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.



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.




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!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Game Story: Penn State beats Gophers in 2nd OT of Big Ten tournament semifinal (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

3/17/2017 Game Story

Big Ten conference tournament semifinal
#4 Penn State 4
#1 Minnesota 3

DETROIT – Twenty-seven days removed from a last-second goal and ensuing overtime road victory against Penn State, the Gophers men’s hockey team was unable to repeat the feat Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.

Despite a career-high 59 saves by Eric Schierhorn, Penn State defeated the Gophers for the first time in five meetings this season.

Nittany Lions defenseman Erik Autio pinched and put a Denis Smirnov pass into the back of the net to take home the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament berth and hand the Gophers a 4-3 double-overtime loss in a Big Ten tournament semifinal. At a total of 93 minutes, 33 seconds, it was the longest game in Big Ten history, and it was an emotional one for the Gophers.

“We played hard and we blocked a lot of shots toward the end,” said Schierhorn, who for the third consecutive game against Penn State set a career high in saves. “We battled. We did. You can’t say we didn’t try and play our hearts out.”

Playing before a crowd announced at 2,791, the Gophers (23-11-3) were able to tie Penn State 3:42 into the third period on defenseman Jack Sadek’s third goal in three games. Like Minnesota’s tying goal in late February, this one came directly off of a faceoff.

The Big Ten regular- season champions had chances late in the game and during overtime. Michigan native Mike Szmatula came closest in the first overtime period. However, it took Penn State (23-11-2) getting the first power play in over two periods on a Leon Bristedt holding call to score the winner.

Click here to read the rest!

2017 Big Ten Tournament: Michigan's Red Berenson to decide future after Frozen Four (SB Nation College Hockey)

(Note: This column originally appeared at SB Nation College Hockey)

DETROIT- Unspoken throughout Thursday’s sixty minutes, the chants started up moments after the final buzzer sounded between Michigan and Penn State.

“Thank you Red! Thank you Red!”

At that point the game had ended. Speculation begun. The Michigan faithful who showed up for the Big Ten quarterfinal let Red Berenson, their longtime head coach, know how much he meant at the end of his 33rd season with the Wolverines and one he didn’t expect to be coaching.

Friday, March 17, 2017

BLOG: Penn State may be without leading scorer Andrew Sturtz against Gophers + More

Like Minnesota, Penn State may be without one of its top players Friday night in Detroit when the Nittany Lions face the Gophers in a Big Ten semifinal.

PSU leading goal scorer Andrew Sturtz left in the first period of Thursday’s 4-1 win over Michigan. He did not return following a collision with Wolverines forward Alex Kile and Penn State used 11 forwards the rest of the night.

“That’s above my pay grade. I’m going to find out later on,” head coach Guy Gadowsky responded when asked about Sturtz’s status for Friday.

Sturtz has 21 goals in 33 games this season, including one against Minnesota in the four games between the two teams.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

2017 Big Ten Hockey Tournament Preview

Photo from 2015

A quick and dirty Big Ten preview prior to the games beginning later this afternoon in Detroit, Michigan.

Favorite: Minnesota

As the 2016-17 Big Ten regular champions, the Gophers enter as the favorite and in the precarious position of not needing to play for a NCAA Tournament bid. Minnesota has one wrapped up regardless. However, the Gophers do have an incentive to win the 2017 Big Ten tournament. The team is playing for a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Minnesota needs a win or two to accomplish.

Ryan Lindgren out for season

(Author's note: I wrote this Monday for a publication that ended up not using it. Putting it up on the blog now just for posterity.)

Freshman defenseman Ryan Lindgren will undergo surgery later this week and miss the rest of the season with a leg injury suffered Saturday.

“Ryan was having a really great year for us as a freshman, and you hate to see such a promising season end this way,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said in a statement Monday. “It’s tough to lose him for the postseason, but we have a great medical team here at the University of Minnesota, and we know we’ll have him back soon.”

BLOG: Tyler Sheehy named Hobey Baker Top-10 Finalist

Sophomore forward Tyler Sheehy is one of ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.

Sheehy, who Monday was named the Big Ten Player of the Year, is the first Gopher since Mike Reilly in 2015 to be named a top-ten finalist. He joins fifteen Minnesota players in receiving that honor, including four who have won the award since it was first handed out in 1981.

"It's truly an honor to represent my teammates and the Gopher Hockey program as a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award," Sheehy said in a statement released by the University. "It's been a great's crazy to think that there are only a few weeks left in the season. We're certainly proud of what we've done so far, but we have a lot of goals left to accomplish, and we're looking forward to it."

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Puck Dynasty Podcast: Gophers eyeing a #1 seed at the NCAA Tournament (Episode 18)

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 are split up with Drew calling in to discuss Minnesota's win and tie against Michigan State. They break down the good, the bad and losing Ryan Lindgren to a season-ending leg injury Saturday.

Twitter questions on this weekend's Big Ten tournament in Detroit get answered, along with what Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin need to do to get off the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament. Minnesota's quest for a #1 seed ends up getting some air time as well.

Towards the end of the episode Drew and Declan disagree on what is the best Gopher jersey while Nate explains why he enjoys watching Denver and was surprised to see Jake Bischoff not unanimously named an all-Big Ten first team player.

Somewhere in between Tyler Sheehy gets overlooked despite being the Big Ten Player of the Year.

Those going through all 700K NCAA Tournament scenarios 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:
-For NCAA Tournament possibilities, click here.

-For predicting which teams get into the NCAA Tournament, click here.

Mailbag Q: How will the 2018 Big Ten hockey conference tournament work?

Every week on the Puck Dynasty podcast we answer Twitter questions from listeners. Unfortunately, sometimes we can't get to each and every one. So because of that I wanted to answer one here, on the blog, which has been asked a couple times by different people yet slipped through the cracks.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Podcast: The Podcast That Ruined College Hockey (Episode 5)

Last week I was a guest on my friend Jashvina Shah's Big Ten-centric podcast. Jashvina is a writer for College Hockey News, The Victory Press, and several other outlets.

Topics include: Minnesota's consistency (or lack of), the pros and cons of a tough non-conference schedule, Eric Schierhorn and Minnesota's defense, Tyler Sheehy's success, Penn State, Michigan and who is the most underrated player in the Big Ten.

You can listen below:

Tyler Sheehy named Big Ten player of the Year; 6 Gophers earn honors

(Portions of this article originally appeared at SB Nation College Hockey)

On Friday, Minnesota won its fourth straight Big Ten regular season championship. On Monday, the Gophers had four of the six spots on the All-Big Ten First Team, led by Big Ten Player of the Year Tyler Sheehy.

Sheehy, senior forward Justin Kloos, senior defenseman Jake Bischoff (New York Islanders) and sophomore goaltender Eric Schierhorn were all named to the All-Big Ten First Team along with Ohio State forward Mason Jobst and Penn State defenseman Vince Pedrie.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Radio: WCCO Radio on Sports Saturday with Steve Thomson (March 11, 2017)

Once again Steve Thomson of WCCO Radio had me on his show to discuss Gopher hockey.

Topics this week included the Minnesota men winning the Big Ten for a fourth straight year, Eric Schierhorn's play entering the Big Ten tournament, the Gopher women playing UMD in a NCAA quarterfinal (going on at the time of the interview) and getting back Dani Cameranesi, and Minnesota's health, which got a little less rosy following Saturday's game.



My segment begins at the approximately the 21 minute mark of the 2pm hour on Saturday March 11th.

Game Story: Minnesota ties in finale, loses Lindgren to injury (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

3/11/2017 Game Story

Michigan State 1
Minnesota 1

*Michigan State won the shootout 2-1 to take the extra point for Big Ten conference purposes

Minnesota was able to salvage a point Saturday on Senior Night thanks to a senior. Unfortunately for the Gophers, their game against Michigan State likely was played at the expense of a freshman defenseman.

Senior Jake Bischoff finished a tic-tac-toe play among himself, Rem Pitlick and Justin Kloos as Minnesota and the Spartans ended Saturday’s regular-season finale tied at 1.

Michigan State won a shootout to earn an extra point for Big Ten conference purposes. Officially, the game ends as a tie.

Bischoff’s goal came after his defensive partner, freshman Ryan Lindgren, had to be helped off the ice without putting any weight on his leg late in the second period.

“It’s not looking good to be honest. We’ll know more this week,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said after the game about Lindgren, who has a goal and six assists in 31 games.

Lindgren collided with Taro Hirose and went feet first in the boards with 1:29 remaining. He tried to get up off the ice and went back down, pounding the ice and visibly in pain. Minnesota spent the rest of the game playing with five defensemen.

Click here to read the rest!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Pregame Blog: Minnesota-MSU Senior Night Line Combinations

Saturday's Game Info

Michigan State at #5 Minnesota

Date: March 11, 2017
Time: 7:00 pm CT (8:00 pm ET)
Place: Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, MN
TV: Fox Sports North Plus (Doug McLeod and Ben Clymer)
Stream: Fox Sports Go (Free for cable subscribers)
Radio: 1500 ESPN (Wally Shaver and Frank Mazzocco)
Nate is covering for tonight: St. Paul Pioneer Press

BLOG: Mitch Rogge to play Saturday

One benefit of Minnesota wrapping up the Big Ten title Friday night is senior Mitch Rogge will get to make his Gopher debut on Senior Night.

Head coach Don Lucia made the announcement following Friday's win against Michigan State.

"Now you can put this behind and get ready for Senior Night, which to me is a really important night," he said. "We'll make sure Mitch Rogge plays (Saturday) because he's been such a great program guy. We want to make sure, he's played some exhibition games, that he gets to put the uniform on in a real game. I think he's earned that right. "

Rogge has yet to suit up in a game for Minnesota since transferring from Sacred Heart in 2014, where he made two appearances.

"I know the guys are excited to see that," said Lucia. "It's not easy to be a guy who comes in and practices every day for a few years and be in the weight room. You don't get the reward. Tomorrow he gets his reward."

The Gophers will honor Rogge and five other seniors - Jake Bischoff, Taylor Cammarata, Justin Kloos, Vinni Lettieri and Connor Reilly - prior to the 7pm puck drop against the Spartans.

As far as other personnel changes go, Lucia doesn't plan on straying too far away from the normal lineup despite clinching the title and first round bye.

"We're playing to win. We're playing for NCAA seeding," Lucia said. "It's all about the seniors for me tomorrow. History tells me our seniors will play with heart tomorrow."

Game Story: Gophers blank Spartans, win Big Ten championship (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

3/10/2017 Game Story

Michigan State 0
Minnesota 4

MINNEAPOLIS- Jack Sadek skated off the ice at the end of the first period having scored more goals in 20 minutes than he had in two years with the Gophers.

In 45 games prior, the sophomore defenseman from Lakeville and Minnesota Wild draft pick had one goal as a Gopher. Making up for lost time and getting a chance to finally show off some goal celebration moves, Sadek finished with two as Minnesota defeated Michigan State 4-0 Friday night at Mariucci Arena.

“I said earlier that I don’t think I’ve scored twice in a game,” Sadek said between laughs. “It feels good to help out the team in a big game.”

With two celebrations in hand, Sadek and his teammates added another after the game. Minnesota’s victory clinched at least a share of its fourth Big Ten Conference championship in four years, and the Gophers became outright champions 45 minutes later when Ohio State beat Wisconsin 5-1.

The Gophers (23-10-2, 14-5-0-0 Big Ten) have put together sixth straight conference championship seasons, including the last two as a member of the WCHA before that league realigned.

“You’re happy for the guys. You feel like it was going to happen this weekend, but you still have to go out and earn it,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said following the win.

Click here to read the rest!

2017 NCAA Tournament: Gophers get back Dani Cameranesi

Mixed in with national championship banners, Minnesota getting a star player back late in the season is quickly becoming a Gopher signature move.

In this case the player is senior co-captain Dani Cameranesi, who surprisingly returned last week for Minnesota from a lower body injury suffered nearly two months ago. She will be in the lineup today for the team's NCAA Quarterfinal on the road against Minnesota Duluth.

Puck drop is at 2:30 and can be streamed here.

Cameranesi was cleared a few days prior to the WCHA Final Faceoff, according to head coach Brad Frost.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Pregame Blog: Minnesota's chance to make history + Gophers-MSU Line Combinations

Friday's Game Info

Michigan State at #5 Minnesota

Date: March 10, 2017
Time: 6:30 pm CT (7:30 pm ET)
Place: Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, MN
TV: ESPNEWS (Kevin Brown and Sean Ritchlin)
Stream: Watch ESPN (Free for cable subscribers)
Radio: 1500 ESPN (Wally Shaver and Frank Mazzocco)
Nate is covering for tonight: St. Paul Pioneer Press

The Gophers can make history this weekend with any combination of four points won by Minnesota or lost by Wisconsin.

By doing that - and for those scoreboard watching the Badgers' game against Ohio State tonight starts half an hour later - Minnesota will win its fourth straight Big Ten regular season title and sixth overall dating back to 2011-12 in the WCHA. (The Gophers shared the 2012-13 title with St. Cloud State.) No team has ever won six straight conference regular season titles.

Regardless of your thoughts on the Big Ten and Minnesota playing in a six-team conference, winning one, let alone six straight regular season titles, is an impressive feat.

It's hard to be consistent in college hockey.

Feature: Six seniors put Gopher hockey in a good place (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

One of the best compliments coach Don Lucia could give his six Gophers seniors came going into last weekend’s series against a Michigan team struggling without five players who departed early.

“I guarantee I’m a lot smarter because they’re back,” he said, calling them the team’s difference makers. “They’re guys you can’t replace.”

Minnesota’s 2016-17 senior class — forwards Taylor Cammarata, Justin Kloos, Vinni Lettieri, Connor Reilly and Mitch Rogge, along with defenseman Jake Bischoff — will be honored before Saturday’s regular-season finale against Michigan State. Their final series at Mariucci Arena carries a variety of emotions mixed with an opportunity to make history.

“Experiencing it, you realize (the four years) go by quicker than ever,” Bischoff said. “I’m going to try to live in the weekend and come away with a couple of wins.”

The first class to spend their entire playing tenure in the Big Ten has meant much to Lucia and the Gophers program due to their success and loyalty.

Leading Wisconsin by three points with two games remaining, Minnesota (22-10-2, 13-5-0) needs any combination of four points won by the Gophers or lost by the Badgers to win its fourth consecutive Big Ten regular-season title and sixth in a row overall dating back to 2012.

To do so would be an unprecedented feat in college hockey. Boston University won five straight Hockey East titles between 1993 and 1998.

Click here to read the rest!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Blog: Four Gopher commits make 2017 Minnesota Boys HS Tournament

By the time this gets published the puck will be dropped at a sold out Xcel Energy Center on one of Minnesota's most cherished traditions. Nothing unites or shows off the "State of Hockey's" divides like the Minnesota Boys High School Hockey State Tournament.

Four University of Minnesota commits - Eden Prairie's Casey Mittelstadt and Jack Jensen, Grand Rapids' Blake McLaughlin, and Wayzata's Colin Schmidt - will be playing in this weekend's tournament.

All four are on the Class AA side of the sixteen team, two class tournament, which starts Thursday.

Puck Dynasty Podcast: Gophers go for fourth straight Big Ten title (Episode 17)

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 open with Twitter questions on unsung players and those a season away. Last weekend’s Minnesota-Michigan series gets discussed from the perspective of live in Ann Arbor (Nate), TV (Drew) and radio (Declan) followed by a preview of this weekend’s Michigan State series where the Gophers will try to clinch a fourth straight Big Ten title in the final weekend of the regular season. PLUS: The podcast turns its attention to the Minnesota State Boy’s HS Hockey Tournament, the NCAA Tournament bubble and Rem Pitlick’s confidence shooting the puck.

Towards the end Drew shocks Declan and Nate by burying the lede with the best jersey he owns.

Those stumbling across Mike Yeo and Thomas Vanek meeting in an East Metro Champps 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.

Monday, March 6, 2017

2017 NCAA Tournament: Minnesota to face Minnesota Duluth in NCAA Quarterfinals

The two-time defending national champions will begin the opportunity for a third in a different locale: the road.

Minnesota (25-7-5) will face in-state WCHA foe Minnesota Duluth (25-6-5) at AMSOIL Arena at 2 pm CT Saturday. The Bulldogs earned the third seed in the eight-team NCAA Tournament when the bracket was announced Sunday evening.

WCHA regular season and conference tournament Wisconsin is the top overall seed.

Radio: WCCO Radio on Sports Sunday with Steve Thomson (March 5, 2017)

Traveling back from Ann Arbor did not stop me from having a chat with Steve Thomson on WCCO Radio.

Topics from a Starbucks in Chicago included Minnesota's split with Michigan, what went right and wrong, Big Ten standings, where the Gophers stand as far as far as an NCAA at-large bid, and more. Plus Steve brings up my weird travel habits.



My segment begins at the approximately the 35 minute mark of the 4 pm hour on Sunday March 5th.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Game Story: Sheehy scores twice as Gophers earn road split (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

3/4/2017 Game Story

Minnesota 4
Michigan 1

Ann Arbor, Mich. – Tyler Sheehy admittedly didn't expect to reach 50 points this season.

Consistent as a sophomore, Sheehy became the first Minnesota player Saturday since Erik Haula in 2012-13 to reach the milestone when he assisted on linemate Rem Pitlick's first-period goal in a 4-1 victory over Michigan.

As he has all season, however, Sheehy didn't stop with a single point.

The Burnsville native added two more goals to finish the night with 52.

"It's pretty special. I don't know if I was really expecting to do that this year," he said. "I have to give a lot of credit to my linemates and my teammates. They've been unbelievable. Whenever I get them the puck, they've been putting it into the back of the net as well."

Minnesota, meanwhile, responded from Friday's defeat to make the most of its second chance to start March off on the right foot.The road series split clinched the Gophers a first-round bye in the Big Ten Conference tournament.

Combined with Penn State shutting out Wisconsin 6-0, Minnesota regained sole possession of first place in the Big Ten entering the final weekend. The Gophers have 39 points to the Badgers' 36.

Click here to read the rest!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

BLOG: Rem Pitlick explains his Sportscenter Top 10 goal, B1G Tiebreakers & More from Ann Arbor

The execution worked out exactly as Rem Pitlick planned for his 12th goal of the season.

"I actually was trying to do exactly what I did," said Pitlick after Friday's 5-3 loss. "It hit his stick and went directly to the area I wanted it to go."

His goal ended up being the #4 play on last night's Sportscenter Top 10.

Game Story: Two late goals cost Gophers against Michigan (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

3/3/2017 Game Story

Minnesota 3
Michigan 5

ANN ARBOR, MICH. – Having made a habit out of finding ways to win in the third period, in a turn of events Minnesota found itself on the losing side Friday.

Michigan erased a pair of deficits at home as the Gophers went from feeling good to quietly leaving Yost Arena after losing 5-3 and giving up three goals in the final 3 minutes, 38 seconds of regulation to the fifth-place team in the Big Ten.

"It just goes to show that the game is never over until it's over," Rem Pitlick said.

"We really need to bring that mentality tomorrow and make sure that if we have a lead, we're really hard to play against."

Senior forward Vinni Lettieri put Minnesota (21-10-2, 12-5 Big Ten) ahead 3-2 with just over six minutes left on his 18th goal of the season.

The Gophers had come back to win after either trailing or being tied in four of the past five games. Friday appeared to be another before Wolverines forwards Jake Slaker, on a power play, and Evan Allen scored goals 1:27 apart.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Pregame Blog: Minnesota-Michigan Friday Line Combinations, Game Times, TV, Radio & More

Friday's Game Info

#5 Minnesota at Michigan

Date: March 3, 2017
Time: 5:30 pm CT (6:30 pm ET)
Place: Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, MI
TV: ESPNEWS (John Buccigross and Sean Ritchlin)
Stream: Watch ESPN (Free for cable subscribers)
Radio: 1500 ESPN (Wally Shaver and Frank Mazzocco)
Nate is covering for tonight: Minneapolis Star Tribune

Greetings from Yost Ice Arena where I always enjoy getting welcomed by one of the old Charlie Brown statues which went up in St. Paul.

It's an early start this week with Friday's game between the Gophers and Wolverines getting the ESPNews treatment.

Puck Dynasty Podcast: Vinni Lettieri: A Goalie's Second-Best Friend (Episode 16)

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 Nate and Declan trudge ahead without an under the weather Drew for a packed episode. They open with answering a number of Twitter questions before moving on to discussing Vinni Lettieri's improved senior season and play in Minnesota's series split against the Badgers. Other weekend topics include a lack of puck luck from those not named Lettieri, Wisconsin's defense, the crowd at Mariucci, Eric Schierhorn's play, and Justin Kloos scoring timely goals

In the second half of the show this weekend's series against Michigan is previewed before ending with a look at the Pairwise rankings and where the Gophers may end up playing a NCAA Tournament regional.

Those whose names Nate butchered 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.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

BLOG: Mike Szmatula out for the weekend

Mike Szmatula will be out for the second straight weekend.

Szmatula was ruled out of this weekend's series against Michigan by head coach Don Lucia during Wednesday's media availability.

The team travels to Ann Arbor tomorrow and can only bring 23 skaters, necessitating the quick decision. Szmatula suffered a lower body injury 3 minutes into Minnesota's 6-3 win against Penn State on February 17th.

Although he needed to be helped off the ice, Lucia initially believed Szmatula would not miss an extended period of time and would be back last weekend.

Szmatula currently has 25 points (10G-15A) in 26 games for the Gophers. Unfortunately missing a chance to play at Yost Arena means the Commerce Township, Michigan native will have been injured for both Michigan road series this season.

Everyone else, besides Tommy Novak (out for the season after suffering an injury when the Gophers hosted Michigan in mid-January), is healthy enough to play. Being without both means Ryan Norman likely gets another opportunity to play at center.

As far as the Wolverines go, top freshman forward Will Lockwood missed both games against Ohio State last weekend, but is practicing this week. Michigan also got a bit of good news with senior Alex Kile returning for the first time in a month, however.

BLOG: Gopher commit notes on Casey Mittelstadt, Mat Robson and Grace Zumwinkle

March is here and so are a number of awards for Minnesota commits.

Penticton (BCHL) goaltender and Minnesota commit Mat Robson was named the BCHL Player of the Week after stopping 79 of 81 shots over 3 games. Throughout February the 20 year-old Toronto native - he would the first Canadian to play for Minnesota since 2006 - went undefeated in 10 games, had a .962 save percentage and three shutouts (he has a league-best six on the season). His .930 save percentage and 1.94 GAA in 49 games this season is second in the league.

For more on Robson I wrote a feature for the St. Paul Pioneer Press on the goaltender back in December.