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13 posts categorized "Gophers"

March 18, 2012

College Hockey | Kirby for Hobey, tournament notes

Posted by: Feldman

We haven't had much time to talk college hockey on here this season, thanks to a 12-pound 3-month-old who clearly doesn't think I should work at home, and a 5-year-old with a much more active social life than me or Mrs. Feldy.

But, with the high school season having wrapped up, we can talk some college hockey now and through the national tournament. Let's get right to it:

* Huge news came Friday for former Austin High standout defenseman Tim Kirby, who was named one of the top 10 Hobey Baker finalists this week. Kirby, a senior at Air Force, is the third Falcons player to be honored as a top-10 finalist since 2007 (Eric Ehn, 2007; Jacques Lamoureux, 2009). Kirby, of course, is coached by former Rochester Mustangs head coach (and quote machine) Frank Serratore

KIrby has 12 goals and 27 points in 36 games. His 12 goals are third-most by a defenseman in the country. He ranks ninth in school history in points by a defenseman (87) and holds the AFA record for most career games played (152). He's never missed a game in his four seasons.

The top-10 list will be cut down to three names (the Hobey Hat Trick finalists) on March 29. The Hobey Baker Award winner will be announced on April 6 in Tampa, Fla., the day before the national championship game. You can find bios of all 10 finalists here.

Kirby had an assist on the game-winning goal Saturday as AFA topped Rochester (NY) Institute of Technology, 4-0, in the Atlantic Hockey championship game. That victory gives the Falcons an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament, which begins Friday. It appears that the Falcons will likely be sent to the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass., where they will face top-ranked and No. 1 overall seed Boston College.

* There's a good chance that Western Michigan ends up in the West Regional, at the Xcel Energy Center, as the No. 4 seed in that region. The Broncos beat Michigan for the CCHA postseason championship on Saturday, earning an automatic bid into the national tourney.

The Broncos are coached by longtime NHL coach Andy Murray, and Rochester native Pat Ferschweiler is an assistant coach for WMU.

* We could have a meeting of two former Rochester Mayo players out east as USCHO.com is projecting Maine and Minnesota-Duluth to meet in the first round. Defenseman Bill Norman, a 2011 Mayo grad, is a freshman at Maine, though he hasn't played in a game this season. UMD's head equipment manager is 1997 Mayo grad Chris Garner, who is in his fourth season with the Bulldogs.

* The Gophers are in the tournament for the first time since Alex Kangas was a freshman (2007-08), and as the site host, they're locked into playing in the West Regional at the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday-Sunday, most likely as the region's No. 2 seed. By the time you're reading this, we'll probably know the other teams who have been slotted into that regional (the tournament selection show will air at 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPNU), but it sounds like there's a good chance that North Dakota will end up back at The X for a second consecutive weekend.

Either North Dakota or Michigan is expected to the be the No. 1 seed in the West Regional. The question that the selection committee faces, though, is this: Do they hold up what's referred to as "bracket integrity" (send the No. 1 seeds as close to their homes as possible?) or do they consider attendance issues? If it's the latter, then Michigan will come to The X and UND will head to Green Bay and the Midwest Regional.

From the NCAA's point of view, the Gophers will carry the West Regional, attendance-wise. Sending UND to St. Paul would guarantee a sellout crowd, but it might also guarantee a a lot of empty seats in the Resch Center in Green Bay (with Michigan, Ferris State, Denver and Cornell the likely teams to land in that region).

Either way, if the Gophers get past their first game (quite possibly against Boston U.), they'll be staring down a big rival in the regional final -- UND or Michigan.

November 02, 2010

Hockey | Mark Stuart podcast, tough news for Gophers

FELDY: First off, here's a link to today's interview with Rochester native and current Boston Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart, on 101.7 WFNX Radio in Boston. Today's topics: Playing on the road in the NHL, the play of red-hot Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, and what kind of shoes does Stuart like to wear on his size 13 feet?

Next, some bad news for Gophers hockey today. Sophomore forward Zach Budish may be done for the season after tearing the ACL in one of his knees in a moped accident. Kevin Gorg of FSN reported the news this morning on KFAN radio.

If true, it's a big blow to a Gophers offense that really clicked at Colorado College last weekend, scoring 13 goals in the two-game sweep against the Tigers. Budish was an anchor on the Gophs' second line so far this season.

October 09, 2010

Kangas makes more Gophers history; another D-1 player coming from Roch?

With his 29 saves in Friday's victory against Massachusetts, Rochester Century grad and current University of Minnesota senior goalie Alex Kangas surpassed the 2,600-save mark for his career.

A note from Gophers SID Paul Rovnak last night said that Kangas is just the third goalie in Gophers history to stop more than 2,600 shots in his U of M career.

A check of the Gophers media guide today, though, indicates Kangas is the fourth Gophers goalie to accomplish that feat. Adam Hauser (1998-2002) is by far the program's all-time saves leader, with 3,777. Kellen Briggs (2003-07) is second with 2,968, and Steve Janaszak (1975-79) is third with 2,639.

Rochester native Steve DeBus is ninth on that list, by the way, with 2,306 career saves from 1995-98.

It's another in a long line of accomplishments for Kangas at the U. He'll certainly be No. 2 on that saves list by the end of this season. And he still sits atop the lists for best single-season goals-against average (1.98) and save percentage (.930), both of which he accomplished as a freshman in 2007-08.

• • • • •

Former Rochester Lourdes standout Tyler Voigt could be the next Division I college player to come out of Rochester. A good source tells me Voigt has been offered a scholarship by the coach of a program from Atlantic Hockey, and he has drawn heavy interest from a CCHA school, though it's not certain he's been offered a scholarship from that school.

I'll try to track down Tyler in the next few days to see what he thinks his future may hold. Voigt is currently in his second season with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the North American Hockey League (Junior A, Tier II). Voigt has four goals and four assists, for eight points, through 11 games this season with Fairbanks.

August 08, 2010

Points system coming for Gophers hockey season ticket holders

FELDY: This was posted on the Gophers website on Saturday; the university will soon begin reallocating season ticket seating locations for men's hockey and men's basketball season ticket holders.

The changes will begin in the 2012-13 season. The athletic department was apparently happy with how the point system worked for football ticket holders that they've decided to carry it over to other sports. I don't know the exact categories you can receive points for, but I believe it has to do with how long you've had your tickets, points for being an alum, etc.

I guess the biggest point to note here is that, if you have season tickets for men's hockey or men's basketball, there's little chance you'll be able to keep the same seats you currently have. The last line from the Gophers' press release: Both Williams Arena and Mariucci Arena will be completely reseated, with the selection order for season ticket holders based upon specific Gopher Points totals. All season ticket holders will be required to participate in the seat selection process in 2012.

August 05, 2010

College Hockey | Gophers release 2010-11 roster

FELDY: I'm only two days behind on this one, but Gophers coach Don Lucia has released the team's roster for the upcoming season. The 27-man roster features 17 returning players and 10 incoming freshmen. 

Here's a link to the full roster.

Rochester Century grad Alex Kangas is one of seven seniors on the team. That experience, combined with the talented incoming class SHOULD mean better things than a seventh place finish for this year's Gophers. I say should because, well, who honestly thought the Gophers were a seventh-place team in the WCHA going into last season?

I'm sure Lucia's hope is that he doesn't have to rely heavily on those 10 newcomers, but guys like Justin Holl and Mark Alt on defense, and Nick Bjugstad and Erik Haula up front might be too good to keep off the ice.

As for Kangas, he's again listed at 6-2, 190 pounds. All three of the rostered goalies are the same as a year ago -- Kangas and juniors Kent Patterson and Jake Kremer. 

A couple of notes from Kangas' bio:

* I said this last season, but the Gophers struggles were not Kangas' fault. Obviously, no one expects him to play as lights-out as he did his freshmen season, when he set multiple school records. But Kangas had a solid season last year, a season that was good enough for the Gophers to go deeper in the postseason than they did. He just didn't always receive the support he needed. He was second in the WCHA with a .917 save percentage against conference opponents and fourth with a fourth with a 2.46 goals-against average.

* He knows his way around the WCHA and he is, hands-down, the Gophers go-to guy in net. Last year he became the third goalie in program history to play in 100 career games.

* He was very good in the final two games of the playoff series at North Dakota, even though the Gophers won just one of those two games and lost the series, 2-1. He stopped 87 of 96 shots in the series, including 41 in a 4-2 Game 2 victory. He also earned his first career point in that game when he assisted on an empty-net goal in the closing seconds.

The Gophers open their season Oct. 3 at Mariucci Arena with an exhibition game against the University of British Columbia. The regular season begins the following weekend with a two-game home series against Massachusetts.

The Gophs need to make hay before Christmastime. They play their first six games (and 10 of their first 14) at home. Eight of their final 14 regular season games are on the road, and at difficult places to play -- North Dakota (Jan. 14-15), Minn.-Duluth (Feb. 4-5), Wisconsin (Feb. 18-19) and Bemidji St. (March 4-5). Sandwiched between those road series are home series against Anchorage, Denver and Michigan Tech.

July 20, 2010

Gophers Hockey | Leddy leaving? Youso de-commits

FELDY: Running tally for Don Lucia this summer: 2 de-commits, 1 high-end recruit ticked off and, now, a first-round draft pick possibly bolting after his freshman season.

October can't come soon enough for Lucia.

Former International Falls standout Jake Youso today became the second player to de-commit from the Gophers this summer, joining Ryan Walters, who has since joined Dean Blais at Nebraska-Omaha. Certainly, Youso is not as talented as Walters and it's really not a surprise that he withdrew his commitment to the Gophers to seek other college hockey options.

Youso managed just seven points in 69 USHL games over the 2007-08 and 08-09 seasons. Last year, he played with Owatonna in the NAHL, putting up decent numbers, 22 goals and 22 assists.

He still is eligible for junior hockey for one more year, but as Star Tribune writer Roman Augustoviz noted on his Twitter feed today, Youso wants to get on with his college hockey career. His playing time would have been very spotty for at least his first two years with the Gophers. Youso has a ton of talent; we saw it here in Rochester for three consecutive years when he led I-Falls to two Kiwanis Festival championships, but he may not have enough talent to crack the Gophers lineup on a regular basis this year or next.

Youso's de-commitment by itself isn't enough to question what's going on in Gopherville once again. But, you put it on top of Walters' de-commitment earlier this summer and the recent news that New Prague native — and sure-fire 2011 first-round NHL Draft pick — Seth Ambroz is, at the very least, irritated with the U's coaching staff, and you have to scratch your head again at what Lucia is doing.

Back to Ambroz in a bit, but the cherry on top of today's Gopher Turmoil Sundae is the news on sophomore-to-be Nick Leddy. Gopher hockey message boards and Twitter updates were buzzing with news that Leddy is apparently ready to leave the U after a ho-hum freshman season (11 points) to sign with the Stanley Cup champions Chicago Blackhawks.

Gut reaction: It wouldn't surprise me if he goes, considering the lack of respect NHL teams have shown for the Gophers program in recent years (starting with the Islanders and the Kyle Okposo situation, up through ex-Wild asst. GM Tommy Thompson's comments on the Gophers after trading Leddy to Chicago). It's conceivable that the Blackhawks — after watching Leddy perform extremely well at their development camp last week — would prefer to get him under contract now and let him develop with a Major Junior team.

A few reports have surfaced in the last hour or so that indicate Leddy is staying, including one report by Star Tribune Wild beat writer Michael Russo, who says he's been told the rumor is "100 percent untrue." Then, he added, "but Leddy had a great development camp so there may be conversations eventually this summer."

Regardless of what happens with Leddy, it's apparently a done deal now that Ambroz will not be in a Gophers sweater this fall. And Ambroz isn't really pleased with that situation. Augustoviz noted on Twitter last week that Ambroz — who has put up 80 points in 116 games over the past two seasons for Omaha of the USHL — accelerated his education to graduate this spring, a year early, so he could play at the U.

However, Augustoviz noted, Lucia told Ambroz that he wanted him to play another year in the USHL because he couldn't guarantee him ice time and that Ambroz is "too good to play on the fourth line." By all accounts, Ambroz is ready for the WCHA, and I have a hard time believing the Gophers couldn't use a 6-3, 210-pounder who is strong at both ends of the ice, in their lineup.

Who, exactly, is guaranteed to beat Ambroz out of playing time? Nick Larson? Jake Hansen? Josh Birkholz? Who, I ask? All of this makes me wonder how soon a GM from a Major Junior team will have Ambroz on the phone. Maybe he won't ever wear the 'M.'

I'm sure Ambroz was looking forward to being a Gopher this fall and facing his brother, Matt, who will be a senior at new WCHA member Nebraska-Omaha this year. Seth Ambroz left New Prague after a terrific freshman season, when he put up 37 goals and 70 points for a Trojans team that was basically one-and-a-half lines deep and lost in OT to Rochester Lourdes in a Section 1A semifinal game. That team also included Darrin Lapic, Schyler Adams and Tyler Lapic, who will be a freshman on the U of Wisconsin team this fall.

The Gophers used to scare teams. There was a time, under Lucia even, when opposing players and fans absolutely hated to see the maroon-and-gold come to their barn. It used to be set in stone that the Gophers would be in the NCAA tournament on an annual basis. The facts, though, are this: The Gophers haven't played an NCAA tournament game the past two seasons. They've played just one WCHA Final Five game in the past two years (a 2-1 loss to Minnesota-Duluth in the 2009 play-in game).

That should be nauseating and unacceptable to Gophers fans.

June 24, 2010

Wild draft talk, Back from vacation ... physically, anyway

FELDY: This is what it takes to get me to post on the blog these days: I'm watching the Isner-Mahut match at Wimbeldon. Bad tennis, but I can't stop watching simply because I don't want to miss the end. Don't even really like tennis, but if a baseball game went into the 35th inning, you'd watch, right?

In today's print edition of the P-B, Phersy and I talk Wild offseason and NHL draft. The Wild, for now, have the No. 9 overall pick. Who do they take with that pick? Who knows? Their options are a jumble of names, mostly from Canadian juniors, that most fans haven't heard of and won't start caring about for a couple years, at least.

But, since some of us are complete rubes, here's some YouTube clips of guys who the Wild could take if they decide to stay at No. 9 and make the pick:

Brett Connolly, RW, Prince George (WHL), 6-2, 181. Connolly to the Wild might be wishful thinking. Very well could be gone by No. 9.

* Nino Niederreiter, LW, Portland (WHL), 6-1, 205

* Emerson Etem, W, Medicine Hat (WHL), 6-0, 194

* Ryan Johansen, C, Portland (WHL), 6-3, 190

* Jeff Skinner, C, Kitchner (OHL), 5-10, 195

* Derek Forbort, D, USNTDP (Duluth native), 6-4, 200. Of course if it was up to me, Forbort would be the Wild's pick. You know he's tough; he'll be a defenseman at North Dakota this fall. :-)

* Nick Bjugstad, C, Gophers (Blaine H.S.) -- No. 9 is probably too high to expect Bjugstad to go, but if the Wild trade down, Bjugstad's combination of size (6-3, 190), speed and wicked shot might be difficult to pass up.

---

A couple of other quick notes from the Wild Road Tour stop here in Rochester on Monday:

* No breaking news here, but a Wild employee told me that team owner Craig Leipold is pushing very hard for the NHL to give the Wild the NHL Winter Classic, and do so soon. Problem: The NHL doesn't want to bring the game here until the Wild has a team worthy of putting in the national spotlight. So, it'll be a few years before we can watch our favorite NHL club play outdoors on New Year's Day. ... And, it sounds like the venue of choice would be the Gophers' TCF Bank Stadium, not Target Field, because TCF has more seats (more seats = more tickets sold = more $ for Wild, NHL). ... And it sounds like Dallas will be the opponent if/when the Classic comes to Minny.

---

Tennis match ... dead. Isner wins fifth set 70-68. Mahut, like all good Frenchies, should've just surrendered. That's it for me, too.

June 08, 2010

Lakeville's Kvasnicka hurt Rochester hockey teams more than baseball

FELDY: Lakeville North grad and current Gophers baseball standout Mike Kvasnicka was drafted in Round 2 of the Major League Baseball draft today by the Houston Astros. Kvasnicka, a 2007 North grad, was also a standout on the Panthers' hockey teams.

While his team lost in the Section 1AA hockey final to Rochester Century in Kvasnicka's senior season, he played a key role in denying Century a trip to state in '06, in another in a long line of nail-biting, heartbreaking overtime games between those two teams in the hockey section finals.

Kvasnicka was the player who, on March 4, 2006, scored at 7:44 of the third overtime to send Lakeville to state. In that game, Lakeville scored twice in the third period -- including once with just 52 seconds remaining -- to force OT. After two scoreless OTs, Kvasnicka beat Century goalie Kraig Ewing on Lakeville's 62nd shot of the game.

Kvasnicka, a catcher/outfielder at Minnesota, was hitting .350 with eight homers and 48 RBIs before the Gophers NCAA tourney game on Monday. The Astros reportedly plan to move him to third base.

April 19, 2010

Today's Topic: Gopher hockey ... how long will it take to rebound?

FELDY: I was going to leave this topic alone because, well, we can only criticize Don Lucia so many times for the same reasons. I was going to leave this alone ... until I saw this: Gophers recruit Ryan Walters has de-committed from Minnesota because they wanted him to play one more year of junior hockey and BE LESS OF AN AGITATOR.

Right, coach Lucia, because if there's one thing the Gophers don't need, it's an agitator. </sarcasm off>

Seriously? Be less of an agitator? I would think the fact that Walters played that role in the USHL -- while putting up 61 points this season -- would make him an every-night player for the Gophers. 

To me, a couple of things are to blame here: 1) Kids are committing to college programs at way too young of an age. Walters gave the Gophers a verbal commitment when he was a sophomore at St. Thomas Academy in 2007. Too many factors can change in three years. 2) The Gophers have too many recruits coming in. In theory, this is a good problem for Lucia. He'll have 17 forwards on the roster next year, if everything stays as it is now. That gives Lucia's team some depth and lineup flexibility. However, because it seems like all of Lucia's recruits are young guys who have been scorers all their lives, and they all feel like they should be first-line players, it can cause some bitterness when they're not playing on a regular basis.

So, how long til the Gophers turn this thing around?

As we said, they'll have 17 forwards on next year's roster. They'll have 11 back from this year's team, including Jay Barriball, back on a medical hardship after suffering a knee injury. A couple of those new forwards -- Nick Bjugstad of Blaine and Seth Ambroz of New Prague -- accelerated their schooling to graduate a year early so they could come to Minnesota.

Is that part of the problem? The Gophers are getting all of these young players, some who have barely turned 18 years old when they start playing college hockey. I don't care how talented you are, talent can only carry you so far when you're playing against 21- and 22-year-olds at Denver, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Sure, it's good to have some of those young, talented guys on your team, but obviously a roster full of them in the WCHA isn't going to cut it.

To me, it comes down to coach Lucia needing to go outside of the state more consistently in recruiting efforts. Don't ignore the talent in Minnesota, but don't rely it solely. Look at some of the best players to come through Minnesota in recent seasons -- guys like Vanek, the Potulnys, and even Jacob Cepis this year. None are native Minnesotans, yet they were either the best or among the best players on their respective Gophers teams.

Lucia needs to ignore the old-timers who get upset when he dares to go outside of the state's borders to recruit. People who still want the Gophers to field an all-Minnesota roster are either living in the past or they want the program to continue to flounder.

April 05, 2010

Women's Hockey | DeBus named head coach at Hamline

FELDY: Former Rochester Mayo and University of Minnesota hockey standout goalie Steve DeBus is now a head coach.

DeBus was named the head women's hockey coach at Hamline University today.

After starring at Mayo, DeBus played for the USHL's Rochester Mustangs from 1991-93. He followed with a three-year stint at Minnesota, under coach Doug Woog. DeBus played on the Gophers' 1995 WCHA Final Five championship team and 1996 regular season championship team.

DeBus is still among the top-10 in several goaltending categories at Minnesota: 6th in wins (54), 8th in career saves (2,306) and tied for 3rd in shutouts (7). He was the First Team All-WCHA goalie in the 1996-97 season.

“I’m extremely excited about this opportunity and new challenge,” DeBus said in a press release. “We have a great opportunity to develop a strong women’s hockey team in the MIAC.”

He played five seasons of minor-league hockey.