Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Blog: Eric Schierhorn, Lee Stecklein earn player of the week awards

Minnesota players Eric Schierhorn and Lee Stecklein each were honored for their play last weekend.

Schierhorn was named the Big Ten Third Star of the Week after making 25 saves in a 4-0 shutout win Saturday against Bemidji State. The game began with the sophomore goaltender, who has four shutouts this season and seven overall, stopping three different breakaway attempts in the opening minute.

Wisconsin's Cameron Hughes and Matthew Freytag were the first and second star, respectively.

Stecklein was the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week honoree for her play in Minnesota's sweep of St. Cloud State. The redshirt senior captain tied a NCAA high for points by a defender this weekend with 4 (1G-3A) in 2 games, with 3 (1G-2A) coming in Minnesota's 5-0 win Saturday. The Gophers allowed only a single goal in the pair of victories.

Two other Gophers, Nicole Schammel and Kippin Keller, were among the honorable mentions for WCHA Offensive Player of the Week and WCHA Rookie of the Week.

Minnesota Duluth's Lara Stalder was named the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week for the third consecutive week. Wisconsin's Alexis Mauermann earned the WCHA Rookie of the Week honor.

2017 NHL Draft: Gopher commits Casey Mittelstadt, Scott Reedy in Bob McKenzie's Top 50

Few NHL draft rankings are as accurate as TSN analyst Bob McKenzie's rankings. Mostly, it has to do with the methodology.

See, McKenzie's rankings are not just his. They are based off discussions with a number of NHL scouts and paint a picture of where players are on various teams' draft boards.

In an unpredictable draft year like this one, it's no easy task.

Two Gopher commits - Casey Mittelstadt and Scott Reedy - are among the 80 players in Tuesday's mid-season rankings

Monday, January 30, 2017

Blog: Jake Bischoff, Justin Kloos, Tyler Sheehy among 2017 Hobey Baker nominees

Three University of Minnesota players are among the 66 originally nominated for the 2017 Hobey Baker Award.

Senior defenseman Jake Bischoff, senior forward Justin Kloos and sophomore forward Tyler Sheehy are the Gopher representatives in the fan vote running through March 5th. Each school can nominate up to three representatives.

That's the case for the Gophers. Bischoff, who has a career-high 18 points, leads the Big Ten in blocks with 58. Kloos has 28 points (12G-16A) in 24 games while leading the team as captain. Sheehy leads Minnesota in goals (15) and points (33). His point total also leads the Big Ten and is 12th in the nation.

You can vote here - http://www.hobeybaker.com/vote

Pohl talk: Both Gopher men and women remain in top-10 + Pairwise Implications

Let's start with the fact that polls in college hockey don't decide anything.

This isn't football. To make matters worse, there are rankings (Pairwise) which do decide who makes the NCAA Tournament. As the year winds down and there are fewer games, those make more and more sense.

What polls are good for is discussion and figuring out the perception 50 people who aren't me have of the country.

In that case, both the Gopher men and women remain in the top-10.

Radio: WCCO Radio on Steve Thomson Show (January 29, 2017)

Once again I was on The Good Neighbor, WCCO 830, yesterday with Steve Thomson to discuss Gopher hockey.

I broke down Minnesota's weekend at the North Star College Cup, what lies ahead as the Gophers return to Big Ten play and how a loss Friday to Minnesota Duluth helped fuel Saturday's victory over Bemidji State.

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 at the 31 minute mark during the 4pm hour on Sunday January 29th.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Game Story: Schierhorn stops 3 breakaways in opening minute of win (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

1/29/2017 Game Story

Minnesota 4
Bemidji State 0

ST. PAUL- On the opening shift of Saturday’s North Star College Cup consolation game, Minnesota goaltender Eric Schierhorn gave a preview of things to come.

Schierhorn stopped Bemidji State forward Gerry Fitzgerald on a breakaway. Then he did so again. Then one more for good measure that also drew a Bemidji State penalty.

Three times in the opening minute of Minnesota’s 4-0 victory, the sophomore was forced to shut down chances by the Beavers before his team found its legs at both ends of the ice. Schierhorn stopped all 25 shots he faced for his fourth shutout of the season. The Gophers added three goals in the third period to break through and win at the tournament for the first time since 2014.

“I don’t know if breakaways are really what you want on the first shot on the game,” Schierhorn said. “Both games (this weekend), I had those shots to help get me into a rhythm and the shots kept coming.”

Click here to read the rest!

Game Story: Minnesota Duluth tips St. Cloud State in OT to win title (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

1/29/2017 Game Story

Minnesota Duluth 2
St. Cloud State 1

ST. PAUL- One rebound put back and one celebration later, Minnesota Duluth can head back home as the top college hockey team in Minnesota, despite having needed more than 60 minutes to settle the North Star College Cup championship game.

With the Bulldogs and St. Cloud State playing in front of an announced crowd of 11,098 at the Xcel Energy Center, UMD senior Kyle Osterberg scored six minutes into overtime for a 2-1 victory Saturday.

“It’s always a great feeling,”said Osterberg about winning the annual in-state tournament. “This is my last year playing. Just to win it feels good. Me and the other seniors have been working hard and put a lot of blood, sweat and tears in the program. So to bring something back, even a small cup like this, is pretty special.”

Click here to read the rest!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Pregame Blog: Minnesota-Bemidji State Line Combinations

Once again Minnesota plays at 4 p.m. on the second day of the North Star College Cup.

It's the third straight year the Gophers will contend for the consolation championship at Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota got two goals by Brent Gates Jr., but fell to #1/#2 Minnesota Duluth 3-2 and now face Bemidji State. UMD will play St. Cloud State for the championship at 7.

Weirdly only Minnesota's game is televised on Fox Sports North. The championship will not be, which in a way is fitting for the way the tournament is ending.

If you missed last night's game my recap focusing on the little mistakes and glass half full attitude Minnesota had following the loss can be read here by clicking on the ridiculously long hyperlink.

From watching the early game I thought the WCHA-leading Beavers out-played SCSU for much of the last 40 minutes. Jeff Smith made a couple timely saves and Bemidji State hit a post in the second period that would have changed course.

It's not an easy game in the final North Star College Cup. As Minnesota knows, there's a difference leaving the tournament without a win, having done so each of the past two seasons with second-day letdowns.

Will this year be different?

University of Minnesota Golden Gophers lines

Rem Pitlick (#15) - Justin Kloos (#25) - Tyler Sheehy (#22)
Leon Bristedt (#18)- Vinni Lettieri (#19) - Taylor Cammarata (#13)
Brent Gates Jr. (#10) - Mike Szmatula (#9) - Luke Notermann (#11)
Ryan Norman (#23) - Darian Romanko (#26) - Jack Ramsey (#16)

Jake Bischoff (#28) - Ryan Lindgren (#5)
Steve Johnson (#4) - Jack Sadek (#2)
Ryan Zuhsldorf (#20) - Ryan Collins (#6)

Eric Schierhorn (#37)
Nick Lehr (#34)
Brock Kautz (#1)

Minnesota's only change from Friday's lineup is Luke Notermann returning in place of Connor Reilly.

Bemidji State University lines:

Once again I'm covering for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Pick up a copy and read my coverage to support if you can.

Game Story: Gophers lose to Minnesota Duluth in North Star College Cup (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

1/28/2017 Game Story

Minnesota 2
Minnesota Duluth 3

ST. PAUL- Friday’s game against Minnesota Duluth taught Brent Gates Jr. that the Gophers can play with any team in the nation.

As far as lessons go, there are worse ones for a team to learn in a losing effort. Facing the No. 2-ranked team in the nation in a North Star College Cup semifinal, No. 6 Minnesota found out what it needed to compete against the top tier in college hockey and realized the slim margin between success and failure at that level.

UMD (17-5-4) scored three unanswered goals to defeat the Gophers 3-2 at the Xcel Energy Center and advance to Saturday’s championship game.

“We played well. We did a lot of good things. A couple mishaps, a couple turnovers, a couple penalties and the game went their way, but we went toe-to-toe with them. We played a solid overall game so we’re going to build on it,” said Gates, who scored two power-play goals.

Minnesota (14-8-2) finds itself in the consolation game of the in-state tournament for the third consecutive year. The Gophers will face Bemidji State, which lost to St. Cloud State 2-1 in Friday’s early game.

Click here to read the rest!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Pregame Blog: Xcel Energy Center no "home game" for Gophers + Line Combinations

Xcel Energy Center is 7.5 miles away from Mariucci Arena, but to Don Lucia it could be a world away.

The Gophers coach doesn't consider this weekend's North Star College Cup to be home games.

"Not at all. It's a neutral site venue. We don't play on a small ice sheet like at Xcel Center," Lucia said. "We've been there as often as anyone else the past few years."

Minnesota's record at the home of the Wild, a place where the team won the 2002 NCAA national championship, has been a mixed bag as well, which is not the best news with an opponent in UMD that has defeated Minnesota six straight times.

The Gophers defeated Ohio State at the 2016 Big Ten conference tournament before falling to Michigan. It's the only win in the past six B1G/WCHA games in the building dating back to 2007-2008. The same can be said with the North Star. Minnesota hasn't won since the opening game in 2014 against St. Cloud State, going 1-4-1.

(Minnesota has had more success during NCAA regionals. The past two times the Gophers advanced to the Frozen Four began with a pair of wins in St. Paul.)

Lucia believes any of the four teams can win this weekend in the last tournament being played. It's also the last time the X will host college hockey until the 2018 Frozen Four.

"I was just thinking about that today we're going in there this weekend and I don't know when we'll be back in there," he said. "We had the Final Five to look forward to and North Star Cup at the Xcel Energy Center every year. That's not going to be the case."

With the neutral site nature, the Gophers are technically the road team both games in spite of likely having a crowd advantage due to distance.

University of Minnnesota Golden Gophers Line Combinations

Rem Pitlick (#15) - Justin Kloos (#25) - Tyler Sheehy (#22)
Taylor Cammarata (#13)- Vinni Lettieri (#19) - Leon Bristedt (#18)
Brent Gates Jr. (#10) - Mike Szmatula (#9) - Connor Reilly (#21)
Ryan Norman (#23) - Darian Romanko (#26) - Jack Ramsey (#16)

Jake Bischoff (#28) - Ryan Lindgren (#5)
Steve Johnson (#4) - Jack Sadek (#2)
Ryan Zuhsldorf (#20) - Ryan Collins (#6)

Eric Schierhorn (#37)
Nick Lehr (#34)
Brock Kautz (#1)

The Gophers make one change from last weekend's series at Wisconsin. Connor Reilly moves up to the third line in place of Luke Notermann, who sits after appearing in the past six games. It's a spot the redshirt senior practiced in this week.

University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs Line Combinations

Alex Iafallo (#14) - Dominic Toninato (#19) - Adam Johnson (#7)
Kyle Osterberg (#8) - Jared Thomas (#22) - Joey Anderson (#13)
Riley Tufte (#27) - Avery Peterson (#11) - Karson Kuhlman (#20)
Jade Miller (#26) - Sammy Spurrell (#28) - Billy Exell (#16)

Carson Soucy (#21) - Willie Raskob (#15)
Neal Pionk (#4) - Brendan Kotyk (#10)
Nick Wolff (#5) - Dan Molenaar (#3)

Hunter Miska (#35)
Nick Deery (#37)
Hunter Shepard (#32)

Bulldogs Avery Peterson and Carson Soucy are Wild draft picks (as is Gopher D Jack Sadek for that matter).

As a reminder, I'm covering this weekend's tournament for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. You can follow me on Twitter @gopherstate.

Feature: Gophers hoping to end dry spell vs in-state foes (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Balancing rivalries with tough games, this weekend's North Star College Cup brings both to an intersection. Minnesota is #6 in the nation and leads the Big Ten. Yet to many what matters more is doing well against other in-state schools, where the team has struggled - the Gophers have lost six straight against tonight's semifinal opponent, UMD.

I also hope you got to know who Jake Bischoff is a little more by reading the feature.


(This originally appeared in Friday's St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Marking an intersection between U.S. highways 2 and 169, the Iron Range city of Grand Rapids sits between Minnesota destinations. One highway leads east to Duluth. The other winds south towards St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Jake Bischoff is well aware of how much the Twin Ports and Twin Cities influence his hometown. Grand Rapids is his stomping grounds, the place where he still goes back to hunt when the opportunity allows. (During Minnesota’s off-week in November Bischoff proudly ended up with a little buck.)

The senior defenseman grew up a Gophers fan by default. His father, Grant Bischoff, played for Minnesota from 1987-91. Before continuing the family legacy, he was immersed in the history that comes with Friday’s North Star College Cup opponent, Minnesota Duluth (15-5-4).

“Obviously Grand Rapids is closer to Duluth than it is to the Twin Cities. A lot of people from up there grow up as Duluth fans just because of geographically. There’s also a lot of Gopher fans up there, too,” he said. “It was a blast growing up watching that rivalry with the teams and also the fans, getting in little fights with my buddies over the games. That was a blast.”

In that light, this weekend’s four-team tournament at Xcel Energy Center, which also features Bemidji State (16-9-3) and St. Cloud State (11-12-1), takes on a different meaning for the Big Ten-leading Gophers (14-6-2). Being a top-10 team doesn’t matter. The challenge for Minnesota, coming of consecutive last-place finishes in this event, is to find success against in-state schools.

Click here to read the rest!

North Star College Cup Never Took Off (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

(This originally appeared in Friday's St. Paul Pioneer Press.)

This weekend’s fourth annual North Star College Cup at Xcel Energy Center will be the final one contested between the five Division 1 schools in Minnesota.

After meeting this summer and fall, the schools’ five head coaches elected to discontinue the tournament after the initial four-year rotation, citing attendance issues and a reluctance to give up home games.

“I think the idea was to hopefully get the alumni involved and replicate what the old WCHA playoffs was like, but that never seemed to happen,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said Wednesday. “It just probably wasn’t worth giving up home games for so many people.”

The tournament was created after the splintering of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The Gophers became part of the six-team Big Ten Conference, and St. Cloud State and Minnesota-Duluth became charter members of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. Minnesota State Mankato and Bemidji State remained in the WCHA.

Click to read the rest here!

BLOG: Gopher women could be without 4 of top 9 forwards against St. Cloud State

In Brad Frost's 17 years of coaching, he has never had this many injuries happen to players, let alone key ones.

Minnesota (17-5-3, 13-4-3-2 WCHA) could be without four of its top-9 forwards this weekend when the Gophers travel to St. Cloud State for games Friday (7:00 p.m.) and Saturday (3:00 p.m.).

"By far. Not even close," said Frost about it being unprecedented to his Minnesota teams. "You have one here or there, maybe two. To have four missing a series is pretty tough."

Both senior Kate Schipper and junior Cara Piazza suffered injuries during last weekend's series against Ohio State.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Puck Dynasty Podcast: The Rise and Fall of the North Star College Cup (Episode 11)

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’s episode features three guests for a full four-team preview of this weekend’s North Star College Cup. With Drew in class, Chris Dilks (managing editor of SB Nation College Hockey), Jack Hittinger (Bemidji Pioneer sports editor/USCHO WCHA columnist) and Bruce Ciskie (Minnesota Duluth play-by-play announcer) come on to dish on players to watch and the seasons of St. Cloud State, Bemidji State and Minnesota Duluth, respectively.

In between discussion of what went right and eventually wrong with the North Star College Cup, being held for the final time at Xcel Energy Center before being discontinued.

Listeners looking for more home games 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.

 Show notes:
-Our guests can be found on Twitter: @chrisdilks, @jackhitts, @bruceciskie

-Chris’ column on the North Star College Cup vs. the GLI can be read here

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

BLOG: North Star College Cup comes to an end + 2017 Nonconference Schedule

(Photo Credit: Nate Wells)

Enjoy this weekend's North Star College Cup. It will be the last one for a while.

The demise of the NSCC after the fourth year of the original deal has been rumored for a while and was confirmed earlier today. Paul Bunyan's Pimp Chalice, as I fondly like to call it, will soon be a memory, a nostalgic piece of hardware going the way of the DQ Cup.

Leftovers From The Wisconsin Series

When your team wins in the Border Battle, it's a quality win.

“It’s always exciting to win in overtime. That’s why they call it sudden death,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia on Friday following Justin Kloos' overtime winner. “It was a good win for us.”

"Huge win for our program, our fans," was how Wisconsin redshirt senior Corbin McGuire summed up Saturday's win.

Both Minnesota and Wisconsin played similar games with two different results. The Gophers both nights dominated the first period before the Badgers came back in the second period to tie the game at 2. On Friday, Minnesota re-took the lead. On Saturday, Wisconsin needed 89 seconds to grab it back and take the game in a different direction.

You can read Friday and Saturday's recaps from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, along with an audio accompaniment from Madison.

Here are some other leftover thoughts that didn't make the newspaper.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Radio: WCCO Radio on Steve Thomson Show (January 21, 2017)

Calling live from outside the Kohl Center prior to Saturday's game, I was on The Good Neighbor, WCCO 830, this past Saturday with Steve Thomson.

We discussed Minnesota's overtime win Friday over Wisconsin, how the Badgers have improved, what has gone right for the Gophers during their seven-game winning streak, and how I saw Saturday's rematch playing out (which turned out to be somewhat true).

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 first thing during the 4pm hour on Saturday January 21st.

Puck Dynasty Podcast Episode 10

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 the crew celebrate reaching double digits episodes by traveling to Madison, Wisconsin and covering the Border Battle series at Kohl Center between the Gophers and Badgers. Recorded in Nate’s hotel room after Minnesota’s 5-3 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday, the entire weekend gets discussed. Topics include the Gophers extending its win streak to seven with an overtime victory Friday, fast starts both nights, two similarities and differences between the two games, who from Wisconsin stood out what has changed with the Badgers from the last two seasons, Justin Kloos being loose, how Minnesota’s second line fared without Tommy Novak, Taylor Cammarata, and defensive breakdowns. There is also discussion on the Big Ten and why Ohio State throwing a broom on the ice at Pegula Arena after not sweeping is both the best and worst thing.

In between segments questions on Tyler Nanne and Hockey Day Minnesota memories are answered.

Those saying “yeah” at the start of every answer can directly download at 1500 ESPNPodcast One or subscribe on iTunes.

Game Story: Wisconsin's burst ends Gophers hockey win streak at 7 (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

1/22/2017 Game Story

Minnesota 3
Wisconsin 5

MADISON, Wis. — With Minnesota leading 2-1 midway through the game Saturday at Kohl Center, coach Don Lucia commented to an assistant coach during a lull in the action that he thought the Gophers needed one more goal to stay in good shape.

His fear held weight. Wisconsin’s offense found the spark it needed, erupting for three goals in a span of 5:06 and energizing a nearly sold-out arena. The Badgers went on to beat Minnesota 5-3 to earn a series split and snap the Gophers’ seven-game winning streak.

“Give it to them. We didn’t earn a win tonight,” said Lucia. “We have been playing really well, and defensively it just wasn’t there tonight.”

Wisconsin coach Tony Granato constantly shuffled his lines, unhappy with his team’s lack of rhythm in the first period for a second straight night.

Minnesota (14-6-2, 6-2-0-0 Big Ten) outshot the Badgers 16-9 over a key stretch and came back from an early Will Johnson goal to take the lead on goals by Ryan Norman and Mike Szmatula.

Click here to read the rest!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Pregame Blog: Minnesota at Wisconsin 1/21/17 Line Combinations

One of the biggest plays from Friday's 4-3 overtime win was a goal that didn't count. The Gophers finished off what appeared to be a 2-on-1 play, with Justin Kloos feeding Mike Szmatula for a 3-1 lead with 7:24 remaining in the second period. Instead, Kloos was called for slashing a stick prior to the goal and it was waved off.

Minnesota's captain gave an explanation postgame.

"Came out in the third just after I settled down a little bit and calmed down and could an actual conversation with the ref," he said "They didn't look at replay, but from his angle, would I have wanted that call if my stick was slashed. So I understand where he was coming from, but my whole thing was that there was a closer referee that didn't call it because he saw that I had one hand on my stick and was just battling and didn't step on the guy.

"I understand why he called it and fortunately it didn't end up being a big factor."

Kloos of course ended up getting the last laugh, scoring the overtime-winning goal.

You can catch up with my game story.

Minnesota makes one change Saturday for Hockey Day Minnesota. Ryan Norman takes the spot of Connor Reilly on the fourth line.

University of Minnesota Golden Gophers lines
Rem Pitlick (#15) - Justin Kloos (#25) - Tyler Sheehy (#22)
Taylor Cammarata (#13)- Vinni Lettieri (#19) - Leon Bristedt (#18)
Brent Gates Jr. (#10) - Mike Szmatula (#9) - Luke Notermann (#11)
Ryan Norman (#23) - Darian Romanko (#26) - Jack Ramsey (#16)

Jake Bischoff (#28) - Ryan Lindgren (#5)
Steve Johnson (#4) - Jack Sadek (#2)
Ryan Zuhsldorf (#20) - Ryan Collins (#6)

Eric Schierhorn (#37)
Nick Lehr (#34)
Brock Kautz (#1)

Wisconsin made three changes from Friday. Senior forward Jedd Soleway is in the lineup, as is defenseman Patrick Sexton. The biggest change comes in net where Matt Jurusik gets the nod over Friday's starter, Jack Berry. The two have been platooning when Jurusik is healthy.

Puck drop is at 5 p.m. CT. The game airs on Fox Sports North.

Game Story: Gophers beat Wisconsin in OT, extend win streak to 7 (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

January 20, 2017 game story for the St. Paul Pioneer Press

Minnesota 4
Wisconsin 3

MADISON, Wis. — The final scene of Minnesota’s 4-3 overtime victory over Wisconsin on Friday night saw Justin Kloos flip the puck past Badgers goaltender Jack Berry, try to stop, fail at stopping, and then collide with and knock over teammate Rem Pitlick.

It was the effort needed to put away the Badgers on the road in front of 12,589, in a game in which all four Gophers goals came from chances in front of the Wisconsin net.

Wisconsin twice rebounded to tie the score. Minnesota buckled down late, holding off late Badgers chances before Kloos, the Gophers captain, ended the game with his third career overtime goal 1:43 into the extra period.

“Leave it to our other guys, our captains. (Jake Bischoff) made a big block right at the buzzer. Sometimes those plays don’t even get noticed,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “Obviously Kloos making a play in overtime, a nice pass from Sheehy for the game-winner.”

The victory was Minnesota’s seventh straight, the longest winning streak for the program since a seven-game streak between Dec. 2, 2006, and Jan. 12, 2007.

Click here to read the full story!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Pregame blog: 3 Badgers to Watch + Minnesota at Wisconsin Line Combinations

It only seems like senior forward Grant Besse (#12) has been around at Wisconsin for a decade.

Maybe it's because former head coach Mike Eaves was fond of saying "young Besse" like Grant is an eternal sophomore. Or maybe that's because Besse, the 2013 Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award winner, makes his presence known against Minnesota. Besse has saved his best for when the Badgers face their maroon and gold enemies. In his last nine games against the Gophers he scored a total of nine goals and 12 points.

One of those games Wisconsin was shut out. Otherwise Besse scored in every other game against the Gophers since his freshman year. Nearly a quarter of his collegiate goals have been celebrated in games versus Minnesota.

Feature: Border Battle Meets State of Hockey (Wild.com)

(This originally appeared on Wild.com)

Luke Kunin has experienced the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry firsthand. Games between the two for the Wisconsin sophomore captain are games to look forward to, just as they have been for generations of Golden Gophers and Badgers players before him. They get heated at times.

This weekend, however, adds an additional element to the normally festive games. For the second time in three seasons, the University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin play one another on Hockey Day Minnesota.

For Kunin, the 15th overall selection by the Minnesota Wild at the 2016 NHL Draft, and fellow Wild draft pick, Gophers sophomore defenseman Jack Sadek (2015 seventh-round pick), it will be a new experience.

Two seasons ago -- before both players were in college -- the Gophers defeated Wisconsin 5-2 in Minneapolis. This year, Hockey Day crosses state lines temporarily for a 5 p.m. game at the Kohl Center in Madison.

On Friday, alumni from both programs will skate in a game outdoors at Lowell Park in Stillwater.

Click Here to Read More!

Gophers Hockey: Minnesota returns home with rare losing streak

(This article originally appeared on SB Nation College Hockey)

It took Kate Schipper until her senior season to reach a double digit number of losses in her collegiate career. Not in one year. Total.

So this experience is new for her and everyone on the two-time defending national champions.

Minnesota, four years removed from achieving the pursuit of perfection every team strives to achieve, is in a losing streak every other team faces at one point. The Gophers (16-5-2) have lost four of the last six games - matching last season’s total number of losses - dating back to an 8-2 loss at Wisconsin on December 4th.

That includes being swept in two games last weekend at Minnesota Duluth.

“I don’t think we did a ton of thing wrongs, especially Saturday. Looking back it’s more of execution,” Schipper said. “I think executing at a higher level and everyone doing a little better will help the entire team.”

Despite the losses, the Gophers remain ranked fourth. Trying keep the mood light in practice this week prior to facing Ohio State at Ridder Arena, Schipper and the rest of her Minnesota teammates have been going back to the basics. Working hard. Nothing too serious.

There’s no one reason for the losing streak. Head coach Brad Frost preached about the process, not the results. The Gophers came back to tie UMD twice both games before the Bulldogs pulled away.

Click here to read the rest!

Feature: Gopher Hockey preps for Badgers without Tommy Novak (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

(This article originally appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Connor Reilly has an idea what Gophers hockey teammate Tommy Novak is going through.

Twice Reilly, a redshirt senior and alternate captain, had his season end early because of lower-body injury, just like Novak, who was hurt in Minnesota’s 4-2 victory over Michigan on Saturday and is out for the season.

He pulled Novak aside and talked with him for a little bit.

“There will be some good days. There will be some bad days,” Reilly said he told Novak. “It’s not easy. It’s a difficult process, but I told him to treat it as an opportunity to learn a lot about yourself as a person. Hopefully you grow more as a person because it is an interesting process. You can’t look too far ahead; you can’t look too far behind.”

Just as quickly, attention turned to how seventh-ranked Minnesota (13-5-2, 5-1-0-0 Big Ten), currently on a six-game winning streak, will replace the sophomore center’s playmaking abilities in the lineup beginning with this weekend’s road series against top rival Wisconsin (10-7-1, 3-1-0-0).

Click here to read the rest!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Puck Dynasty Podcast Episode 9

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.

On this week’s episode 9 the crew discuss Minnesota extending its winning streak to six games with a weekend sweep of Michigan at Mariucci Arena. They touch on Vinni Lettieri’s penalty shot and hat trick Saturday, the Gopher defense during the past six games, and the significance of sophomore forward Tommy Novak’s season-ending injury, among others.

This weekend’s Border Battle series against Wisconsin in Madison is also previewed.

In between segments, Twitter questions about who replaces Novak, the Big Ten and whether Penn State is truly deserving of being the #1 team in the country get answered.

Second line center applicants can check it out at 1500 ESPNPodcast One or subscribe on iTunes.

Blog: Gopher commit Casey Mittelstadt ranked fifth in NHL Central Scouting

Led by Eden Prairie native Casey Mittelstadt, five University of Minnesota commits were named to NHL Central Scouting's Mid-Term Rankings.

Ranked fifth among North American skaters, Mittelstadt is the top player with college hockey ties. The 6’0”, 201 lbs forward was leading the USHL in scoring as a 17 year-old (he has since turned 18) when he left Green Bay to come back to Eden Prairie and try to win a Class AA championship. He will return to Green Bay after Eden Prairie's season ends.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Leftovers From The Michigan Series

No, this wasn't the same Michigan team.

That much was apparent early and often during Minnesota's 5-2 and 4-2 wins over the Wolverines to extend its winning streak to six games.

(You can read both of my game stories in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Friday here. Saturday here.)

Michigan's goals Friday came off of two turnovers in the defensive zone (the second being about as easy of a giveaway that Leon Bristedt could have given up to Brendan Warren). The offensive juggernaut from last season had barely any offense this time around.

By the time head coach Red Berenson spoke Friday he said what we all knew.

"We have to be better defensively as a group. We're not a gifted team. We're not last year's team. We're not going to lead the country in scoring," said Berenson, who has seen it all in a 30+ year coaching career with the Wolverines. "In fact it's hard for us to score. How many games have we scored three goals? "

Lose as many dynamic players as Berenson's team has over the past two seasons and trying to replace becomes a steeper and steeper task. (It's something Minnesota fans can relate to after the string of one-and-dones from 2004-2007.) Not every class contains a Dylan Larkin or Kyle Connor. Getting an upperclassmen resurgence from Zach Hyman or Tyler Motte takes time.

This year, however, the Wolverines - without top freshman forward Will Lockwood last weekend - have gone back to square one. Michigan led the nation in goals per game a season ago. Without the CCM line and Zach Werenski the shooting gallery is gone in Ann Arbor. Only three teams in the country have a worse Corsi close (42.5%) than the Wolverines.

Minnesota focused on shot suppression this weekend, holding Michigan to 42 shots in 2 games. Putting the pressure on the Wolverines defense and goaltending, the road team was more conservative and Minnesota controlled possession almost at will.

"Too many shots. Too many chances. We weren't good enough with the puck or without the puck," said Berenson after Friday's loss.

Berenson, for what it's worth, did have praise for the Gophers.

"They're as good of a team as any team in the country on any given night," he said.

Five more leftover thoughts after the jump:

Tommy Novak out for rest of the season

(This originally appeared at SB Nation College Hockey)

Minnesota sophomore forward Tommy Novak will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.

“We’re really disappointed for Tommy, and losing him for the year is a big blow for our program,” head coach Don Lucia said in a statement released by the University. “The good thing is that we are lucky to have some of the top medical professionals in the country here at the University of Minnesota, and we know that Tommy will be in great hands as he recovers and rehabs from this injury.”

Monday, January 16, 2017

Radio: WCCO Radio on Steve Thomson Show (January 14, 2016)

I was on The Good Neighbor, WCCO 830, this past Saturday with Steve Thomson to discuss Minnesota's win over Michigan, the different states of the Gopher and Wolverines compared to the past two seasons, attendance and more.

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 starts just after the 23 minute mark of the 4 pm hour on Saturday January 14.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Game Story: Lettieri's hat trick paves the way in sweep of Michigan (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

1/14/2017 Game story for St. Paul Pioneer Press

Michigan 2
Minnesota 4

MINNEAPOLIS- With fans screaming and trying to focus on the task at hand, Minnesota senior forward Vinni Lettieri changed course at the last instant.

Lettieri had an idea of what he wanted to do while lining up for a penalty shot 39 seconds into the third period Saturday night at Mariucci Arena. With the Gophers leading Michigan 2-0 at the time and on the penalty kill, coach Don Lucia said he nearly declined the penalty shot in favor of a penalty.

The crowd wanted to see the penalty shot, though. Lucia abided. So did Lettieri, converting on the team’s first successful penalty shot since March 2011 and leading Minnesota to a 4-2 victory, its sixth consecutive win and a sweep of the Wolverines.

Lettieri’s shot went past the shoulder of Michigan goaltender Hayden Lavigne and into the top shelf of the net.

Click here to read the full story!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Pregame Blog: More on Tyler Sheehy's 2 goal night + Minnesota-Michigan Line Combinations

Trying to defeat the same team twice in a row is never easy. Minnesota would know as the Gophers try to sweep the Wolverines on Saturday. Both series last season saw Minnesota get blown out by Michigan on Friday only to regroup a night later and salvage a split.

That said, Minnesota's 5-2 win over Michigan featured several impressive performances.

Several players who hadn't celebrated a goal in a while did just that. Tommy Novak scored for the first time in nearly two months. Rem Pitlick, who had 46 goals in juniors last season yet entered the weekend with only two, showed why with another highlight-reel goal. (All three could be put in that category.) Junior defenseman Ryan Collins had two assists for his first multi-point game since November 28, 2014 at Boston College.

“The guys that we need scoring had a boost tonight,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia.

As a team, the Gophers nearly finished with both a nearly 2:1 shot and shot attempts (78-40) advantage against Michigan. Minnesota's special teams extended its penalty kill streak to 19 straight. Although this isn't the same Wolverines team as the one a year ago that could almost score at will and possessed one of the best power plays I've ever seen in college hockey, it was unable to get even strength chances against the Gopher defense in the final two periods.

However, the most impressive performance might have been one which on the surface sounds predictable. Tyler Sheehy scoring twice and assisting on Pitlick's goal. It's the fourth 2 goal game for him so far this season. He has points in 10 of his last 12 games.

Why impressive? His two goals came two days after being too sick to practice.

Sheehy, along with the rest of the Gophers, built on past performances Friday despite not being 100%. He leads Minnesota with 14 goals this season. That number already bests the sophomore forward's freshman total.

“You never want to look ahead and past an opponent, but at the same time you have to build off momentum from previous games,” said Sheehy. “It’s a little bit (difficult coming out of the break), but we were able to come out tonight fast and keep the momentum we had the last two weekends.”


Coach Lucia mentioned post game that he would likely make a couple changes for the second game of the two-game series.

He stuck to that word.

Forwards Brent Gates Jr. and Taylor Cammarata are out tonight. Connor Reilly comes back in and moves up to the second line with Vinni Lettieri and Novak. Leon Bristedt, meanwhile, moves back to the third line he has made his own as of late.

Not sure if Gates is a coach's decision, but if so that's a message sent only a couple games removed from the Grand Rapids, MI native scoring a hat trick. (UPDATE: Gates' absence is indeed from the illness going around the team.)

Ryan Norman replaces Cammarata on the fourth line.

Defense and goaltending remain the same. UPDATE: Jack Sadek has been scratched due to illness. Jack Glover will play.

Freshman Hayden Lavigne gets the nod in net for Michigan after Zach Nagelvoort allowed five goals Friday.

University of Minnesota Golden Gophers lines

Rem Pitlick (#15) - Justin Kloos (#25) - Tyler Sheehy (#22)
Connor Reilly (#21) - Tommy Novak (#17) - Vinni Lettieri (#19)
Leon Bristedt (#18) - Mike Szmatula (#9) - Luke Notermann (#11)
Ryan Norman (#23) - Darian Romanko (#26) - Jack Ramsey (#16)

Jake Bischoff (#28) - Ryan Lindgren (#5)
Steve Johnson (#4) - Jack Glover (#3)
Ryan Zuhsldorf (#20) - Ryan Collins (#6)

Eric Schierhorn (#37)
Nick Lehr (#34)
Brock Kautz (#1)
Tonight's game starts at 7 pm CT from Mariucci Arena. Fox Sports North Plus airs it on television. 1500 ESPN has radio coverage.

As a reminder, I am covering this weekend's series for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Game Story: Gophers remain hot coming out of break, rout Michigan (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

1/13/17 Game Story For St. Paul Pioneer Press

Michigan 2
Minnesota 5

MINNEAPOLIS- Kicking off a nine-week stretch with games every weekend to end the regular season, Minnesota began by building on opportunities given and took advantage of early chances with a three-goal first period in a 5-2 victory over Michigan on Friday night at Mariucci Arena.

Sophomore forward Tyler Sheehy scored two goals for the fourth time this season, and five players had multiple points as the Gophers (12-5-2, 4-1-0-0 Big Ten) won their fifth consecutive game and for the seventh time in their past eight games.

“It’s great. Any time you have diverse scoring out there, it’s good for the team,” said Sheehy, who has a team-leading and career-high 14 goals. “It’s awesome to see those guys put the puck in the net, and hopefully we can keep putting the puck in the net.”

Click here to read the full story!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Pregame Blog: Minnesota Line Combinations vs Michigan (January 13, 2017)

Greetings from Mariucci Arena!

I'm covering this weekend's series against Michigan for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Pick up a newspaper copy for both games if you can.

Tonight's game begins at 8 pm CT on BTN and 1500 ESPN.

With all the question marks entering tonight due to illness, everyone appears to be healthy enough to give it the old college try. Minnesota's lineup Friday turns out to be familiar to the one Don Lucia iced at the Mariucci Classic nearly two weeks ago.

On defense Ryan Lindgren is healthy enough to play, returning to his blue line pairing with Jake Bischoff. He returns from World Junior Classic duty where the freshman won a gold medal with Team USA while spending a few days in the hospital with a strep throat and illness.

He is in for Jack Glover (#3).

The other major scratch, Connor Reilly (#21), missed one of the Classic games with the flu. Reilly played in the championship win against UMass, however. Jack Ramsey takes his place.

Leon Bristedt and Brent Gates Jr. switch spots on the wings. Bristedt moves up to a line with Tommy Novak and Vinni Lettieri in an attempt to spark Novak, who has been held without a point in his last five games and gone nearly two months without a goal.

Luke Notermann plays in his third straight game.

University of Minnesota Golden Gophers lines

Rem Pitlick (#15) - Justin Kloos (#25) - Tyler Sheehy (#22)
Leon Bristedt (#18) - Tommy Novak (#17) - Vinni Lettieri (#19)
Brent Gates Jr (#10) - Mike Szmatula (#9) - Luke Notermann (#11)
Taylor Cammarata (#13) - Darian Romanko (#26) - Jack Ramsey (#16)

Jake Bischoff (#28) - Ryan Lindgren (#5)
Steve Johnson (#4) - Jack Sadek (#2)
Ryan Zuhsldorf (#20) - Ryan Collins (#6)

Eric Schierhorn (#37)
Nick Lehr (#34)
Brock Kautz (#1)

Michigan's lines

Zach Nagelvoort is listed first in goal and expected to start. The Wolverines also get back Joe Cecconi from the World Juniors.

Pregame Reading:

If you're reading this, you know that I made a blog to put all my Gopher hockey writing and podcasts in one spot. Congrats you early adopter!

-Scouting Michigan
-Gopher Hockey Notebook touches on Ryan Lindgren winning a gold medal and Luke Notermann's debut at the Mariucci Classic.

The Gopher women's team lost 3-2 this afternoon to UMD, snapping a 21 game unbeaten streak against the Bulldogs. Twice Minnesota scored third period goals to come back, however, could not do it a third time when Katherine McGovern put UMD ahead with less than five minutes left.

What was impressive about Minnesota Duluth's win was that the Bulldogs not only battled back. The team out-shot Minnesota 35-30 - it's not often anyone accomplishes that feat.

Gopher junior forward Kelly Pannek (1G-1A) extended her point streak to 18 games. Sarah Potomak also had a goal and an assist while UMD's Lara Stalder finished with 3 points.

Some good Michigan Twitter follows:

-Orion Sang, Michigan Daily beat writer is in the building and at (@orion_sang)
-Official Michigan Twitter
-Yost Built

You can follow me on Twitter as well @gopherstate.

Preview: Minnesota-UMD game Friday on Fox Sports North

Minnesota heads north to Duluth for a two game WCHA series between two of the top four teams in the nation. Both games at AMSOIL Arena Friday and Saturday begin at 3 pm locally.

Friday afternoon's game will be televised locally on Fox Sports North. You can also stream it on Fox Sports Go.

The #2 Gophers (16-3-2, 12-2-2-2 WCHA) swept UMD when the two teams played in October in part thanks to Sarah Potomak. The sophomore forward scored the game-winning goal both games with the second coming in overtime.

#4 Minnesota Duluth (13-4-3, 10-4-2-1 WCHA), in the second year under head coach Maura Crowell, returned to its spot at the top of the conference. No team has swept the Bulldogs in Duluth this season. Players have developed and depth has accumulated, making it more difficult for opposing teams to target a line or two.

At the same time, senior forward Lara Stalder (#21) has been one of the top players in the WCHA. Her 27 points (9G-18A) are fourth in the conference. Not too far behind her are linemates Ashleigh Brykaliuk with 24 points and Katherine McGovern with 20.

The trio face a Gopher team that has given up 18 goals in its last 4 games.

In net, sophomore Maddie Rooney holds a .940 save percentage. When the two teams played in October, Rooney stopped 74 of 81 shots.

Minnesota, meanwhile, will have back Dani Cameranesi in its lineup for the first time since early December. The senior forward leads the nation in goals per game (1.06). Her return reunites the top line in the nation between her, Potomak and national scoring leader Kelly Pannek.

Potomak and freshman Lindsay Agnew also return from national team duty. Both missed the Gophers' exhibition win over the Minnesota Whitecaps post-collegiate team and non-conference United States Hall of Fame Game against Minnesota State last weekend playing for Team Canada in the Nations Cup.

University of Minnesota lineup (via @GopherWHockey) :

Ryan Lindgren on WJC Gold + More (SBN College Hockey)

Minnesota's Ryan Lindgren wins a WJC gold medal, loses ten pounds to illness

By: Nate Wells

(A longer version of this post originally appeared at SB Nation College Hockey)

The cost of Team USA basking in gold medal victory for Ryan Lindgren was more than the 137 texts his assistant coach received.

Lindgren celebrated the victory in the locker room with his teammates, however, he was unable to play in the gold medal game against Canada due to an illness that eventually caused him to lose ten pounds and eventually spend a couple days in the hospital. The University of Minnesota freshman defenseman said he first felt the effects the night prior to Team USA’s semifinal win over Russia.

Scouting Michigan: Opponent Preview, TV Schedule, Game Times and More

Game Times: Friday (January 13, 2017) at 8 pm CT; Saturday (January 14, 2017) at 7 pm CT. 
Location: Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis, MN
TV: Friday on BTN; Saturday on FSN+
Radio: 1500 ESPN both nights

Michigan (8-9-1, 1-3-0-0 Big Ten), like Minnesota (11-5-2, 3-1-0-0 Big Ten), has spent much of the last month idle. Both teams played a tournament on New Year’s Eve (Mariucci Classic for MN, Great Lakes Invitational for MI) before being off once again last weekend.

That’s where the similarities end.


It's hard to know where I'm writing week to week.

Even if you follow me on Twitter (@gopherstate) or follow me in real life, missing articles can be easy. I've covered University of Minnesota men's and women's hockey for a half dozen different publications this season.

This season is only halfway over.

From week to week I can be on SB Nation College Hockey, a podcast over at 1500 ESPN and Podcast One, doing game coverage for the Minneapolis Star Tribune or writing a feature for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. (That's a real thing which has happened. As of today I've covered more games this season than anyone for both Twin Cities papers.) There are also times when I have more to write than fits any of the websites or newspapers.

So I wanted a place for all my University of Minnesota coverage to be together in one place, to make it easier on you to find the coverage between links to stories and original content.

That's the point of the blog. Thanks for reading.