammel two seasons ago, must sit out a year. In cases like North Dakota shutting down its program players are eligible to play immediately regardless of ending up in conference). One side effect of Pieper transferring to play with the Gophers is, with Minnesota opening the year against Merrimack, she won't have to wait long to face her new team.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

BLOG: How to get your offseason hockey fix & watch Gophers all at once

Friday and Saturday marked the midpoint of Minnesota's offseason. Each passing day brings us closer to the start of a new year, so it should be no surprise that mid-July features players ramping up in preparation.

In addition to ongoing NHL development camps, several University of Minnesota players are spending their July and August participating in Da Beauty League. Featuring Twin Cities-based NHLers, minor leaguers and collegians playing 4x4 hockey at Braemar Arena in Edina, the league's second season begins today (July 12, 2017) and runs through August. For three games a night (5:10 pm, 6:35 pm, 8:00 pm) at $10 it's a decent value.

Monday, July 10, 2017

3M buys naming rights to Mariucci Arena

Mariucci Arena's naming rights have been sold, the University of Minnesota announced Monday.

The 3M company is paying Gopher Athletics $11.2 million over 14 years ($800K/year) to be the naming sponsor. Officially the 10,000 seat rink will be as 3M Arena at Mariucci. (Unofficially, by keeping the Mariucci name on the building it will be known as Mariucci Arena.) Based in Maplewood, MN, 3M has been headquartered in the state for over a century.

“Today’s announcement brings together three names instantly recognizable across Minnesota – Mariucci, Gopher Hockey and 3M – and that’s certainly exciting,” said Athletics Director Mark Coyle in a statement released by the University. “This sponsorship will have a broad impact across our athletics department by supporting construction of our new Athletes Village. By partnering with us, 3M is investing in every current and future Gopher student-athlete, the future leaders of our state. 3M will be a big reason why each of those young men and women have a first-class experience at Minnesota that prepares them for the rest of their lives.”

The building has been known as Mariucci Arena since opening in 1993. Prior to that, the ice sheet next door at Williams Arena where the Gophers played prior to moving was renamed in 1985 in honor of John Mariucci.

"Our father and grandfather was a life-long Minnesotan, and would have been thrilled to see 3M showing so much support for the University and for men's hockey,” said John Mariucci Jr., speaking on behalf of the Mariucci family. “To have 3M, one of Minnesota's most respected and well-known brands, be a part of the rich history of Gopher hockey and the Mariucci legacy is exciting. We are happy that 3M and the U felt it was important to continue honoring our father and grandfather's legacy and kept the Mariucci name tied to the arena. It's a privilege for our family to be so closely associated with two of Minnesota's most recognizable and important institutions."

Minnesota is the second Big Ten school (Ohio State) and fourth in Minnesota (all but St. Cloud State) to have naming rights on their men's hockey arena.

Friday, June 30, 2017

BLOG: Jack Jensen and Blake McLaughlin make 2017 Ivan Hlinka US roster

Two Minnesota verbal commits will represent the United States at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.

Forwards Jack Jensen (Eden Prairie) and Blake McLaughlin (Grand Rapids) both made the roster for the August 7-12 tournament in Breclav, Czech Republic, and Bratislava, Slovakia. The American roster consists of the top players born in 2000 not playing for the USNTDP, as that team makes up the majority of the roster in the other major U-18 international tournament (U-18 WJC in April).

Jensen and McLaughlin, along with fellow verbal commit Colin Schmidt (Wayzata), spent the past week in Amherst, NY as part of the USA Hockey Select 17 Player Development Camp. There McLaughlin was one of the top performers, finishing with eight points in five games. All three were named to the camp's all-star game.

Current Gophers Brent Gates Jr. and Tommy Novak previously skated in the Ivan Hlinka tournament, which is a first opportunity for players to be noticed internationally in their draft year.

The full United States roster can be found here.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

BLOG: An Ongoing List of Gophers at NHL Development Camp (Updated)

NHL development camps have begun in full swing this week, with several more on the way throughout July.

These camps, hosted by each of the 31 NHL teams, give young players a summer opportunity to spend a week on and off the ice learning from a professional organization.

For undrafted players, being a development camp invitee gives them a chance to test themselves and make an impression when it comes time to sign free agents. Two of Minnesota's graduating seniors - Justin Kloos and Vinni Lettieri - ended up signing with NHL teams that at one time invited them to a development camp.

"I learned a lot of small details that can help improve my game as far as on the ice," Kloos told me early last season about attending the Minnesota Wild development camp on an invite. "Tipping and cycling and making plays and understanding gaps and stuff like that is always helpful from all the good guys that are former professional players over there. So really taking in every opportunity, realizing that you’re not a perfect player is a good thing when you’re fortunate enough to play at higher levels."

Draft picks meet with the team that holds their rights and come up with a game plan for the next season. (Important for the four players with Minnesota ties who were drafted this past weekend.) It's often the one time the two get to spend a significant time together. NCAA players pay their own way and are in school when NHL prospect tournaments and training camps are underway.

Below is an ongoing list of Gopher players attending NHL development camps. A few already are not attending whether due to summer classes, injury or they've already been to too many. Senior defenseman Steve Johnson is not on the Los Angeles Kings roster, nor is New York Rangers draft pick Tyler Nanne listed. Same goes for Taylor Cammarata with the Islanders.

The list will be updated when more rosters are announced (i.e. Buffalo's development camp won't be until July 7-11).

Minnesota Commits:

Forwards:

-Sam Huff (Minnesota)*

Defense:

-Sammy Walker (Tampa Bay)
-Clayton Phillips (Pittsburgh)

Current Players

Forwards:

-Rem Pitlick (Nashville)
-Tommy Novak (Nashville)
-Darian Romanko (Vegas)*
-Brent Gates Jr. (Anaheim)
-Scott Reedy (San Jose)
-Leon Bristedt (Minnesota)*
-Casey Mittelstadt (Buffalo)
-Jack Ramsey (Chicago)

Defense:

-Ryan Zuhlsdorf (Tampa Bay)
-Jack Glover (Winnipeg)
-Ryan Lindgren (Boston)
-Jack Sadek (Minnesota)

Goaltenders:

-Mathew Robson (Toronto)*

Gopher Alums:

Forwards:

-Vinni Lettieri (New York Rangers)
-Justin Kloos (Minnesota)
-Hudson Fasching (Buffalo)

Defense:

-Ryan Collins (Columbus)
-Jake Bischoff (Vegas)
-Michael Brodzinski (San Jose)

*Invite

Last updated 7/13 with Chicago rosters

Saturday, June 24, 2017

BLOG: 2017 NHL Draft picks at Big Ten and Minnesota schools

2017 marked three straight NHL Drafts where two players with Big Ten ties were chosen in the first round. It's the first, however, with two different teams represented.

Minnesota's Casey Mittelstadt and Michigan's Josh Norris went Friday, leading a total of 17 Big Ten players from six different schools. Minnesota, Penn State and Wisconsin each had four drafted.

Mittelstadt's selection by Buffalo with the eighth overall pick tied Zach Werenski as the highest drafted Big Ten player since the conference began sponsoring men's hockey in 2013. Norris went 19th overall to San Jose, one of four teams to pick two Big Ten players.