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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Three Gophers will feel at home this weekend. Travis Boyd, Brady Skjei and Hudson Fasching will lead the Gophers into Ann Arbor, Mich., for their final regular-season series against Michigan.
The college town was home to the trio while playing for the U.S. National Team Developmental Program throughout their final two years of high school. The program’s close proximity to Yost Arena left each of the Gophers’ standouts with a familiarity of Michigan hockey.
“It’s a nice place. Overall, a college town. I’m really looking forward to playing a game at Yost [Arena] where it’s a college vs. a college,” Boyd said. “I’m excited to get back out there and see my [host] family and see some people I haven’t seen in a while. It should be a lot of fun going back.”
Fun will come second. The Gophers must claim at least two points to win the Big Ten regular-season championship outright. A win would earn three points, a tie one point, and a shootout win is worth an extra point. The Gophers prefer to get the job done with a victory.
Michigan’s postseason could be on the line this weekend. If the Wolverines lose two to the Gophers and struggle in the Big Ten hockey tournament, they could be left out of the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan missed the postseason last year for the first time in 22 seasons.
• Forward Sam Warning’s status was still unclear on Wednesday. He missed last Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury, but was skating well during Wednesday’s practice.
Gophers coach Don Lucia said he would be assessed throughout the rest of the week before a decision was made.
• Gophers recruits Ryan Lindgren and Ryan Edquist were among the 52 players invited to USA Hockey’s 2014 National Team Developmental Program Evaluation Camp.
Lindgren, a defenseman, and Edquist, a goaltender, are both currently at Shattuck-St. Mary’s.
Twelve Minnesotans were invited to the five-day (March 21-25) camp in Ann Arbor, Mich., that will help select the 2014-2015 U.S. National Under-17 Team.
• The National Collegiate Hockey Conference announced its inaugural All-Conference Team on Wednesday. Regular-season champion St. Cloud State had three players recognized and Minnesota Duluth had one.
North Dakota led all teams with four honors. The NCHC will announce its finalists for specialty awards on Thursday.
NCHC All-Conference First Team
Josh Archibald, Jr., F, Nebraska Omaha – 40 points (13 first-place votes)
Nic Dowd, Sr., F, St. Cloud State – 37 (12)
Austin Czarnik, Jr., F, Miami – 20 (6)
Dillon Simpson, Sr., D, North Dakota – 32 (10)
Joey LaLeggia, Jr., D, Denver – 30 (10)
Sam Brittain, Sr., G, Denver – 39 (13)
NCHC All-Conference Second Team
Chase Balisy, Sr., F, Western Michigan – 20 (5)
Riley Barber, So., F, Miami – 18 (5)
Michael Parks, Jr., F, North Dakota – 11 (2)
Jaccob Slavin, Fr., D, Colorado College – 15 (4)
Jordan Schmaltz, So., D, North Dakota – 12 (3)
Ryan Faragher, Jr., G, St. Cloud State – 15 (2)
NCHC All-Rookie Team
Jake Guentzel, F, Nebraska Omaha – 38 (12)
Alex Iafallo, F, Minnesota Duluth – 34 (11)
Trevor Moore, F, Denver – 32 (10)
Jaccob Slavin, D, Colorado College – 33 (11)
Paul LaDue, D, North Dakota – 25 (7)
Charlie Lindgren, G, St. Cloud State - unopposed
• Up next: No. 1 Gophers at No. 13 Michigan, Friday at 5:30 p.m. CT and Saturday at 6 p.m. CT.
Gophers video extras
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Gophers forward Travis Boyd:
Gophers coach Don Lucia: