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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The Gophers women’s hockey team released its 2014-2015 schedule on Wednesday afternoon. The season-opening tournament (Oct. 3-4) at Ridder Arena features matchups with Penn State and a rematch of last year’s NCAA quarterfinals against Boston University.
Other non-conference opponents include Princeton (Nov. 29-30) and St. Lawrence (Jan. 4-6). Western Collegiate Hockey Association play opens with back-to-back weekends on the road at Minnesota Duluth (Oct. 10-11) and Wisconsin (Oct. 17-18).
North Dakota travels to Ridder Arena Oct. 24-25 for the Gophers' first WHCA home series.
The lady Gophers and St. Cloud State will play at Braemar Arena in Edina on Nov. 24 as part of a special U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame game.
Matchups are set for the Mariucci Classic and details for the Gophers’ home-and-home series with St. Cloud State have been confirmed.
The 24th annual Mariucci Classic will kick off Jan. 2 with UMass-Lowell and RIT. The Gophers and Merrimack will complete the doubleheader. The winners will advance to Saturday’s championship game. Friday’s losers will play in a Saturday consolation game.
Times for the games have yet to be announced.
The Oct. 31-Nov. 1 home-and-home series with in-state rival St. Cloud State will start at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. The series will wrap up at Mariucci Arena on Saturday.
UMass-Lowell has two Minnesotans listed on its roster in freshmen Chris Forney (Thief River Falls) and Lucas Kohls (Forest Lake). Merrimack junior Ben Bahe is from Stillwater.
Brady Skjei will return to the Gophers’ blue line next season. The New York Rangers’ 2012 first-round draft pick informed the club on Thursday that he would return for his junior year of college.
The defenseman joins fellow junior defenseman Mike Reilly in putting off professional hockey a bit longer for a chance to return to the Frozen Four and national championship.
“I can’t wait to come back and build off of what we accomplished last year,” Skjei said in a release. “It’s a new season and a new team, but I’m excited about our potential.”
The Lakeville native is currently participating in the Rangers’ prospect developmental camp in New York City alongside Gophers teammate Vinni Lettieri.
Skjei played a big role on the Gophers’ back end in their run to last year’s national championship game. He also scored 14 points (six goals, eight assists) and was an All-Big Ten honorable mention and Academic All-Big Ten honoree.
He was a member of the 2014 National Junior Team and a product of the U.S. National Developmental Team Program.
With Skjei and Reilly committed to return, the attention turns to senior forward Kyle Rau. He told the Star Tribune in May that he didn’t want to rush into a decision. Last week’s NHL draft, and the ensuring roster moves, should help Rau clear up any uncertainty and make an announcement soon.
Talk among the team was that junior goaltender Adam Wilcox decided to return, though no announcement has been made. The national runner-up Gophers lost only five seniors to graduation.
The Gophers continue to pull from Sweden’s crop of hockey talent. William Fällström announced his commitment to the program on Thursday morning via Twitter.
Fällström becomes the third Swede to commit to the Gophers in the past year. Swedish-born skaters Leon Bristedt and Robin Höglund are set to join the Gophers this fall. Fällström, a 16-year-old forward from Stockholm, is likely a few years away from playing at Mariucci Arena.
Fällström has scored 26 goals and 15 assists in 42 games with four different teams throughout his 2013-2014 season, according to Elite Hockey Prospects.
The Gophers have had only two players from outside of North America skate for the program.
I'm really excited to have committed to the University of Minnesota and I can't wait to be a Gopher #Gophers— William Fällström (@wfallstrom16) June 19, 2014
The Gophers will send five representatives to the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., this August.
Invitations were extended to sophomore forwards Hudson Fasching, Taylor Cammarata, Vinni Lettieri, sophomore defenseman Michael Brodzinski, and incoming freshman defenseman Ryan Collins. Forty two players will attend the eight-day camp that will include international competition against Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic.
The players will compete for a spot on the 2015 U.S. National Junior Team and a trip to the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal, Dec. 26-Jan. 5.
Seven players return from the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team, including Fasching. Last year’s team also featured incoming junior defenseman Brady Skjei and was coached by Gophers lead man Don Lucia. The U.S. lost in the quarterfinals and finished fifth.
Fasching scored 30 points (14 goals, 16 assists) on the Gophers’ first line and earned All-Big Ten freshman honors, last season. He also made a big impact at the World Junior Championships by scoring two goals and two assists.
Cammarata compiled 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) as a freshman on the Gophers’ second line. He was invited to last year’s summer evaluation camp.
Lettieri totaled eight points (two goals, six assists) as a regular on the fourth line.
Brodzinski scored 13 points (six goals, seven assists) as a freshman defenseman and played a big role in the Gophers’ postseason run. He was also invited to last year’s summer evaluation camp.
Collins, an incoming freshman defenseman, is coming off his second year with the U.S. National Developmental Team Program. He was part of a gold medal-finish in the 2014 IIHF Under-18 World Championships and has significant experience in international competition.
Minnesotans Clint Lewis (Cornell), Jack Dougherty (incoming freshman at Wisconsin), Tommy Vannelli (Medicine Hat Tigers and former Gophers recruit), Connor Hurley (incoming freshman at Notre Dame) and Keegan Iverson (Portland Winterhawks) were also invited to the summer evaluation camp.
Mark Osiecki, a Burnsville native and former Ohio State head coach, will coach this year’s National Junior Team.