Staff Directory 10644611

Joe Christensen

Sports enterprise reporter | General assignment
phone: 612-673-7844
Joe Christensen is a general assignment/sports enterprise reporter who previously spent 15 years covering Major League Baseball and four covering NCAA football. He is a Faribault, Minn., native and University of Minnesota graduate whose other newspaper stops have included the Baltimore Sun and Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise.
Recent content from Joe Christensen
Royce Lewis, shown here in spring training this past February in Fort Myers, could be back in Twins colors and playing at Target Field before the end

Twins' top pick Lewis is charming Cedar Rapids – but for how much longer?

The shortstop, still just 18 years old, is showing he has big potential as a player and a person, while quickly climbing the Twins' minor-league ladder.
Gophers shortstop Terrin Vavra hung around big leaguers as a kid. He came to the U with an “advanced hittng approach.”

Chip off the old hitting coach: Vavra leads Gophers into Big Ten tourney

Junior Terrin Vavra, son of former Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra, leads the Gophers in most key offensive categories.
Former University of Minnesota-Duluth coach Shannon Miller celebrated her victory in a discrimination case while exiting the federal courthouse in Dul

Women coaches keep winning in court, but losing careers

It's become a familiar pattern: A female coach wins a court judgment for her firing, while the man responsible for her firing gets rewarded.
Gophers righthander Patrick Fredrickson is 6-0 with a Big Ten-leading 1.61 ERA.

Two freshman pitchers key Gophers baseball into Big Ten contention

Starter Patrick Fredrickson and closer Max Meyer have helped the Gophers win seven consecutive series heading into this weekend's series with Indiana.
Teammates celebrated with Minnesota infielder Makenna Partain (3) after Partain's grand slam in the bottom of the first inning against Wisconsin.

U softball storms Badgers, continues comeback from struggling start

After advancing to the NCAA super regionals last season and going 56-5, the Gophers softball team got off to a slow start before winning 12 of its last 13 games.
Clarkson Golden Knights celebrated there 2-1 overtime win at Ridder Arena Sunday March 18, 2018 in Minneapolis, MN.

Clarkson tops Colgate in OT for NCAA women's hockey title

The Golden Knights went overtime to win all three of their NCAA tournament games.
Colgate Raiders forward Bailey Larson (61) and forward Breanne Wilson-Bennett (11) celebrated a second period goal by forward Megan Sullivan (7) again

Colgate hopes to be like rival Clarkson — an NCAA women's hockey champion

Two-time NCAA champion Clarkson will play a first-time Frozen Four team in final
Clarkson forward Loren Gabel scored an overtime goal on Ohio State goaltender Kassidy Sauve to win the game 1-0.

Frozen Four drama: Clarkson, Colgate win in OT to reach women's title game

Both of Friday's national semifinal games pitted an Eastern team needing extra time to take down a WCHA foe.
The 2019 men’s basketball Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium might be the biggest ticket, but there are many more NCAA championship events coming to to

Minneapolis, St. Paul take turns as NCAA title towns

Four NCAA postseason events will be held in the Twin Cities thru April 7.
Minnesota's Oliva Knowles (24) skates off the ice after Minnesota lost 4-0 to Wisconsin during the in an NCAA Frozen Four quarterfinal March 10, 2018,

Season ends for Gophers women's hockey in NCAA quarterfinals

The Gophers' streak of Frozen Four trips ends at six in year they are host.
After health struggles, junior forward Taylor Williamson is playing again for the Gophers women’s hockey team and scoring big goals.

Gophers women's hockey forward Taylor Williamson battled health issues to play again

She battled both brain surgery and an autoimmune disorder to play college hockey again.
Gophers players rushed goalie Sidney Peters after they beat Wisconsin on Sunday at Ridder Arena.

Gophers turn back No. 1 Wisconsin for WCHA women's hockey title

By winning a must-win game, they clinched a berth in the NCAA tournament, where they will face the Badgers again.
Gophers forward Grace Zumwinkle, shown here vs. St. Cloud State earlier this season, scored twice Saturday in the WCHA semifinals.

Gophers earn shutout in WCHA semifinals, will face Wisconsin for the title

Grace Zumwinkle scored both Gophers' goals in a 2-0 victory to set up a critical WCHA finale at Ridder Arena.
“We’re ready for them,” Ohio State coach Nadine Muzerall said of the Gophers, the team for which she once starred and later coached as an assist

Former U women's hockey star now taking aim at Gophers in WCHA

Nadine Muzerall is Minnesota's all-time leading scorer, a former top-notch assistant and now the Ohio State coach who could damage the Gophers' postseason hopes.
Designed to be airy and light, U.S. Bank Stadium now needs massive curtains to block the sunlight during the 2019 NCAA Final Four — and they won’t

U.S. Bank Stadium needs 'expensive' blackout curtains for NCAA

NCAA insists environment in building must be consistent throughout Final Four. Stadium authority not releasing cost estimates, but chairman says "it will be expensive — obviously."
Gophers players celebrated the win over St. Cloud State on Friday

U women's hockey sweeps St. Cloud State; Ohio State up next

The Gophers never trailed in this weekend's best-of-three series, but the next challenge will be tougher.
Marlene Stollings, Richard Pitino and Don Lucia: Will these Gophers coaches all be back next season? If so, will all three have new contracts? (Star T

Gophers' AD Coyle faces decisions on futures of Lucia, Pitino, Stollings

Athletic director Mark Coyle declined to discuss looming decisions, but it's hard to imagine "status quo" being the answer for all three coaches of the Gophers' high-profile winter sports.
Taylor Wemple, at star at Hill Murray, was committed to North Dakota, but when that program folded she landed at St. Cloud State. Now, she’ll take o

North Dakota orphans reshaping women's hockey season

Opponents trying to knock the Gophers out of NCAA tournament contention have received big boosts from former Fighting Hawks.
Freshman forward Grace Zumwinkle leads the Gophers in points. (Star Tribune file photo by ANTHONY SOUFFLE, anthony.souffle@startribune.com)

Gophers have 'mountain to climb' to get to Women's Frozen Four in home rink

Gophers could help their cause this weekend.
Franz Boelter hugged some of his players after Faribault Bethlehem Academy won the Class 1A volleyball title in 2012.

Hall of Fame prep coach denies 'emotional mistreatment' allegations after firing

Students at Bethlehem Academy in Faribault protested Franz Boelter's firing this week. But the school's president said "we have to do what's right for kids in 2018" despite Boelter's achievements coaching volleyball and boys' basketball.

AFC notes: Patriots bench cornerback Butler, hero in past Super Bowl

"I ain't got nothing to say," Malcolm Butler said in the Patriots locker room.
Referees signaled a touchdown after Philadelphia wide receiver Alshon Jeffery made a 34-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Nick Foles in the first

Patriots' defense reverts to early-season woes, can't stop Eagles

Tom Brady and the offense did their part Sunday, but New England's defense simply could not stop Philadelphia's offense — not once in the second half.
Though Patriots running back Dion Lewis wasn’t a huge factor in the AFC title game, he averaged 74.5 rushing yards and scored eight TDs in the final

Once-jettisoned Lewis is now a gem of a running back for Patriots

Featured running back Dion Lewis is the latest Patriot to go from the NFL's scrapheap to stardom
Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore broke up a pass intended for Jaguars receiver Dede Westbrook late in the second half of the AFC championship game,

Patriots defense not loaded, but filled with playmakers when it counts

After Week 4, New England turned things around, leading the NFL in scoring defense (14.0 points per game), with the Vikings second at 14.7, from that point .
Rob Gronkowski and LeGarrette Blount appeared at the Mall of America on Tuesday.

Gronkowski gives simple answer to Super Bowl playing status: 'Yes'

Rob Gronkowski lost a video game competition Tuesday night at the Mall of America but gave the news every Patriots fan wanted to hear.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had the largest crowd of media around him for his availability. ] JEFF WHEELER ï jeff.wheeler@startribune.com Super Bo

Is NFL's massive popularity headed for a fall?

From concussions to the officiating, a number of issues are chipping away at the relationship between the league and football fans.
Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola caught the winning touchdown pass against the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game, one of his two fourth-quarte

Patriots receiver Amendola is admired — universally

Be it on or off the field, Danny Amendola has become the talk of the Patriots.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, hugs coach Bill Belichick after the AFC championship NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jagu

Patriots embrace their role: 'They hate us because they ain't us'

New England seems to be embracing the loathing from the rest of the nation over the Patriots' success. As one of their fans puts it: "We break a lot of their teams' hearts."
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, and receiver Danny Amendola enjoyed the moment after winning the AFC Championship Game on Sunday. They’ve been

Seasoned Patriots focus on business before Super Bowl

New England's first task: Address the off-field details.
New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola, left, celebrates his touchdown catch with Chris Hogan, right, during the second half of the AFC cha

Hand it to Brady: Quarterback leads Patriots in comeback for AFC title

With a stitched-up throwing hand, Tom Brady led a fourth-quarter rally from 10 points down to send New England to Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium
Robert Kraft, left, gave thanks to quarterback Tom Brady after the AFC Championship Game win, the eighth for the duo and ninth for the owner.

On the ropes in first half, Patriots find a way out

Sunday marked the 24th anniversary of Robert Kraft's purchase of the Patriots. The team rewarded him with his ninth Super Bowl berth.
Jacksonville’s Doug Marrone touted first-graders’ letters on how to upset the Patriots, something his boss knows about.

Jaguars have a secret weapon as they look to upset New England in AFC Championship Game

Patriots slayer Tom Coughlin is at the heart of the Jaguars' revival
Tom Brady at Friday's practice.

Brady wearing gloves, even during interviews, but will he play?

Tom Brady kept the intrigue brewing over his injured throwing hand, about 48 hours before Sunday's AFC Championship Game against Jacksonville.
The 15th Avenue entrance to the new Land O’Lakes Center for Excellence.

Athletes Village will change nearly everything about Gophers athletics

When you open the main entrance to the Gophers' new $166 million Athletes Village, it's like stepping inside a maroon-and-gold themed Times Square
Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs scored a 61-yard touchdown to win the game. Minnesota beat New Orleans by a final score of 29-24.

Saints rookie safety Williams buried in guilt after blowing tackle

Marcus Williams faced the cameras and took the blame for not making the play that would have put the Saints in the NFC Championship.
Former Gophers football coach Tracy Claeys has been hired to be the defensive coordinator at Washington State, a person familiar with the situation to

Back in the game: Claeys named Washington St. defensive coordinator

Tracy Claeys' final game as Gophers head football coach was a victory over the Cougars in the 2016 Holiday Bowl when he was leading a team depleted by suspensions.
Richard Pitino spoke with media members Friday on campus. (Star Tribune photo by LEILA NAVIDI, leila.navidi@startribune.com)

What we know about Reggie Lynch and his sexual assault investigations

Questions and answers surrounding the Reggie Lynch suspension and controversy.
Richard Pitino, left, and P.J. Fleck, right.

Trump's tax plan will cost the Gophers millions in taxes, donations

A tax on big-money contracts and the elimination of deductions for ticket-buyers have university leaders across the country recalibrating bottom lines.
Iowa Wild players warmed up before a game at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.

Des Moines, Iowa: Meet Minnesota's minor-league sports hub

Home to the Iowa Wild and Iowa Wolves, Des Moines was named the No. 1 minor league market in America by the Sports Business Journal.
Veteran defenseman Nate Prosser played in only one game with St. Louis this season, getting in 15 minutes, 23 seconds of ice time in a 5-2 victory ove

Defenseman Nate Prosser welcomes his third stint with Wild

The defenseman rejoined the team for a third time.
Wild defenseman Gustav Olofsson battled Winnipeg’s Andrew Copp (9) on Monday night.

GM Fletcher: Wild won't win until it starts playing 'the right way'

After getting outscored 13-5 in losses to St. Louis and Winnipeg, the Wild faces a stunning expansion success story Thursday when Vegas comes to the X.
Wild center Eric Staal (12) scored the tying goal on Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne

Wild's luck – or, ahem, planning – shows signs of improving

If the Wild needed any more proof its luck has changed heading into Saturday's game at Washington, it came late in Thursday's 6-4 comeback victory over Nashville.
Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) celebrates with teammates Chris Stewart (10), Marcus Foligno (17), Jonas Brodin (25) and Matt Dumba (24)

Wild's young defensemen beginning to emerge

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau has been especially pleased with his second defensive pairing of Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin.
Chris Stewart (10) is one of seven Wild forwards who have gone without a point over the past six games.

Wild knows offense must kick into higher gear to help Dubnyk

Eventually, Devan Dubnyk's three-game shutout streak will end, and Jason Zucker might not rescue everyone with his recent scoring touch.
Gophers season-ticket buyers could lose their ability to deduct “scholarship seating” costs should the latest tax reform bill pass as written.

Tax deductions for college sports season-ticket plans could get wiped out

GOP tax reform bill targets deductions; Gophers, other schools could feel impact.
Freshman Casey Mittelstadt often appears calm, but Gophers coach Don Lucia said there is some “bulldog” in him. (University of Minnesota photo)

Making adjustments: Eden Prairie's Mittelstadt off to strong start for Gophers

The pressure on freshman forward Casey Mittelstadt has intensified, partly because the team's top returning scorers have gotten off to slow starts.
The Blake School midfielder CC Wallin (9) hit a header during the first half last month against Visitation during their 1A quarterfinal game.

As dangerous as football? Girls' soccer confronts concussion issue

One study showed girls who play soccer are three times more likely to suffer concussions than boys who play the sport, and almost as often as high school football players.
The Minnesota Wild's Kyle Quincey (27) and Jonas Brodin (25) celebrate with Luke Kunin (19) after Kunin scored the first NHL goal of his career in the

Wild feasts on 'embarrassing' sloppiness from Islanders in 6-4 win

In Thursday night's victory over the New York Islanders, the Wild jumped out to a 3-0 lead and scored a pair of shorthanded goals.
Minnesota's Leon Bristedt is upended by UND's Austin Poganski in the first period Friday at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks.

Gophers men's hockey beaten by North Dakota for first time since '12

North Dakota scored three times during a five-minute major on the Gophers, paving the way to a 4-0 victory cruise before a sellout crowd of 11,890 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
There are always big hits when the Gophers and North Dakota meet. Ryan Collins was sandwiched last season.

Wall-to-wall mayhem: Gophers, UND finally return rivalry to Grand Forks

None of the players, on either side, has been through a Minnesota-UND game in Grand Forks. But Gophers coach Don Lucia has told players what to expect.
Totino-Grace freshman Luke Rooker grabbed his hockey gear from his father's truck as he walked into the Brooklyn Park Community Center ice arena for p

Demands of year-round sports are pushing kids to the limit

Minnesota athletes are pushing themselves to extremes, developing highly polished skills while families make major investments of money and time. The first of our three-part series examines how all of those hours bring increased risks of injury -- and burnout.
Zach Parise had another injury setback at Monday's practice, forcing him off the rink after 25 minutes of drills.

Parise leaves ice at practice; Wild suits up assistant to help out

To deal with the Wild's injury-created shortage of players. coach Bruce Boudreau had 45-year-old assistant Darby Hendrickson take the ice to have enough bodies for practice.
Penn State's Nikita Pavlychev (13) celebrates his second-period goal past Minnesota goalie Eric Schierhorn

Sluggish Gophers hockey opens Big Ten with home loss to Penn State

Playing without captain Tyler Sheehy, the Gophers fell 3-1 to the Nittany Lions.
Notre Dame eliminated Ryan Norman and the Gophers from the NCAA tournament last season. Now the two teams are conference rivals and expected to battle

Can Gophers fans finally learn to love Big Ten hockey?

Four of the Big Ten's seven hockey schools made the 16-team NCAA field last season, including newcomer Notre Dame, which went to the Frozen Four.
Minnesota Duluth players celebrated after Parker Mackay scored the winning goal in overtime against Gophers goalie Eric Schierhorn on Friday night in

Gophers fall to UMD 4-3 in OT to lose season opener

The Bulldogs more than doubled the Gophers' shots on goal and beat their in-state rival for the eighth consecutive meeting.
Casey Mittelstadt of Eden Prairie is expected to be the Gophers’ top freshman.

Mittelstadt is big addition, but U wants widespread improvement

Optimism surrounds more than the talented hockey freshman from Eden Prairie.

Gophers hockey on TV? For some big upcoming games, not in the Twin Cities

Upcoming Gophers men's hockey rivalry games at Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota will be televised — but not in wide swaths of Minnesota.In college hockey,…
Daniel Winnik took a big salary cut in coming over as a free agent to sign with the Wild from Washington to fill in for Zach Parise, out because of ba

With Zach Parise ailing, Wild sign Daniel Winnik to fill in

With a back issue keeping Zach Parise out for at least the Wild's first two games, the team officially added veteran winger Daniel…
Mikael Granlund was a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy last season.

Granlund's breakthrough season rewarded with new contract

There is no mistaking Mikael Granlund's singular importance to the Wild, as it prepares to open a new season Thursday at Detroit.
Wild center Eric Staal

Staal eagerly awaits Wild season after frightening playoff concussion

Eric Staal returns healthy and driven by playoff loss.
Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk makes a save against St. Louis last week.

Dubnyk continues to stand out in Wild's final exhibition games

Devan Dubnyk made 27 saves in Saturday night's 5-1 victory over Dallas, capping a 5-2 preseason for the Wild.
Parise

Wild notes: Roster trimmed to 24

With less than a week to go before the season opener, players on the bubble include forwards Daniel Winnik, Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin, and defensemen Ryan Murphy, Gustav Olofsson and Mike Reilly.
Wild defenseman Ryan Suter

Fletcher on Suter: 'This guy could play to 45, if he wants to'

Ryan Suter is showing no signs of slowing down as he enters Year 6 of his 13-year, $98 million contract.
Wild forward Matt Cullen tries to get a shot on net while being defended by Gustav Olofsson during training camp.

Cullen sits out again as Wild beat Blues 3-2

Matt Cullen has not played in five of six preseason games for the Wild, leaving coach Bruce Boudreau cautious about the 40-year-old's season outlook.
Zach Parise

Parise's health could affect Wild's season-opening roster

The Wild's season starts next Thursday in Detroit, and as General Manager Chuck Fletcher said Wednesday, "The next week will be critical" for players on the bubble - especially if Zach Parise can't play right away.
Alex Stalock

Stalock wins Wild backup goalie job; roster cut to 26

The Wild on Wednesday made it official by placing Alex Stalock's chief competition as Devan Dubnyk's backup — former Boston Bruin Niklas Svedberg — on waivers.
Minnesota Wild right wing Daniel Winnik (26) was checked into the boards by Winnipeg Jets defenseman Nelson Nogier (62) while trying to get to the puc

Blue-collar forward Daniel Winnik punches in for the Wild

When the Wild obtained veteran forward Daniel Winnik this month, it reunited coach Bruce Boudreau with someone who played big minutes for him with Anaheim
Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold

Wild owner has championship expectations: 'We have a team that can do it'

"Anything short of winning the Stanley Cup would be a disappointment," Wild owner Craig Leipold said Saturday night.
It’s a small sample size, but Gophers coach Don Lucia is impressed with freshman Casey Mittelstadt, formerly of Eden Prairie. “He’s competitive,

Lucia optimistic on Gophers hockey with season on horizon

The Gophers' men's hockey team is 10 days from its exhibition opener. Here are three things to watch for the upcoming season, which officially begins Oct. 6.
Wild goalie Alex Stalock, who overcame a severe knee injury in 2011, will play in the preseason home opener Thursday.

Stalock battling to make Wild's roster as backup goalie

Alex Stalock, a South St. Paul native, is fighting for a roster spot and knows he is fortunate to still be playing after a freak on-ice incident in 2011.
Wild forward Matt Cullen tries to get a shot on net while being defended by Gustav Olofsson during training camp.

Olofsson, Reilly battling for spots on Wild's blue line

Mike Reilly, 24, and Gustav Olofsson, 22, are primary candidates to join free agent signee Kyle Quincey on the Wild's third defensive pairing.

Wild notes: Zach Parise held out of opening practices

Zach Parise did on-ice skating exercises early Friday morning at Xcel Energy Center but did not take part in either of the two Wild practices…

Wild notes: Zach Parise held out of opening practices

Zach Parise did on-ice skating exercises early Friday morning at Xcel Energy Center but did not take part in either of the two Wild practices…
Minnesota Gophers coach P.J. Fleck led his team onto the field Thursday night in the season opener, his first at the helm of Minnesota.

Animated leaps to cool composure: Inside P.J. Fleck's Gophers debut

P.J. Fleck's first game in Minnesota had highs, lows and everything in between. "Always appreciate a win, no matter how you get it," he said after the 10-point victory.
Linebacker Blake Cashman was the Gophers' sacks leader in 2016, but the Gophers see him excelling in many roles.

Repaired Cashman could be a centerpiece somewhere in U's defense

Expectations are high for a healthy Blake Cashman after the former Eden Prairie star led the Gophers in sacks last season. But where will he play?
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