WCHA: MSU Mankato wins in OT

Posted on October 4th, 2009 – 10:57 AM
By Roman Augustoviz

Since the Gophers have not played yet, I’m trying to keep up with other WCHA team. Mankato strubbled but won in OT. Here’s a story from the Mavericks’ PR staff: 

Senior forward Jason Wiley’s goal in overtime gave Minnesota State a 4-3 victory over visiting Lethbridge (Alta.) University in men’s college hockey exhibition game Saturday night in Mankato.

The Mavericks took a 1-0 lead at 1:46 of the first period on a goal from sophomore Mike Louwerse.

Lethbridge knotted the score when Ryan Pottruff tallied at 5:52, but back-to-back MSU tallies by freshman defenseman Tyler Elbrecht at 6:29 and Tyler Thompson at 15:46, with Thompson’s goal coming with the Mavericks on the power play, made it 3-2 in favor of the Mavericks.  Lethbridge pulled its netminder and Mike Wuchterl’s marker at 19:53 with the extra skater, sent the game into overtime.

Wiley then ended it in overtime at the 4:49 with a shot from 15 feet in front of the net that beat Pronghorn goaltender Scott Bowles just inside the post on the glove side.

MSU, which owned a 39-29 shots on goal advantage in the game, hosts Bowling Green in a pair of nonconference contests next Friday and Saturday.

U men’s puck: They’re battling each other

Posted on October 3rd, 2009 – 1:40 PM
By Roman Augustoviz

I watched Gophers practice for about an hour on Saturday morning. My favorite drill was probably the one-on-one battles in the slot before the goalie.

There were two lines of players and a member of each line squared off about 20-25 feet from the goal. One player would try to push his way to the net, the other would try to prevent him from getting there.

As coach Don Lucia told somebody last season: “You can’t hide in this drill.”

Sophomore Jake Hansen got to the net against his man, then knocked Jake Kremer, the practice goalie down. Then he said something to Kremer while he was on his back. My guess it was little bravado. Maybe he said he was sorry, but I doubt that.

Perhaps not to be outdone Ryan Flynn, the co-captain, knocked Kremer down, too. Probably wise on the coaches’ part, not having No. 1 goalie Alex Kangas in there for this drill.

Lucia was working with the forwards in practice, assistant John Hill with the defenseman. Grant Potulny, the other assistant, was not at practice. At least the half I saw.

On Thursday, Lucia said Potulny was out recruiting. Maybe he was still not back.

I think Justin Johnson, the volunteer goalie coach, also came at about 9 a.m. Somebody that looked like a coach was shooting pucks at one of the goalies just before the Zamboni came out to resurface the ice.

What else did the Gophers do in practice?

Three on two drills going to the net.

They listened to a Lucia chalk talk. He was probably using an erasable marker, but chalk talk sounds better.

The defensemen were all wearing white practice jerseys. I didn’t like that. They looked more menacing last year when they wore black jerseys.

Heard the team when up north to Nico Sacchetti’s cabin from some male-bonding — OK, let’s say chemistry-building that sounds better in the offseason.

I imagine the players on British Columbia, the team the Gophers play Sunday, will pay special attention to Jordan Schroeder in the exhibition game.

Schroeder was huge news in Vancouver and nearby. The Canucks drafted him near the bottom of the first round. Vancouver reportedly had Schroeder No. 8 on their draft board and could not believed he fell to them.

Of course, every team uses that line.


U men’s puck: First practice in the books

Posted on October 3rd, 2009 – 10:09 AM
By Roman Augustoviz

The players on the Gophers men’s hockey team were up early on Saturday morning. Not to get the best student seats at TCF Bank Stadium, but to practice.

They were on the ice sometime around 8 a.m. Not sure exactly because I didn’t get to the arena until about 8:15, 8:20.

Practices are not among my favorite things to go to. Besides I had to stop at the Strib to pick up my binoculars. Had to have them to see the little black numbers on the back of the yellow helmets.

Those numbers were the only way I could identify the players. Their practice jerseys did not have numbers.

Oh, I could figure out who some of them were without numbers. Saw Jordan Schroeder, smooth skater, smooth passer.

Saw Seth Helgeson, he’s 6-5. A few others.

Here were the line combinations Saturday morning:

* First line, Maroon: Jordan Schroeder at center and Jay Barriball on his right wing and Mike Hoeffel on his left wing. Schroeder and Barriball were together all last season. Hoeffel replaces Ryan Stoa, who signed with Colorado.

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U men’s practice: 8 a.m. Saturday at Maroosh

Posted on October 2nd, 2009 – 1:10 PM
By Roman Augustoviz

The Gophers men’s hockey team held their sixth and last one-hour preseason practice with coaches on Friday. In the three weeks before practices officially start, coaches can work with their players two hours a week, according to NCAA rules.

The puck drops for real at 8 a.m. Saturday. The Gophers will probably work out for about 1-1/2 hours on the ice, and maybe have a team meeting beforehand. That seems to be the routine in recent years. Of course, I was half asleep and it’s all a blur.

My boss doesn’t make me go to the first practice, but I probably will. I like to see who is playing with who on the forward lines and the defensive pairs.

Coach Don Lucia said Thursday that the best three players won’t necessarily be on his top three lines. He is looking for the three with the best chemistry.

In preseason practices, sophomore Jordan Schroeder, who will center the first line, has usually played with Jay Barriball. Those two were together all last season, but Ryan Stoa is gone from that line.

Barriball said several players have been tried at left wing, including Mike Carman and Mike Hoeffel.

As for the defensive pairs, Lucia said he wants a combination of skill and braun on the ice. So look for little guys to be paired with big guys at the start.

In the nets, Alex Kangas, the team’s top goals the last 1-1/2 seasons, still holds that spot. But Lucia said he made a mistake last season not playing Kent Patterson more early as a freshman. When Kangas started struggling, Patterson had very little college game experience when he got his chance to save the sinking ship.

Nice to hear Lucia admit he goofed. It’s also a telltale sign it — Patterson being buried on the bench —  won’t happen again. 

Playing Patterson more actually could help Kangas, too. Maybe he won’t feel he has to do everything in the nets and carry the team like he did as a freshman when he was the Gophers’ MVP.

U men’s puck: Schroeder preseason All-America pick

Posted on October 2nd, 2009 – 10:07 AM
By Roman Augustoviz

Inside College Hockey (INCH) has named Gophers sophomore center Jordan Schroeder to it’s preseason All=America team.

Here is what INCH said about him:

He was the nation’s leading freshman scorer last year and recorded at least one point in all but five games he played in for the Gophers. Schroeder ended the season with an eight-game point streak during which he tallied 11 points. He was expected to be a high pick in the NHL draft but slid to the later stages of the first round. Could that provide the motivation to avoid a sophomore slump?

In 44 games, Schroeder had 13 goals and 32 assists for 45 points. Let’s see, doing the math, he averaged almost exactly a point per game.

One other WCHA player was on the first All-America team, senior defenseman Chay Genoway of North Dakota.

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U men’s puck: Gophers picked fourth in media preseason WCHA poll

Posted on September 29th, 2009 – 8:57 AM
By Roman Augustoviz

Media members who cover the WCHA are pretty smart. Their preseason WCHA projections nearly mirror mine. Denver was the near unanimous choice of everyone to win the MacNaughton Cup. The Pioneers, or Pios as Denver Post blogs refer to them, received 23 of 25 first-place votes. North Dakota and Minny split the other two.

Behind DU, the other top five in the media poll were North Dakota at No. 2, Wisconsin at No. 3, the Gophers at No. 4 and St. Cloud State at No. 5.

I had the same five in my top five but in a slightly different order: 1. DU, 2. Gophers, 3. North Dakota, 4. Wisconsin and 5. St. Cloud State.

There is no reason Minny, if Alex Kangas plays well in the nets, can’t battle the Pios for first place. The Gophers have 20 players on their roster who have been drafted by NHL teams. Eight were first- or second-round picks.

Picked Player of the Year was sophomore center Jordan Schroeder while the Rookie of the Year was goalie Mike Lee of St. Cloud State. Did someone look at my ballot? That’s who I chose.

Actually Schroeder was an obvious candidate. Lee? Not so much. There are several other top rookies coming into the league such as defenseman Nick Leddy of the Gophers. I went with Less because the Huskies have a gaping hole in the nets and Lee will get the chance to prove he can fill it.

Right now it looks as if he will mean a lot more to the success or failure of his team than Leddy.

Those who compiled the media poll tried to get one newspaper reporter and one broadcaster from all 10 WCHA cities and towns.

Those men — and one women — also picked the same all-WCHA as me, except senior Rhett Rakhshani of Denver tied for the third forward spot, so there were four forwards. I only voted for three.

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U men’s puck: Gophers 6th in national poll

Posted on September 28th, 2009 – 5:38 PM
By Roman Augustoviz

The Gophers are rated No. 6 in the USA Today/USA Hockey preseason men’s hockey poll.

Miami (Ohio), which lost in the NCAA title game last season to Boston University, is the top-rated team followed by Denver and BU.

The Gophers return 10 of their top 11 scorers from the 2008-09 season and 20 letterwinners.  Minnesota was 17-13-7 a year ago. The Gophers took fifth place in the WCHA but lost their first game in the Final Five and just missed advancing to the NCAA tournament.

Minnesota opens the season at No. 8 North Dakota on Oct. 16-17 and then faces Denver at home the next weekend.

The Gophers’ first practice is Saturday. The next day Minnesota faces British Columbia at 4 p.m. at Mariucci Arena in an exhibition game.

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U vb: Gophers next recruiting class shaping up nicely

Posted on September 24th, 2009 – 11:17 PM
By Roman Augustoviz

John Tawa’s prepvolleyball.com rated this year’s freshman class at the U the No. 1 in the country. Well, Gophers coach Mike Hebert already has two highly recruited player locked up for 2010. They are Ashley Wittman of Shakopee and Tori Dixon of Burnsville.

Tawa’s web site, which relies on college coaches, rates Wittman No. 8 and Dixon No. 13 in the country.  Here is what prepvolleyball.com says about each:

Ashley Wittman, 6-0 OH, Shakopee (Minnesota), Northern Lights

Ashley Wittman is the epitome of a complete player. A fierce and driven competitor, she has great leaping ability (recently touching 10-5!), a hammer for an arm and an unyielding desire to win. In high school, Wittman is the reigning National Junior of the Year and her Shakopee High School team is working on its third straight Minnesota AAA championship.

Her Northern Lights club team won back-to-back-to-back AAU National Championships and earned three Open Division medals. She’s been a major contributor to that success in virtually every rotation. Wittman is an unstoppable force on the court. She has excellent range as a hitter, can attack any tempo and hits a mean high ball. She is a strong block on the left side. She is a primary passer and has a tough jump float serve. Due to her long, agile body, she covers a lot of court defensively and is very accurate with her digging. A 4.0 student, this Minnesota

My comments: 6-6 Tabi Love can touch 10-5 1/2, so Ashley is in the same stratosphere. And Love’s father said, if he had to do it over again, Tabi would have enrolled at the U early like Ashley is planning to do. Might be a trend.

Tetori “Tori” Dixon, 6-3 MB, Burnsville (Minnesota), Northern Lights

At 6-3 and extremely strong, Dixon is a formidable and intimidating opponent. While her father (former Minnesota Viking Offensive Guard David Dixon) blocked for quarterbacks and running backs, Tori does some outstanding blocking of her own. Beyond being a supreme rejecter, Dixon has all-around skills that surprise. She plays middle for the celebrated Northern Lights team but lives on the outside for her high school squad.

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U mat: Schlatter one and done at Worlds

Posted on September 23rd, 2009 – 9:17 AM
By Roman Augustoviz

Gophers senior Dustin Schlatter had a rough day on Wednesday at the World Wrestling Championships in Herning, Denmark.

Schlatter, an NCAA champion as a freshman and a three-time All-America finisher, narrowly lost his opening match in the round of 32.

Ramesh Kumar of India edged Schlatter 0-1, 2-0, 1-1 at 163 pounds in the freestyle competition. Even though the third period ended in a tie, Kumar advanced because he scored the last point.

Kumar was an experienced first opponent. He finished third in the Asian Championship in May and fourth in the 2004 Olympics.

After his loss, at about 7 a.m. Minneapolis time, Schlatter had to hope Kumar reached the final for a spot in the consolation bracket. He nearly did.

Kumar won his next two matches but then was pinned by Chamsulvara Chamsulvaraev of Azerbaijan in 1:21 in the semifinals. Kumar had to settle for one of the two bronze medals that were awarded.

Gophers coach J Robinson, who was in Herning with two of his assistants, has said he will give Schlatter at least a month off now before he joins the team for preseason training. The Gophers’ first competition is not until mid-November.

Schlatter red-shirted last season to heal from injuries and try to qualify for the U.S. freestyle team competing in these World Championships.

U mat: Three nat’l powers visiting Minny

Posted on September 18th, 2009 – 6:08 PM
By Roman Augustoviz

Defending champion Iowa will be one of the three top four teams in last March’s NCAA meet visiting the Gophers this wrestling season.

The Hawkeyes will be here on Feb. 14. Iowa State, third at nationals, will stop on Jan. 3, and Nebraska, fourth at nationals, will visit Dec. 10.

So the home schedule, with seven dual meets, sets up nicely.

The U is also having a Meet the Team Night at 6 p.m. on Oct. 2 at the Williams Arena Club Room.

RSVP by calling 612-625-1013 or going to wrestle@umn.edu.

The 2009-10 schedule:

Date Opponent Location Time

Sat. Nov. 14 Bison Open Fargo, N.D. All Day

Sat. Nov. 21 Kaufman-Brand Open Omaha, Neb. 9:00 a.m.

Sat. Nov. 28 Cal State Bakersfield Sports Pavilion 7:00 p.m.

Fri. Dec. 04 Oklahoma State Stillwater, Okla. 7:00 p.m.

Thu. Dec. 10 Nebraska Williams Arena 7:00 p.m.

Sun. Dec. 13 Northern Colorado Greeley, Colo. 3:00 p.m.

Tue. Dec. 29 Southern Scuffle Greensboro, N.C. All Day

Wed. Dec. 30 Southern Scuffle Greensboro, N.C. All Day

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