Jason Gonzalez has covered an array of sports at all levels over the last six years. He learned ice hockey, however, long before — during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah (his hometown). He got a close up look of legendary Gophers alum Herb Brooks and other Minnesota hockey greats. Jason is nearing two years with the Star Tribune.
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Four assists at Ohio State earned Gophers sophomore Mike Reilly the Big Ten’s Third Star of the Week and the leading role among the conference’s scoring defensemen.
Reilly collected three assists in Friday’s 5-1 victory over Ohio State and added another in Saturday’s 2-2 tie and shootout loss. Friday’s three assists set a career-high.
Reilly leads Big Ten defensemen with 28 points (eight goals, 20 assists) and is among the top seven nationally in all three scoring categories. It’s Reilly’s first Big Ten honor of the season and the Gophers’ 21st.
Wisconsin forwards Mark Zengerle and Nic Kerdiles earned this week’s First and Second Stars.
• The Gophers’ Big Ten celebration was delayed by Ohio State on Saturday night. The Buckeyes rallied to tie the Gophers, 2-2, won the shootout 1-0, and kept the Gophers from clinching a regular-season championship.
A win at Michigan this weekend will claim the Gophers the inaugural conference title. The Gophers and Wisconsin, however, both clinched first-round byes for the Big Ten tournament, March 20-22.
St. Cloud State celebrated its National Collegiate Hockey Conference regular-season championship on Saturday night. The Huskies won the first Penrose Cup on the road at Colorado College with a 4-1 victory.
North Dakota (20-11-3 overall, 15-9-0 NCHC) and St. Cloud State (21-8-5 overall, 15-6-3 NCHC) entered the weekend tied for first place, but North Dakota lost its conference finale to Western Michigan, 2-1.
Minnesota State’s (22-13-1 overall, 20-7-1 WCHA) final weekend was spoiled. The Mavericks entered the week atop the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings with Ferris State, but a tie with Michigan Tech on Saturday left Minnesota State out of first place by one point.
Bemidji State (10-19-7 overall, 10-14-4 WCHA) finished tied for eighth in the WCHA standings.
• The Gophers enter the final week of the regular season at No. 1 in the polls. The top five remained unchanged in the USCHO poll with Boston College, Union, St. Cloud State and Wisconsin rounding out the group.
Michigan (No. 13), Minnesota State (No. 18) and Minnesota-Duluth (No. 20) all dropped a spot. Complete USCHO poll.
• The Gophers women’s hockey team traveled to the White House on Monday to meet President Obama. The undefeated 2012-2013 squad was among the NCAA Division 1 champion invitees.
President Obama mentioned the lady Gophers and their Olympians in his message to the group of champions.
The No. 1-seed Gophers begin their quest for back-to-back-to-back championships on Saturday against Boston University at 4 p.m. at Ridder Arena.
• I will be hosting a Gophers hockey live chat next Tuesday, March 18, at noon. Start thinking of questions and feel free to email them to me in advance if it’s something I’ll need to dig into.