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
To view on mobile device, click “View on full site” at bottom of page.
Gophers forward Travis Boyd:
Gophers coach Don Lucia:
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.
The Gophers can clinch the Big Ten hockey regular-season title with a victory on Saturday night at Ohio State.
They'll have to do it without junior forward Sam Warning, though. It was annouced that he will miss the game with an upper-body injury. Check out how the lines will be affected below.
A reminder that, unfortunately, I did not make the trip to Columbus. Kevin Zeise will cover the game for us. I'll Tweet the link to his game story later tonight.
• Friday night's game story from stringer Kevin Zeise.
• Read Friday’s feature: Gophers' points leader Sam Warning is fighting to be more consistent in spotlight role + video.
• SERIES PREVIEW: NO. 1 GOPHERS at OHIO STATE
Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
TV/radio/live stream: ESPN News; 1500-AM; WatchESPN.
Gophers at a glance: The No. 1 Gophers (24-4-5, 13-2-2-0 Big Ten) can clinch the inaugural Big Ten hockey title this weekend. A Gophers’ victory and a Wisconsin loss on Friday would get the job done. If Wisconsin wins, a Gophers’ sweep would secure the regular-season title. … They’ll have to do it on Ohio State’s smaller rink. … Junior forward Travis Boyd had four points last weekend against Penn State and his third line was responsible for both goals in Saturday’s 2-1 victory.
For more on Ohio State, read full series preview.
• Gophers Saturday lines
Forwards (left wing, center, right wing)
Taylor Cammarata, Kyle Rau, Hudson Fasching
Nate Condon, Justin Kloos, Christian Isackson
Tom Serratore, Travis Boyd, Seth Ambroz
Connor Reilly, Gabe Guertler, Vinni Lettieri
Defensemen (left, right)
Brady Skjei, Justin Holl
Mike Reilly, Jake Parenteau
Ben Marshall, Michael Brodzinski
Adam Wilcox, Michael Shibrowski