Wednesday, September 20, 2017

BLOG: All-American Prospects Game Thursday for four Minnesota commits

While I mentioned this last month when the players were announced, it makes sense with the game date quickly approaching tomorrow (September 21, 2017) to bring this up again.

The sixth annual All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo features
four Minnesota verbal commits among the 42 American 2018 NHL Draft-eligible players participating. Forwards Jack Jensen (Eden Prairie, MN), Blake McLaughlin (Grand Rapids MN), Jaxon Nelson (Magnolia, MN/Sioux Falls - USHL) and Colin Schmidt (Maple Griove, MN/Wayzata HS) will get a chance to showcase their skills in front of NHL scouts and try to follow in 2016 AAPG MVP Casey Mittelstadt's footsteps.

The two teams are coached by Hall of Famers Chris Chelios and Brian Leetch. Jensen is with Chelios while the other three are on Team Leetch.

Unfortuantely, the game is not televised by NHL Network like it has in past years and can only be seen on MyHockeyTV.com http://www.allamericanprospectsgame.com/.

Puck drop is at 6 pm CT.

Monday, September 18, 2017

BLOG: Six snubs from today's Big Ten Preseason Watch List

Several thoughts came to mind when seeing today's Preseason Watch List.

First, the future of the Big Ten is bright. There's a lot of good, young new talent in the conference and it shows. 8 of the 17 players named are either freshmen or sophomores while 4 more did not play in the Big Ten last season. Of Minnesota's 4, 3 are underclassmen. So are all 3 of Michigan's representatives.

Second, I want to know which coach(es) left Ohio State's Mason Jobst off their ballot. The junior forward was the leading scorer in Big Ten conference games and one of the returning players along with Sheehy and Frederic, the two unanimous choices. You can even make an argument Jobst deserved to win the B1G Player of the Year Award.

And third? While the media doesn't make its own, I figure there are enough returning players left off the coaches' watch list that could deserve a look to where I can fill an entire team of snubs.

So let's give it a shot. Introducting your 2017-18 Preseason All-Big Ten Watch List Snub Team.

Tyler Sheehy 1 of 2 unanimous picks on Big Ten Preseason Watch List

Gopher junior captain Tyler Sheehy is one of two players chosen by all seven Big Ten coaches on the annual preseason watch list.

The reigning Big Ten Player of the Year was joined by three teammates on the watch list. Minnesota, meanwhile, was picked to five-peat in the conference by winning its seventh consecutive regular season title dating back to 2011-2012.

Joined by Wisconsin sophomore forward Trent Frederic as a unanimous selection, Sheehy's 53 points as a sophomore (20G-33A) were the most by any Minnesota player since Ryan Potulny in 2005-2006.

In addition to Sheehy, freshman forward Casey Mittelstadt, sophomore defenseman Ryan Lindgren and sophomore forward Rem Pitlick were among the 17 players named to the preseason watch list. Mittelstadt, one of three freshmen named, comes in as the 8th overall draft pick in June's NHL Draft. Lindgren was one of the top young defenders in the conference last year before his season was cut short due to injury and Pitlick finished strong, scoring 11 goals over the final two months of the season while playing on a line with Sheehy

Don Lucia's team picked to finish first in the conference in preseason marks the second consecutive year the Gophers were chosen to win and third time in the five seasons Big Ten has sponsored men's hockey.

Newomer Notre Dame was chosen second coming off of a season where the Fighting Irish made the Frozen Four. Wisconsin is third followed by the team who dashed the Badgers' NCAA hopes, Penn State. Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State round out the list.

Preseason Watch List

Quinn Hughes, D, Michigan
Will Lockwood, F, Michigan
Josh Norris, F, Michigan
Ryan Lindgren, D, Minnesota
Casey Mittelstadt, F, Minnesota
Rem Pitlick, F, Minnesota
Tyler Sheehy, F, Minnesota***
Jake Evans, F, Notre Dame
Jordan Gross, D, Notre Dame
Andrew Oglevie, F, Notre Dame
Mason Jobst, F, Ohio State
Matthew Weis, F, Ohio State
Peyton Jones, G, Penn State
Denis Smirnov, F, Penn State
Trent Frederic, F, Wisconsin***
Kyle Hayton, G, Wisconsin
Cameron Hughes, F, Wisconsin
***Unanimous Selection

Coaches Poll

1. Minnesota
2. Notre Dame
3. Wisconsin
4. Penn State
5. Ohio State
6. Michigan
7. Michigan State

Thursday, September 14, 2017

BLOG: Minnesota's January 6th game broadcast on CBS Sports Network

One Gopher game this season will get the "Big Show" CBS Sports Network treatment.

Minnesota's road contest against St. Cloud State on January 6th is among 14 NCHC second-half games being broadcast nationally by CBS Sports Network. Coming the day after the World Juniors - where Huskies head coach Bob Motzko will try to lead Team USA to a second straight gold medal - Gophers-Huskies is both the lone non-conference contest and only regular season game broadcast by CBSSN on a Saturday.

CBS Sports Network is able to show it as part of the NCHC package because, with the game being in St. Cloud, SCSU controls TV rights.  This is usually why non-conference games with teams outside of the Upper Midwest go untelevised. Likewise, Minnesota will be able to decide when the two teams play in Minneapolis the following night.

In recent home-and-home series since the Huskies and Gophers joined separate conference in 2013-14, Fox Sports North broadcast with the home school's announcing team calling.

You can follow Nate on Facebook now

In a long overdue move, I've set up a professional page on Facebook.

You can like and follow at www.facebook.com/NateWellsWritesHockey/.

And if you aren't already following on Twitter, I'm there @gopherstate.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Big Ten coaching carousel has been nuts this offseason

When the Gophers started practicing this week, half of last season's coaching staff was elsewhere.

The shake up is part of a series of moves that see both of last year's hires, Corey Millen and Ben Gordon, move on to other jobs. Millen's stint as an undergraduate assistant ended when he stopped being an undergraduate. Gordon, Director of Operations, went back to the USHL to coach.

And that doesn't include assistant coach Grant Potulny moving up in the coaching world by becoming the third head coach in Northern Michigan history.

Gordon's job remains to be filled, but only head coach Don Lucia, associate coach Mike Guentzel and volunteer goalie coach Justin Johnson are back from 2016-17. Newcomer Scott Bell fills in Potulny's role.

Based on the rest of the conference Minnesota's turnover fits right in the Big Ten.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

WCHA coaches pick Minnesota to win conference; Grace Zumwinkle preseason rookie of the year

The preseason's opening poll gives a few nods to Minnesota.

By a single point, Minnesota was picked by the seven WCHA head coaches to win the conference. The Gophers ended up with 4 first-place votes and 34 points to two-time defending WCHA champion Wisconsin's 3 first-place votes and 33.

Coaches were unable to pick their own team.

Minnesota Duluth, which made the eight team NCAA Tournament last season along with Minnesota and Wisconsin, tied for third with Ohio State. Each had 23 points. Bemidji State, St. Cloud State and Minnesota State round out the preseason raknings.

Monday, September 11, 2017

BLOG: A Look At 2017-18 New Men's Players Numbers & More

Three weeks from Friday the Minnesota men will be kicking off 2017-18 against Minnesota Duluth.

So long summer. Hello hockey.

The previews and features will be ramping up, both here and with other outlets, the closer it gets to the Ice Breaker. To kick things off, however, I wanted to start with something simple before diving into the deep end. Introduce the new Gopher players. Point out their names, their numbers, their size and maybe find out which junior teams were off in their measurements.

I say new players, not freshmen, because goaltender Mat Robson is officially a sophomore (and sitting out half a year). Connor Hurley, who enrolled this fall at Minnesota to begin classes, is a senior. The size and numbers are below for all except Hurley, who is not included due to sitting out the year as a transfer.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Jake Braccini commits to Minnesota

Buffalo, MN native Jake Braccini has become the fourth person in a week to verbally commit to play men's hockey at Minnesota.

The 2001-born forward had one of the top Bantam seasons among Minnesota players in his age group and attended the national Select 16 Camp in Amherst, NY this summer.

Listed at 5'11" 175 lbs, Braccini was the sixth overall pick in May's USHL Phase 1 Draft by the Bloomington Thunder (since re-named the Central Illinois Flying Aces). Adding Braccini means the Gophers have three verbal commits among the top 10 picks.

From Chris Dilks of SB Nation College Hockey:
Jacob Braccini-Buffalo HS-Braccini is a strong, athletic skater, with explosive quickness. If his hockey sense can match his physical abilities, he could be a home run pick.
(Full disclosure: I've also been a writer for SB Nation College Hockey.)

Braccini is expected to spend his sophomore year playing high school hockey for Buffalo. While most 16 year-olds do not play full-time in the USHL, Central Illinois did keep Braccini on its affiliate list for next season. (For that matter, fellow Minnesota commit Jake Boltmann also has his rights held by Central Illinois.) He is among those listed participating in the Minnesota HS Elite League this fall.

Recent Minnesota hockey commits:

-Chaz and Cruz Lucius (men's)
-Aaron Huglen (men's)
-Audrey Wethington - Blake (women's)
-Tella Jungels - Edina (women's)
-Jake Ratzlaff (men's)

Why Mat Robson will be sitting out the first half

New Minnesota sophomore goaltender Mathew Robson officially will sit out half of the season due to his time playing Canadian major juniors. He will have 2.5 years of eligibility.

Eric Vegoe of Gopher Puck Live was first to report. The Gopher Hockey Blog has confirmed.

Robson, who last season helped lead Penticton (BCHL) to the Canadian Junior A championship tournament, is ineligible for 18 games, but when the goaltender will be officially eligible to make his debut is not exactly clear at this time. He will either be eligible to play in the team's final series of the first half (December 8-9 at Ohio State), or the first series after Christmas (December 29-30 vs Army).

Notre Dame junior Connor Hurley transfers to Minnesota

Don Lucia's team will have a high-profile transfer coming in for the fourth consecutive season.

Forward Connor Hurley is enrolled at Minnesota after three years at Notre Dame, multiple sources tell The Gopher Hockey Blog. Additionally, the University of Minnesota officially announced Hurley would join the roster Tuesday (September 5, 2017). He will wear #25.

Unlike recent Wisconsin transfer Kyle Hayton, who can play in goal for the Badgers right away, Hurley is not a grad transfer. He will have to sit out 2017-18 before being eligible in 2018-19. Having Hurley eligible in 2018 helps a team that will lose Leon Bristedt and any early forward departures.

The Edina, MN native was the highest drafted Minnesotan in a 2013 draft that featured Jake Guentzel, Hudson Fasching and Jonny Brodzinski (all of whom have played NHL games). At the time his tremendous vision and playmaking abilities as a two-way player were heralded despite being the youngest player in his draft class.

Hurley, a 2nd round selection by the Buffalo Sabres (38th overall), did not play in the second half of his junior season. During the first half he was fourth among Notre Dame forwards in points per game (0.78 PPG). Hurley finishes with 48 points (14G-34A) in 98 games for the Fighting Irish.

The 6'2", 185 lbs Hurley returning home continues a recent trend. Tyler Nanne will suit up this season after transferring from Ohio State and sitting out 2016-17. Before Nanne, Mike Szmatula transferred from Northeastern in 2015. Nick Seeler (UNO) did the same in 2014.

All except Nanne, who will make his Minnesota debut as a sophomore, came in as upperclassmen.

Updated with Gophers officially announcing and jersey number.

Friday, September 1, 2017

BLOG: What is a verbal commit from a 13/14 year-old worth?

By the time yesterday's two young verbal commits play for the Gophers, if all goes to plan, none of the current players on the roster will be playing at the University of Minnesota.

And that's if all goes to plan. A half decade can be a lifetime when teenagers choose their college choice before choosing a high school. If history tells us anything, it's far easier for players taking the path that Chaz and Cruz Lucius did - committing at 13 and 14 - to go on another rather than stick with their original.

Without delving into the good, bad and ugly of recruiting itself (a subject for another day), or recruiting getting younger, I wanted to look at whether past early commitments by 13 and 14 year-olds panned out for players and teams. What is a verbal commitment worth? Do star players remain stars? How much do plans change?

The answer is complicated.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Chaz and Cruz Lucius verbally commit to Minnesota

Minnesota picked up a pair of verbal commitments Thursday (August 31, 2017) from Blaine, MN brothers Chaz and Cruz Lucius, The Gopher Hockey Blog can confirm.


***
(Side note: I'm taking delight in the fact Scott Bell seems to be the first member of the Gopher hockey coaching staff to enjoy utilizing Twitter.)

A month after Jake Ratzlaff became the first 2002-born player to verbally commit to the Gophers, Don Lucia and company are moving past that barrier. Chaz is born in 2003. Cruz is even younger, born in 2004, while playing up on the 2003 Minnesota Blades. At 13, Cruz is the third-ever to commit to a men's D1 hockey program at that age.

By committing now, the two, both forwards who have been dominant at younger levels, become two of the youngest in Minnesota history. The Gophers had two players commit before turning 15 prior to the Lucius brothers.

Currently there is only one person throughout college hockey even born in 2003 with a men's hockey verbal commitment. Red Savage did so earlier this month after he joined his two older brothers in choosing Miami.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

BLOG: Commits Jake Boltmann and Mike Koster win gold at U-17 5 Nations

I quickly mentioned this tidbit in yesterday's "Welcome Back" article among several other news and notes that occurred during my month away from the blog. At the same time, it is a big enough deal to get a separate post rather than be buried near the bottom of an unrelated article. 

Last week, Minnesota commits Jake Boltmann (Edina, MN) and Mike Koster (Chaska, MN) went to Ostrava, Czech Republic for the summer's U-17 Five Nations Tournament and came back with a gold medal.

The international tournament, made up of players born in 2001, was between the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia and Czech Republic. The Americans went 4-0 in the tournament, defeating the host country 5-3 in the final game Sunday en route to taking gold for the sixth time in seven years. 

Boltmann and Koster, both defensemen, helped bolster a blue line that gave up a total of five goals in four games.

Four Gopher Commits Named To Next Month's All-American Prospects Game

For a third consecutive year, the All-American Prospects Game features at least four players committed to the University of Minnesota.

Jack Jensen (Eden Prairie, MN), Blake McLaughlin (Grand Rapids MN), Jaxon Nelson (Magnolia, MN/Sioux Falls - USHL) and Colin Schmidt (Maple Griove, MN/Wayzata HS) are among the 42 named last week to next month's game in Buffalo. All four are forwards.

Jensen and McLaughlin earlier this month were members of Team USA's Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup team, finishing fifth.

The All-American Prospects Game serves as a showcase for the top Americans eligible to be drafted by NHL teams the following June. It is an opportunity for scouts to watch players normally spread across several leagues all in one place. This year's sixth annual event features players born late in 1999 and 2000.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Aaron Huglen Commits To Minnesota

When it comes to Aarons from Roseau playing men's hockey at the University of Minnesota, Mr. Broten and Mr. Ness appear to have company.

Roseau, MN junior forward Aaron Huglen is the latest player to verbally commit to the Gophers. He announced his decision Tuesday (August 29, 2017).


Roseau, home to Neal, Paul and Aaron Broten, along with being a 2500 person town regularly capable through the decades of contending for a Class AA state title, has not been a Gopher hotbed of late despite history. Huglen would be the first men's player from there, or Northwest Minnesota for that matter, to play for the Gophers since Aaron Ness did in 2008-2011. His uncle, Mark Huglen, played one season at Minnesota (1981-1982) before transferring to North Dakota.

Listed at 5'9", Huglen finished his sophomore season sixth on the Rams in scoring with 24 points (8G-16A) in 25 games.

From Chris Dilks of SB Nation College Hockey in May 2017:
Aaron Huglen-Roseau HS-Huglen is almost impossible to stop when he’s bringing the puck down the wing 1-on-1. He’s got very good speed and elite ability to stickhandle through defensemen while at top speed. He’s still a bit raw, but has good upside if he can add more dimensions to his game.

(Full disclosure: I've been a writer for SB Nation College Hockey).

The 2001-born Huglen was drafted in the 3rd round (43rd overall) of the 2017 USHL Phase 1 Draft by the Fargo Force. He becomes the fifth Gopher commit in his age group among the top 100 picks.

Huglen would be eligible to play for Minnesota in 2019-2020 at the earliest.

Top 10 2016-17 Articles Nate Wrote (or) Welcome Back!

Hello and welcome back!

With the season starting up in a month, The Gopher Hockey Blog is back running full steam. I decided to take off July and August to spend time working on other projects, do some travel and plan next season. It's the first break from writing about hockey I've taken in several years, but I'm glad I did even if it was difficult at times. Honestly, forcing myself to get away felt weird.

Before turning the page to 2017-18, however, and kicking off some new things, I wanted to showcase one last time some of the great features from last year.

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.

2017 NHL Draft: 3 players with Gopher ties chosen during Day 2

Three more players with Gopher ties were selected on Day 2 of the 2017 NHL Draft.

Minnesota incoming freshman forward Scott Reedy, along with verbal commits Clayton Phillips and Sammy Walker, heard their names called Saturday, a day after incoming freshman Casey Mittelstadt became the eighth University of Minnesota player to be chosen in the top-10.

With four picks Minnesota is tied for the most selections among both fellow Big Ten and Minnesota schools. The total doubles 2016's draft picks (Ryan Lindgren and Rem Pitlick).

Friday, June 23, 2017

2017 NHL Draft: Casey Mittelstadt taken 8th overall by Buffalo Sabres

University of Minnesota incoming freshman forward Casey Mittelstadt didn't have to wait long to hear his name called Friday night.

The Buffalo Sabres selected Mittelstadt in the first round with the eighth overall selection.

He's the first Gopher since Christian Isackson in 2010 to be chosen by the Sabres, who feature a new GM in former Michigan forward Jason Botterill and new head coach Phil Housley. Buffalo historically has been not afraid to spend high picks on Minnesota players, drafting Mike Ramsey (1979), Erik Rasmussen (1996), Keith Ballard (2002) and Thomas Vanek (2003) in the first round.

Mittelstadt, the 2017 Minnesota Mr. Hockey and a native of Eden Prairie, MN, was the first American and 2nd player with collegiate ties taken in the 2017 NHL Draft. Defenseman Cale Makar (UMass) went fourth overall to Colorado.

The 6'0", 194 lbs Mittelstadt became the first Minnesota-born player to be drafted in the top-10 since 2006 when Erik Johnson, Kyle Okposo and Peter Mueller were all taken in the first eight picks. He's the eighth Gopher to go in the top-10 of the NHL Draft.

With Mittelstadt's selection, Minnesota snapped a five year drought - the longest in over 20 years - without a first round pick.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gopher Men's Hockey Changes Radio Stations

Minnesota men's hockey moves down the AM dial next season.

2017-18 Gopher games can primarily be heard locally on KTLK 1130 AM Twin Cities News Talk and 103.5 FM in a multi-year agreement, ending a partnership with AM station 1500 ESPN that stretched back to 2011. Head coach Don Lucia's weekly radio show will also be broadcast on 1130 AM.

The switch comes as part of an Athletic Department-wide move. All University of Minnesota radio broadcast rights are now under one corporate roof, joining Gopher football on local iHeartMedia stations. Games will be available online via the iHeartRadio app.

In addition to men's hockey, Minnesota men's and women's basketball also change stations. Men's basketball games will be split between KTLK and KFAN 100.3, which currently holds the radio rights to the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Wild and University of Minnesota football. Women's basketball games will be broadcast on Alt 93.3 FM.

All three teams previously were broadcast locally on 1500 ESPN. 

2018 WJC: Nate Knoepke, Ryan Lindgren and Casey Mittelstadt participating in US World Junior Summer Showcase

Minnesota incoming freshmen Casey Mittelstadt and Nate Knoepke will try to match sophomore defenseman Ryan Lindgren's accomplishment: Making an American U-20 World Juniors team.

All three will take their first step next month. The Gopher trio join 39 other players named Tuesday to the United States' 2017 World Junior Summer Showcase. Among the under-20 group are 25 forwards, 13 defensemen and 4 goalies.

The event, formerly known as the National Junior Evaluation Camp, takes July 29-August 5th in Plymouth, Michigan and brings in three other top countries in Canada (2017 silver medalist), Finland (2016 gold medalist) and Sweden (fourth place each of the past three tournaments). Each of the countries will scrimmage against one another. Besides getting experience, coaches have an opportunity to decide who to take for December camps and eventually the 2018 WJC.

In the case of Team USA, players initially will be split into two teams before cuts are made in camp.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

BLOG: On Phil Kessel's NHL playoff success

The Puck Dynasty podcast currently is on offseason hiatus so it's hard to have an extra mailbag question. Or any questions, for that matter. However, I've had a few people inquire about the below tweet and decided it'd be a good offseason excuse to dust this blog off and answer a couple questions.
Playing a major role on Pittsburgh's back-to-back championship teams, Phil Kessel became the first Minnesota alum to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup twice as a player.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sydney Baldwin and Cara Piazza named 2017-18 co-captains

Minnesota's leadership group next season will be headed up by seniors Sydney Baldwin and Cara Piazza.

Baldwin and Piazza Monday were named co-captains for 2017-18 by their teammates. They replace 2016-17 captain Lee Stecklein and alternates Dani Cameranesi and Kate Schipper, all of whom graduated.

It's the first time either player has worn a letter with the Gophers.

"I'm confident in their abilities to lead the team both on and off the ice. I'm not surprised that their teammates selected them as captains," head coach Brad Frost said in a statement. "They both are great players and great students, and they are tremendous representatives of our program. We are looking forward to another great year of Gopher women's hockey."

Baldwin, a defender from Minnetonka, MN, plays in all situations, heading up a pairing much of last year with freshman Patti Marshall. The 2014 Minnesota Ms. Hockey finished her junior season with 16 points (2G-14A) in all 39 games and actually enters 2017-18 as the team's returning scorer thanks in part to Kelly Pannek and Sarah Potomak making their respective countries' Olympic rosters. In her Gopher career she has 49 total points

Piazza, a forward from Darien, Illinois, was a consistent presence on Minnesota's second line last season when not battling injuries. Piazza had 14 points (6G-8A) in 33 games. Prior to that she had scored 11 goals as both a freshman and sophomore.

2017-18 marks the third time in four seasons the Gophers go with co-captains. Rachael Bona and Rachel Ramsey shared the captain's "C" in 2014-15. Stecklein and Hannah Brandt did the same the following year as Minnesota repeated as national champions.

Scott Bell hired as men's assistant coach

Minnesota has hired Pittsburgh Penguins scout Scott Bell as its new assistant coach.

Bell replaces Grant Potulny, who left in April to become Northern Michigan's head coach. Monday's announcement ends a search and interview process that attracted several of college hockey's top assistant candidates.

Coming off of Pittsburgh's second consecutive Stanley Cup, Bell spent the past five seasons in the Penguins organization. In that time Pittsburgh drafted Midwest collegians such as Jake Guentzel, Josh Archibald, Teddy Blueger, Frederik Tiffels and Ryan Jones. Prior to that he was head coach at Hamline (St. Paul), helping turn around a downtrodden Pipers program with two MIAC championships in six seasons.

Bell, like Potulny and associate head coach Mike Guentzel, is a Gopher alum. The Inver Grove Heights, MN native played under Doug Woog from 1990-1995. He finished with 81 points in 146 games.

“I’m thrilled to be coming home to the University of Minnesota. This has always been a dream of mine, and people who know me know that I bleed Maroon & Gold,” Bell said in a statement. “I’ve been involved in hockey at pretty much every level, but this place has always had a special place in my heart, and I couldn’t be more excited to once again be a part of Gopher Hockey.”

Bell joins Guentzel and volunteer assistant coach Justin Johnson on head coach Don Lucia's staff.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Minnesota Releases Tentative 2017-18 Schedule & Thoughts

Start mapping out Minnesota's trek to make a seventh consecutive Frozen Four appearance.

Both the Gophers and WCHA released a composite 2017-18 women's hockey schedule on Thursday. The delay was due in part to teams needing to replace four games on the schedule after North Dakota suddenly dropped its women's hockey program in late March.

Each of the remaining seven WCHA teams will play 24 conference games (a home and away series against one another). In addition, Minnesota (26-8-5 in 2016-17) will face four non-conference foes - Hockey East teams Merrimack and Vermont, along with CHA teams Mercyhurst and Lindenwood - playing a total off 33 games.

Brad Frost's team begins the year hosting Merrimack (11-22-3 in 2016-17, 8th out of 9 teams) either September 29th or 30th.


2017-18 Minnesota Schedule (Tentative)

Note: The Gophers will play two games over a three-day weekend. Times and concrete dates will be announced later this summer.

9/24/17 (Sunday) - Korean National Team (Exhibition)
9/29-10/1/17 - Merrimack
10/6-10/8/17 - Ohio State*
10/13-10/15/17 - at Bemidji State*
10/20-10/22/17 - at Minnesota Duluth*
10/27-10/29/17 - Wisconsin*
11/3-11/5/17 - at Minnesota State*
11/10-11/12/17 - at Mercyhurst
11/17-11/19/17 - St. Cloud State*
11/24-11/26/17 - at Lindenwood
12/1-12/3/17 - Bemidji State*
12/8-12/10/17 - Minnesota Duluth*
1/5-1/7/18 - BYE
1/9/2018 (Tuesday) - St. Cloud State
1/12-1/14/18 - Vermont
1/19-1/21/18 - at Ohio State*
1/26-1/28/18 - Minnesota State*
2/2-2/4/18 - at St. Cloud State*
2/9-2/11/18 - BYE
2/16-2/18/18 - at Wisconsin*

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Cullen Munson commits to Minnesota

Janesville Jets (NAHL) forward and Edina, MN native Cullen Munson verbally committed to Minnesota. Munson announced his decision via Twitter and The Gopher Hockey Blog confirmed.


Munson had previously verbally committed to Army in 2014. The 21 year-old used up his junior eligibility this past season, meaning he will be playing for the Gophers in 2017-18.

“It’s a dream come true for a kid from Minnesota,” Munson told the Jets' website. “It’s amazing.”

High school teammates at Edina (MN-HS) with current Gophers Ryan Zuhlsdorf and Tyler Nanne, where they won a Class AA state championship, he spent the past three seasons in Janesville. Munson finished 2016-17 tied for second in points with 55 (20G-35A) in 56 games and third on the Jets in goals. Janesville won the NAHL's Midwest Division regular season title. The team continued its run in the postseason, advancing to the four-team Robertson Cup championship.

Listed at 5'11", 190 lbs, Munson is a speedy, two-way player. He comes to Minnesota next season filling a hole as the team's 15th forward. It allows Sam Huff to not be rushed to college, like Luke Notermann was in 2016-17 coming directly out of high school, and develop with time in juniors.

Huff is just finishing his senior year of high school and could use a year in the USHL with Waterloo, the team which drafted him in the USHL Phase 2 Draft's opening round rather than struggle for playing time.

Another option for that spot would be another onetime Edina forward, and Munson high school teammate, Garrett Wait, who signed a letter of intent to play at Minnesota in November 2015. The expectation is that Wait also spends another year in the USHL with Waterloo, however. Wait can do so since as a 1998-born he has junior eligibility remaining.

With Munson coming in, and if Wait and Huff go to juniors, Minnesota's 2017-18 freshman class consists of four forwards - Munson, Brannon McManus, Casey Mittelstadt and Scott Reedy - to replace five graduating seniors. The Gophers had 16 forwards on the 2016-17 roster.

Catching up with Minnesota & college hockey (May 2017)

Here's what has been going on with Gopher hockey that you may or may not missed this month. Don't worry if you fall into the latter category. It is the offseason, after all.

-As far as the men's team goes, Minnesota still remains without an assistant coach. It's one of two college hockey vacancies although the other (Michigan assistant) appears to be filled yet not announced. Don't expect the Gophers to go too much longer (sometime this week or early next) without Grant Potulny's replacement. With the school year over and interviews had, little is left other than naming a new assistant.

The job is open due to Potulny last month taking over as head coach of Northern Michigan.

-While the men have already announced its 2017-18 schedule, the women's schedule won't be out until June. North Dakota's decision to drop the sport put much of the calendar in flux. Each of the remaining seven WCHA teams had four games to fill.

I'm interested to see Minnesota's final result. Booking non-conference games in the past has been a challenge. Between travel (other than Lindenwood, every non-WCHA school is east of Ohio and a flight), financial (it's cheaper for ECAC and Hockey East teams to play one another) and competition, the Gophers ended up with interesting non-conference schedules. Minnesota hosted "1 for 2" with Penn State and BU where the Gophers played a single game against those two teams at home (St. Cloud State came down to be the fourth team) for a two-game road series.

The team technically played 33 games each of the past two seasons in spite of needing to fill only six non-conference games. One of those was the US Hall of Fame Game where Minnesota faced a fellow WCHA team. Two others that didn't count were against the post-collegiate Minntesota Whitecaps (another team with issues scheduling others).

With an extra four to fill this season, going from 28 to 24 WCHA games, would playing conference opponents in non-conference be the case again? Does it open up new opportunities for Minnesota? What effects does this have for other WCHA teams? Plenty of good questions will be answered.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

BLOG: 4 Minnesota commits at NHL Scouting Combine

Less than a month before the 2017 NHL Draft, four future Minnesota players - forwards Casey Mittelstadt and Scott Reedy along with defensemen Nate Knoepke and Clayton Phillips
- are in Buffalo, NY to take part in this week's Scouting Combine.

All except Phillips signed Letters of Intent to play at Minnesota. He is expected to be on campus in 2018, a year later than the others.

The scouting combine, which began Monday and goes until Saturday (June 3, 2017), can be an opportunity for draft-eligible players to interview with all 31 NHL teams and undergo medical and physical testing.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

BLOG: Chicago wins USHL Clark Cup, Penticton falls in RBC Cup to cap 2016-17 commit season

The last of Minnesota's commits had his season end Tuesday.

(There remain a few in the pros. Phil Kessel and Pittsburgh play Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals tonight. Former Gopher defensemen Michael Brodzinski and Ben Marshall's AHL teams are in their league semis although both players only appeared in a handful of playoff games.)

Brannon McManus became Tuesday the first person committed to Minnesota to hoist the USHL Clark Cup since Nico Sacchetti in 2008 when Chicago defeated Sioux City 2-1 in overtime of winner-take-all Game 5.

A few days earlier Penticton, with Gopher commits Mat Robson (goalie) and Sam Rossini (defense), ended its season two wins short of taking home the RBC Cup, the highest prize in Canadian Junior A. The BCHL league champions lost 3-1 Saturday to eventual RBC Cup winner Cobourg.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sarah Potomak & Amy Potomak among 28 players named to Hockey Canada's Olympic centralization roster

When I asked Sarah Potomak about her younger sister Amy signing her Letter of Intent to play at Minnesota last November, the idea was the two of them would be teammates with the Gophers.

"I'm really excited to finally play with her at the 'U'. We're really close so it's going to be a lot of fun when she comes," she said at the time.

The two will still play together next season, however, it will be with Hockey Canada. Both Potomaks were among the 28 named to their country's Olympic centralization roster announced Thursday (May 11, 2017).

Starting in August the players will be training and preparing in Calgary for the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

BLOG: Brannon McManus, Mat Robson and Sam Rossini advance to junior league championships

Both the upcoming Canadian Junior A and USHL championships will be contested by players heading to the University of Minnesota.

Brannon McManus, Mat Robson and Sam Rossini all advanced over the weekend. Garrett Wait, meanwhile, can join them tonight (May 9, 2017) when Waterloo (USHL) faces Sioux City in a winner-take-all Game 5.

Whichever team wins advances to the Clark Cup Final to face McManus' Chicago Steel team in a best-of-five series. (5/9 9:40 pm CT Update: Sioux City took Game 5 and the series with a 8-3 victory.)

Chicago earlier defeated Dubuque 3 games to 1 to take the USHL Eastern Conference title. The 5'9", 181 lbs forward continued his scoring streak after notching the game-tying and game-winning goals in Game 1. McManus, who split the season between Omaha and Chicago, finished the four game series with four goals and an assist.

Here is McManus (#15) scoring in Chicago's 7-3 Game 4 win (starts at 1:19 mark).


Robson and Rossini, teammates with Penticton, already won the BCHL championship. They will get a chance to compete for the Canadian Junior A championship after advancing to the RBC Cup with a 3-2 win over Chilliwack to grab the second spot.

The Vees were one of two teams to come out of the Western Canada Cup, made up of the four western Canadian league champions (and BCHL runner-up Chilliwack since Penticton doubled as host).

Robson, who signed a letter of intent to play at Minnesota last month, has shined in net in single-elimination situations this postseason. Penticton had five Game 7s or must-win games, including needing to win twice in the Western Canada Cup. In those the Toronto native stopped 107 of 112 shots, finishing with a .955 save percentage, 0.97 GAA and a pair of shutouts in five victories.

Rossini, a defenseman from Inver Grove Heights, is getting his legs back following a season debut in Game 7 of the BCHL Final (also against Chilliwack - somehow those two teams played each other 11 times in a season).
The RBC Cup begins this weekend in Cobourg, Ontario. Teams will play a round-robin tournament with the top four teams advancing to the semifinals.

Any champion this season would join fellow Minnesota commit Blake McLaughlin in claiming a title. McLaughlin helped lead Grand Rapids to the Minnesota Class AA boys hockey title. He also skated for the Steel following Grand Rapids' season, but did not play in the series against Dubuque.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Kelly Pannek, 6 Minnesota alums make US National Team for 2018 Olympics

Senior to-be Kelly Pannek for now will be putting off her final year at Minnesota to pursue an Olympic gold medal.

The United States announced its national team roster Friday (May 5, 2017) following a week-long tryout camp with 42 players.

Seven of the eight players with Minnesota ties at the camp were among those named to the 23 woman roster.

That includes Pannek, the nation's 2016-17 leader in points, who was one of three players with college eligibility remaining on the team along with Wisconsin forward Annie Pankowski and Minnesota Duluth goaltender Maddie Rooney.

They will live and train together in Tampa, Florida for the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea beginning in September. The USWNT will also participate in pre-tournament competitions. Relocating to Florida is a change from past Olympic cycles where the US team spent time in Blaine, MN.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Minnesota's 2017-2018 Schedule & Thoughts

Via @GopherHockey

Consider it schedule day. Minnesota, the Big Ten and WCHA all announced its 2017-2018 schedules.

In it the Gophers face three Frozen Four finalists, six Big Ten opponents, a service academy, and a temporary break of a 25 year-plus tradition.

The first half of this morning's article remains relevant. Go ahead and ignore the second half.

2017-18 Minnesota Schedule

All games Friday/Saturday unless otherwise noted

10/1/17 (Sunday) - vs. University of Alberta (Mariucci Arena) - EXHIBITION
10/6/17 - University of Minnesota Duluth (Amsoil Arena) - Ice Breaker Tournament
10/7/17 - Michigan Tech/Union (Amsoil Arena) - Ice Breaker Tournament
10/13/17 - vs. Penn State (Mariucci Arena)*
10/14/17 - vs. Penn State (Mariucci Arena)*
10/20/17 - at North Dakota (Ralph Engelstad Arena)
10/21/17 - at North Dakota (Ralph Engelstad Arena)
10/27/2017 - vs. Clarkson (Mariucci Arena)
10/28/2017 - vs. Clarkson (Mariucci Arena)
11/3/2017 - vs. Michigan State (Mariucci Arena)*
11/4/2017 - vs. Michigan State (Mariucci Arena)*
11/10/2017 - at Michigan (Yost Arena)*
11/11/2017 - at Michigan (Yost Arena)*
11/17/2017 - vs. Harvard (Mariucci Arena)
11/18/2017 - vs. Harvard (Mariucci Arena)
11/24/2017 - at Notre Dame (Compton Family Ice Arena)*
11/25/2017 - at Notre Dame (Compton Family Ice Arena)*
12/1/2017 - vs. Wisconsin (Mariucci Arena)*
12/2/2017 - vs. Wisconsin (Mariucci Arena)*
12/8/2017 - at Ohio State (Schottenstein Center)*
12/9/2017 - at Ohio State (Schottenstein Center)*
12/29/2017 - vs. Army (Mariucci Arena)
12/30/2017 - vs. Army (Mariucci Arena)
1/6/2018 - at St. Cloud State (Herb Brooks National Hockey Center)
1/7/2018 (Sunday) - vs. St. Cloud State (Mariucci Arena)
1/12/2018 - vs. Michigan (Mariucci Arena)*
1/13/2018 - vs. Michigan (Mariucci Arena)*
1/18/2018 (Thursday) - at Michigan State (Munn Ice Arena)*
1/20/2018 - vs Michigan State in NYC (Madison Square Garden)*
1/26/2018 - vs. Notre Dame (Mariucci Arena)*
1/27/2018 - vs. Notre Dame (Mariucci Arena)*
2/2/2018 - BYE
2/3/2018 - BYE
2/9/2018 - at Wisconsin (Kohl Center)*
2/10/2018 - at Wisconsin (Kohl Center)*
2/16/2018 - vs. Ohio State (Mariucci Arena)*
2/17/2018 - vs. Ohio State (Mariucci Arena)*
2/23/2018 - at Penn State (Pegula Arena)*
2/24/2018 - at Penn State (Pegula Arena)*

3/2-3/4/2018 - Big Ten Quarterfinals (Best of 3)+
3/10/2018 - Big Ten Semifinal (Single Game)+
3/17/2018 - Big Ten Championship+

3/23-3/25/2018 - NCAA Tournament Regionals (Sioux Falls, SD; Allentown, PA; Bridgeport, CT; Worcester, MA)
4/5/2018 - Frozen Four Semifinals (Xcel Energy Center)
4/7/2018 - Frozen Four Championship (Xcel Energy Center)

*Big Ten Conference Game
+At higher seed on campus

What's Next? An Early Look At The 2017-18 Schedule (Part 2)

Photo: Nathan Wells

Back in March, when I wrote Part 1 less than 24 hours after the season ended, Part 2 was going to be on the incoming freshmen. That's not the case. Since much of April has been spent chronicling many of their playoff runs, I'm going to switch gears in May and give the schedule some attention before it comes and goes (and comes back again when TV gets announced).

Don't worry about the incoming freshmen. I'll get to them. It's a long offseason.

When it inevitably ends, however, Minnesota will be playing 36 games through a condensed schedule thanks to a new team and format.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Seven Minnesota commits selected in USHL Drafts

Seven Minnesota commits were selected over two USHL Drafts Monday and Tuesday. Three went in the first round with one, Chaska D Michael Koster, selected with the second overall pick.

If you need a simple refresher as to what is Phase 1, or why there are two phases, yesterday's post dives into the tangled web of Tier 1 hockey drafts.

USHL Phase 1
-Michael Koster, D - Tri-City (Round 1, 2nd Overall)
-Kaden Bohlsen, F - Des Moines (Round 1, 10th Overall)
-Jake Boltmann, D - Bloomington (Round 2, 22nd Overall)
-Nik Norman, F - Tri-City (Round 6, 94th Overall)

All four 2001-born players currently committed to the Gophers were chosen in the first 100 picks. Additionally, Rem Pitlick's brother Rhett went 102nd to Bloomington.

Monday, May 1, 2017

BLOG: What to look for in this week's USHL Draft

The USHL Draft takes place over the next two days. With the draft, hundreds of players, several committed to Minnesota, and several future commits will be chosen by junior hockey teams in two phases.

It's also at times a bit of mess to untangle. There are two phases with one being much longer than the other. Draft picks don't necessarily have to play in the USHL. Many won't.

Here's what to look for if you're a Minnesota fan trying to follow along Monday and Tuesday.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

BLOG: Brannon McManus, Justin Holl find postseason success Friday night

Quiet for much of Chicago's USHL Eastern Conference semifinal series against Youngstown, Minnesota commit Brannon McManus (Newport Beach, CA) scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals Friday night in Game 1 of the USHL Eastern Conference finals.

McManus' pair of third period goals came just over six minutes apart. Chicago, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, ended up coming back to defeat #2 seed Dubuque by a 4-3 score.

Game 2 in the best-of-five series is tonight in Chicago.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

2017 NHL Draft: Casey Mittelstadt stays at 5th overall in Bob McKenzie's Top 15

Incoming Minnesota freshman center Casey Mittelstadt remains fifth overall in TSN and NHL Insider Bob McKenzie's 2017 NHL Draft rankings released Thursday.

Mittelstadt, the 2017 Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award recipient, split his draft-eligible season between Eden Prairie and Green Bay (USHL). His year ended earlier this month with the Gamblers not making the USHL postseason and too old for the U-18 WJC.

He is the highest player with ties to college hockey and one of just two in the top 15, which is cut short for the Draft Lottery contested Saturday. Future Massachusetts defender Cale Makar is the other, moving up from 12th in January's rankings to 7th.

Brandon (WHL) forward Nolan Patrick and Swiss center Nico Hischier, who plays with QMJHL Halifax, are a consensus #1 and #2 although potentially not in that order.

McKenzie's ranking system ends up being one of the most accurate because he does not do a mock draft, of which hundreds will be coming out in the time between now and the June 23-24 draft date.

Instead he bases the spots off of discussions with NHL scouts on ten different teams. Doing so helps paint a picture of where players are on various teams' draft boards.

Fellow Minnesota commit Scott Reedy was 50th in McKenzie's January rankings.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tyler Sheehy named 2017-18 Gopher Hockey Captain

(Author's note: Been extremely busy of late so I'm doing some catching up on news that happened last week/early this week. Thanks all for being patient and understanding.)

First team All-American forward Tyler Sheehy can add University of Minnesota team captain to his growing list of honors.

Needing to replace its entire leadership core for the third time in six seasons, Minnesota announced Monday (April 24, 2017) that Sheehy would be the next player to wear a "C" for the Gopher men's hockey team.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

BLOG: Minnesota not hosting 2019-2022 Frozen Fours

Minneapolis and St. Paul's time to host will be next season. After that the road trips begin.

The NCAA announced championship locations Tuesday for 2019-2022 for all sports.

Not surprisingly 2018 men's Frozen Four host Xcel Energy Center was not among the four venues chosen to the host the 2019-2022 editions. Those went to Buffalo (2019) Detroit (2020), Pittsburgh (2021), and Boston (2022).

Monday, April 17, 2017

Grant Potulny to be named Northern Michigan head coach

Minnesota assistant Grant Potulny is heading to the Upper Peninsula become the next head coach of Northern Michigan.

Northern Michigan has scheduled a press conference for 10 am ET/9 am CT Tuesday morning (April 18, 2017) to announce its third head coach in program history. The Wildcats fired Walt Kyle last month after 15 seasons behind the bench.

At just 37 years old Potulny will be the youngest head coach in the WCHA.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

BLOG: Gopher commits in playoffs + U-18 WJC Schedule

Yes, the college hockey season is over. Several Minnesota commits play on, however.
Scott Reedy and Nate Knoepke earlier today kicked off the 2017 U-18 World Junior Championships in Poprad and Spišská Nová Ves, Slovakia with a 7-0 win over Belarus. Knoepke (Farmington, MN) finished Thursday with two assists. His first helped up set Reedy's (Prior Lake, MN) goal (happens at about the :25 mark in the above tweet).

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Radio: WCCO Radio on Sports Saturday with Steve Thomson (April 8, 2017)

Joining live from Chicago before Saturday's national championship game, I helped to preview Minnesota Duluth's chances against Denver.

Direct: http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/audio/steve-thomson-and-eric-nelson/

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/steve-thomson-and-eric-nelson/id403228796?mt=2

My segment begins a little after the 14 minute mark of the 4pm hour on Saturday April 8th.

BLOG: News & Notes You & I May Have Missed

I spent this past week in Chicago covering the Frozen Four for SB Nation. While that didn't stop me from being able to put up a couple stories on players leaving and decommitting, a few pieces of news slipped through the blog.

This post is to quickly catch up on any news you may have missed.

In addition, I will also get to continuing the "What's Next" series later this week.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

2017 NHL Draft: Casey Mittelstadt 3rd in Central Scouting Final Rankings

Casey Mittelstadt keeps moving up Central Scouting's 2017 NHL Draft board.

Mittelstadt is the third-highest North American skater in the final rankings released Tuesday by NHL Central Scouting. He moves up two spots from the mid-term rankings released in January. Mittelstadt earlier began the year with an "A" rating as a player expected to go in the first round.

Sitting behind two CHL forwards (Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier) who are the popular picks to go #1 overall, the Eden Prairie, MN native is both the highest ranked American and player with college ties.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

BLOG: Clay Hanus decommits from Minnesota

Clay Hanus, previously a verbal commit to Minnesota, signed Thursday with the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks beginning next season.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ryan Collins signs with Columbus Blue Jackets

Ryan Collins (6) at the 2017 North Star College Cup (Photo: Daniel Mick)

Minnesota defenseman Ryan Collins has signed a three year, entry-level contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He will forego his senior season with the Gophers and report to Columbus' AHL affiliate in Cleveland to play this weekend.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

BLOG: Gopher commits Nate Knoepke and Scott Reedy to play in 2017 U-18 WJC

A pair of Minnesota commits will represent Team USA in the 2017 IIHF U-18 World Championships later this month.

Defenseman Nate Knoepke (Farmington, MN) and forward Scott Reedy (Prior Lake, MN) were among the 22 players named to the American roster. The tournament, which doubles as showcase for draft eligible players, runs from April 13-23 in Poprad and Spišská Nová Ves, Slovakia.

Knoepke and Reedy have each spent the past two seasons in the United States National Team Development Program, which annually makes up the vast majority of the roster. St. Cloud State freshman Ryan Poehling, a Lakeville native who accelerated his schooling to play college hockey, is the only player not from the USNTDP.

Both Knoepke and Reedy signed Letters of Intent during the early signing period to play at Minnesota next season.

Ryan Lindgren and 2017 incoming Gopher freshman Casey Mittelstadt represented Team USA in the 2016 U-18 World Championships. Lindgren captained the Americans to a third place finish.

Friday, March 31, 2017

BLOG: More on Minnesota's TV ratings

Wednesday I wrote a post over at SB Nation College Hockey about the men's hockey 2017 NCAA Tournament TV ratings for the regional rounds.

Although the post touched upon the weekend-high average of 212K viewers for Minnesota's loss to Notre Dame, several of you had questions about where that compares to other Gopher games. For those that asked, here's your answer.

It's no secret the Gophers draw well. Saturday's game was big for both college hockey and ESPNU.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Puck Dynasty Podcast: The Autopsy of the 2016-17 Gopher Men's Hockey Team (Episode 20)

Puck Dynasty is a weekly in-season podcast covering the University of Minnesota men’s hockey team and college hockey. Nathan Wells (SB Nation College Hockey/various outlets), Declan Goff (1500 ESPN/GoMN Sports) and Drew Cove (Minnesota Daily) discuss the latest news, analysis and give their opinions about the Gophers and sport as a whole.

This week Declan, Drew and Nate open the show dissecting the Gophers’ loss to Notre Dame at the opening round of the NCAA Tournament; the first wave of players signing NHL contracts; the impact of next year’s incoming freshman class, plus a ton of Twitter questions!

The guys close the show previewing the Frozen Four and their most-improved Gopher players. Thank you to everyone who listen/subscribed to the Puck Dynasty podcast this season.

Those trying to explain Megabus to Lou Nanne can directly download at 1500 ESPN, Podcast One or subscribe on iTunes.


Follow Nate (@gopherstate), Declan (@dexstweets) and Drew (@drewcove48) on Twitter. If you like what you hear, be sure to give it a five star review on whatever platform you consume podcasts.

Justin Kloos signs with Minnesota Wild

Minnesota forward Justin Kloos in Nov 2016

The Minnesota Wild announced Wednesday that the team signed University of Minnesota senior forward Justin Kloos to a two year, entry-level contract that begins in 2017-18. He will spend the rest of the season with the Iowa Wild (AHL) on an amateur tryout agreement.

Kloos, who went undrafted, had his choice of teams and went the Wild, with whom he attended prospect development camp this past summer. He ended 2016-17 with a career-high 18 goals and 43 points in 38 games.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Jake Bischoff signs with New York Islanders

Minnesota D Jake Bischoff
University of Minnesota senior defenseman Jake Bischoff has signed a two year, entry-level contract with the New York Islanders.

The 22 year-old finished his college career with 68 points (17G-51A) in 139 games for the Gophers. He set new highs with 32 points (5G-27A) and 88 blocked shots en route to being named the 2017 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Radio: WCCO Radio on Sports Sunday with Steve Thomson (March 26, 2017)

Topics this week included Minnesota's loss to Notre Dame, whether this season was a disappointment or not, both Penn State and UMD winning the day before, and my article on next season's team on this site.

Direct: http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/audio/steve-thomson-and-eric-nelson/

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/steve-thomson-and-eric-nelson/id403228796?mt=2

My segment begins just before the 30 minute mark of the 4pm hour on Sunday March 26th.

Vinni Lettieri signs ELC with New York Rangers

Photo: Daniel Mick
The New York Rangers announced Monday that the team signed University of Minnesota senior forward Vinni Lettieri to a two year, entry-level contract.

Lettieri's four years at Minnesota came to an Saturday when the Gophers lost to Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament. The 22 year-old went undrafted. He chose to sign with the Rangers over Chicago, according to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who was first to report Lettieri's signing.

“Being a Gopher is something I will be proud of for the rest of my life, and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to play here at the University of Minnesota,” Lettieri said in a statement released by the University. “It’s bittersweet to be moving on from a place you love so much, but this has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, and I’m thrilled to be signing with the Rangers organization.”

Sunday, March 26, 2017

What's Next? A Look At The 2017-18 Minnesota Men's Hockey Roster (Part 1)

The movie never ends. The soap opera is told and unfolds. But the beat goes on, and so do we.

Tickets remain to be punched (or, since it's 2017, they are more likely to be scanned off of a smartphone) for this year's Frozen Four. With Minnesota's season over following yesterday's 3-2 upset loss to Notre Dame, attention turns away from the Northeast Regional and Chicago.

Instead, let's take a look to the 2017-18 season, which begins (and could end) in the Twin Cities. Minnesota sees plenty of turnover. A large senior class departs for the pros and real life. In their place, head coach Don Lucia brings in his best recruiting class on paper since 2010-11.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Minnesota sees two goal lead, season disappear against Notre Dame

Three years ago in the visiting locker room of Wells Fargo Center, Minnesota's freshman class experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows.

Their team had defeated its biggest rival with a final second buzzer-beater win. Then two days later they fell short to Union in the 2014 national championship game.

They - Jake Bischoff, Taylor Cammarata, Justin Kloos, Vinni Lettieri and Connor Reilly (Mitch Rogge joined later) - spent three years trying to get that feeling back.

Several came back this season for an opportunity to change the past. They turned down NHL offers in order to be the one team of 60 who doesn't conclude their year with a loss. In the process they earned a #1 seed and fourth straight regular season title.

Nearly tasting ultimate success as freshmen, that's the closest they'll get.

Manchester, NH marks the end for the second time in three years. They leave SNHU Center short of the Frozen Four with Minnesota's season and, for the seniors, their college careers over, losing 3-2 to Notre Dame at the NCAA Northeast Regional semifinal.

Gopher players share memories from Joe Louis Arena

Jack Ramsey (16) earlier this month (Photo: Daniel Mick)
Before the wrecking ball swings later this year towards the walls of Joe Louis Arena, Jack Ramsey skated once again on the same ice sheet his father once called home.

Years later the Minnesota sophomore forward was much bigger and more aware of his surroundings. It’s bound to happen when your first time, as it was for Ramsey, came as a small child unable to stand on his two feet.

“It was cool,” he said about the experience last weekend. “Just to get out there and walk on the bench before the game, and look at all the banners out there and history, see all the names written on the walls. It was incredible to play on the same ice as all the guys that came before me.

“It made me think a lot. It made me think about my dad too so it was pretty special.”

Friday, March 24, 2017

Gophers stand united with USWNT, turn down chance to play in World Championships

One of the biggest stories in hockey right now is the ongoing stalemate between the United States Women's National Team and USA Hockey.

The USWNT is currently threatening to boycott the upcoming World Championships (being played in Plymouth, MI) over a year-long negotiation over fair wages and support. (For a full timeline, click here.) As a team they have been standing together

Two current Gophers, Lee Stecklein and Kelly Pannek, and several Minnesota alums (Megan Bozek, Hannah Brandt, Amanda Kessel, and Gigi Marvin) are members of the US senior team.
While the two have had been negotiating, USA Hockey took the step of contacting replacement players before the championships begin March 31st. Several collegians, including at least Minnesota players, have said no to the opportunity to represent their country.

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I'll update this if any more (i.e. Dani Cameranesi) post the same message.

UPDATE: Cameranesi did.
UPDATE #2 (March 25th): Gopher freshman defender Patti Marshall turned down USA Hockey as well.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Puck Dynasty Podcast: Can the Gophers make the Frozen Four? (Episode 19)

Puck Dynasty is a weekly podcast covering the University of Minnesota men’s hockey team and college hockey. Nathan Wells (SB Nation College Hockey/various outlets), Declan Goff (1500 ESPN/GoMN Sports) and Drew Cove (Minnesota Daily) discuss the latest news, analysis and give their opinions about the Gophers and sport as a whole.

This week NCAA Tournament takes up much of the show. Whether it's the Gophers earning a #1 seed in the Northeast Regional, opponent Notre Dame and the teams that make up the regional, and the rest of the tournament bracket. Last weekend's Big Ten tournament also gets discussed and Nate shares some in-person tales from the final trip to the Joe. 

In the second half of the show Nate, Declan and Drew take a barrage of Twitter questions on what the Gophers need to do to make the Frozen Four.

Those celebrating a decade in Detroit can directly download at 1500 ESPNPodcast One or subscribe on iTunes.


Follow Nate (@gopherstate), Declan (@dexstweets) and Drew (@drewcove48) on Twitter. If you like what you hear, be sure to give it a five star review on whatever platform you consume podcasts.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

BLOG: Sam Huff commits to Minnesota

Gopher hockey picked up a verbal commitment Tuesday (March 21) from Maple Grove senior forward Sam Huff. The 1998-born Huff announced his decision via Twitter.

Huff, listed at 6'1", 180 lbs, finished the year with 69 points (23G-46A) in 28 games with the Crimson. Prior to that he had 15 points (8G-7A) in the Elite League. Huff will likely be on campus in 2018 or 2019 after some time in juniors to prepare for college.

Monday, March 20, 2017

BLOG: Casey Mittelstadt named USHL Forward of the Week

Returning to the USHL with some unfinished business that will stay that way, it didn't take long for Eden Prairie senior and Minnesota commit Casey Mittelstadt to make an impact in his first weekend back with Green Bay Gamblers.

Mittelstadt was on Monday named the USHL Forward of the Week. The 2016 Minnesota Mr. Hockey scored a pair of goals Friday, finishing with three points. He added three more assists in wins against Cedar Rapids and Madison.


Gophers Hockey Lands In #1 Seed Range For NCAA Tournament (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

The Gophers hockey team sat idle Saturday waiting to find out where they will play and what seed they will receive in the 2017 NCAA tournament.

Late in the night Minnesota regained the fourth and final No. 1 seed it had lost the night before.

Minnesota was already assured of an at-large bid by virtue of its 23-11-3 record and high placement in the Pairwise rankings, which mimic the criteria used by the NCAA selection committee to seed its 16-team field and pick 10 at-large teams.

“Obviously we’re in a much different situation from last year. We’re excited for the selection process [Sunday] and see where we end up,” sophomore forward Jack Ramsey said.

The opportunity opened thanks to Western Michigan losing 3-1 to Denver in the NCHC third-place game. Needing one of Boston College, North Dakota or Penn State to win, the first two results went the other way. The Eagles lost 4-2 to UMass-Lowell and UND lost 4-3 to Minnesota Duluth.

But Penn State, for the second consecutive night, won in double overtime, defeating Wisconsin 2-1 to win its first-ever conference title when Liam Folkes scored on a breakaway. Minnesota, Penn State and Ohio State — as the last at-large team in — will represent the conference in the NCAA tournament.

Moving forward, the Gophers are hoping to learn from the lessons and mistakes it made against Penn State. The Gophers gave up six penalties and 63 shots on goal to the Nittany Lions, totals that disappointed the team.

“I didn’t really like our start. Even though we scored two in the first, I don’t think we managed the puck real well,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said following Friday’s 4-3 defeat. “I thought Penn State played very well. They had a lot on the line [Friday]. They played that way.”

Click here to read the rest!