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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Kyle Rau announced he will return to the Gophers’ first line next season. The senior forward broadcasted his decision in swim trunks on a beach in Florida.
“I’m going back to the university again, for one more year, hopefully we’ll be back playing in that [national championship] game again. We’ll see, though,” Rau told the Florida Panthers video team on Wednesday after Day 3 of the club's developmental camp.
Rau’s return means the Gophers avoided losing all-but five graduating seniors from last year’s national runner-up squad. Standout junior defensemen Mike Reilly and Brady Skjei also passed on the option to leave college early and sign a professional contract. A team source also confirmed to the Star Tribune that junior goaltender Adam Wilcox and sophomore forward Hudson Fasching will return, though no formal announcements were made.
Gophers coach Don Lucia said last year he had been refocusing his recruiting strategy to find skaters committed to playing out most of their four-year college eligibility. The return of standout prospects Rau, Reilly, Skjei, Wilcox and Fasching is a big victory for the coaching staff.
The incoming freshman class is also full of potential with four Gophers’ commitments selected in last month’s NHL draft.
Rau led the Gophers last season with 40 points (14 goals, 26 assists). He was a big part of the postseason success and contributed two assists in the Frozen Four.