Former Gophers defenseman Nate Schmidt is still surrounded by maroon and gold guys.

When the free agent signed with the Washington Capitals, they sent him to the Hershey Bears of the AHL.

The Bears have four former U of M forwards. Jeff Taffe is Hershey's leading scorer with 18 goals and 52 assists for 70 points in 70 games. Gee, let's see. If I do the math, that's one point per game.

Other ex-Gophers on the Bears are Ryan Potulny (19-21--40 in 63 games), Ryan Stoa (11-8--19 in 43), and Mike Carman (4-6--10 in 62).

Schmidt, who left the U after his junior season, has played in five games so far and has one goal and three assists for four points. He is a minus-2.

He left the Gophers after a brief postseason run: one Final Five game (2-0 loss to Colorado College) and one NCAA game (3-2 OT loss to eventual national champion Yale).

Now he is with a team trying to make the AHL playoffs.

Hershey is tied for 10th in the Eastern Conference standings with a record of 34-30-3-6 for 77 points. The last two numbers are overtime and shootout losses. The Bears are two points out of eighth, the last playoff spot, with three games left.

Desperation time. The Bears' finish the regular-season with games Fri., Sat. and Sun. First up is the last-place Adirondack Phantoms on Friday at Glen Falls, N.Y.


Schmidt signed a two-year entry level contract with the Washington Capitals shortly after the Gophers' season ended.

He left with the most postseason honors. He was named to the 2012-13 CCM Hockey All-America second team by the American Hockey Coaches Association.

Schmidt also was named a All-WCHA first team defenseman. He led WCHA blue-liners in scoring and tied for third among all NCAA defensemen with 32 points this season, including a career-high nine goals.

Schmidt  led all national defensemen and ranks tied for sixth among all skaters with 19 power-play points this season.

The junior had  a plus-15 rating and helped the Gophers lead the WCHA and finished third nationally in scoring defense.

In 96 career games at Minnesota, Schmidt tallied 74 points and 12 goals.

He and freshman goalie Adam Wilcox were arguably the Gophers' two most valuable players in 2012-13. The team has not held its postseason awards banquet yet.

When he signed April 2 -- four days after the Gophers' loss to Yale -- Schmidt was quoted as saying, "I wouldn’t trade my experience at the University of Minnesota for anything, and I am incredibly grateful to the team and staff for three great seasons at the ‘U’. This wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it is the right decision, and I am looking forward to beginning the next chapter of my playing career.”

Said Gophers coach Don Lucia at the time, “Nate is a great example of someone who was overlooked in the draft but worked hard on and off the ice to put himself in great position to become our top defenseman the last two years. He had two tremendous years and felt he was ready to take his game to the next level. He has a great opportunity with Washington and I want to wish him the best as he turns pro and thank him for his contributions to Gopher hockey.”


Stoa and Carman recently celebrated birthdays. Stoa turned 26 last Satuday, Carman turned 25 on Sunday. .... Taffe is 32 still chasing his NHL dreams, Potulny is 29.

Another Bear is Casey Wellman, a former Wild player. His numbers: 15-36--51 in 67 games.