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.
Follow Jason on Twitter @JGonStrib
Email to talk Gophers.
Gophers hockey confirmed dates for its 2014-2015 schedule on Tuesday morning. The announcement should make fans happy with all-but one conference series scheduled for Friday-Saturday.
Here’s a look at the Gophers’ Big Ten matchups – home series with Michigan State (Dec. 5-6), road series at Michigan (Jan. 9-10), home series vs. Wisconsin (Jan. 16-17), road series at Wisconsin (Jan. 30-31), home series vs. Ohio State (Feb. 6-7), home series vs. Michigan (Feb. 13-14) and the road series at Penn State (Feb. 20-21). The lone Thursday-Friday Big Ten series will be against Michigan State at Mariucci Arena, Feb. 26-27, followed by a road series at Ohio State (March 6-7) and home series against Penn State (March 13-14).
The Big Ten hockey tournament is March 19-21 in Detroit.
A nonconference series with Notre Dame, originally scheduled for Nov. 7-8 at Mariucci Arena, has been split to a Friday and Sunday series. The Gophers football team plays Iowa at home on Nov. 8 and likely forced the change.
Game times and TV schedules will be announced at a later date.
Gophers coach Don Lucia announced Thursday afternoon that sophomore forward Gabe Guertler had been granted a release from the hockey program.
No other details were given.
The Florida native, who’s dad grew up in the Twin Cities and played high school hockey, skated in 24 games for the Gophers last season and scored five points (two goals, three assists). He anchored the fourth line at center during the Gophers’ late-season run to the Frozen Four and national championship game.
An announcement that Guertler committed to play for the Soo Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League dropped within an hour of the Gophers’ press release.
“Im really excited to be a part of the Soo Program. I think it's a great opportunity for me to get better as a player,” Guertler said in the Greyhounds' statement. “The Soo is a great program and are a top-tier team in OHL. I look forward to getting started.”
Though Guertler showed promise late in the season, he started out his career on the wrong foot. He was arrested last September and charged with drunk driving on a moped near campus. Lucia suspended the freshman indefinitely.
Guertler eventually made his collegiate debut in early November against Notre Dame and would go on to earn a regular role in the Gophers’ lineup. A tumultuous first year likely didn’t help in determining how Guertler fit into the Gophers’ future plans and he was given the option to take a release.
After the annoucement of Guertler's departure, the 2014-2015 roster went live with 19 players listed and no mention of incoming freshmen.
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.
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.