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' Fasching, Collins among 27 remaining at U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp

Posted by: Jason Gonzalez Updated: August 5, 2014 - 9:25 AM

Two of the five Gophers invited to skate at the 2014 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp will extend their stay in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Sophomore forward Hudson Fasching and incoming freshman defenseman Ryan Collins were among the 27 players asked to remain at camp for three more games against the Czech Republic, Finland and Sweden. The players are auditioning for a spot on the U.S. National Junior Team and a trip to the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Canada.

Gophers sophomore forwards Taylor Cammarata and Vinni Lettieri, and defenseman Michael Brodzinski were among the 15 players sent home.

Minnesotan Jack Dougherty (Cottage Grove/University of Wisconsin) was also asked to stay, while local standouts Connor Hurley (Eagan/Notre Dame), Tommy Vannelli (Minnetonka/Medicine Hat), Keegan Iverson (St. Louis Park/Portland Winterhawks), Clint Lewis (Burnsville/Cornell University) and Austin Poganski (St. Cloud/University of North Dakota) were released.

"As a staff, we have been very pleased with the effort and competitiveness of the 42 players in camp," said Jim Johannson, USA Hockey's assistant executive director of hockey operations and the general manager of the 2015 U.S. National Junior Team, in a statement. " The three remaining games this week provide an opportunity for additional assessment of the players that are staying. We will continue to evaluate the players released today throughout the fall.”

Fasching is one of five players from last year’s roster still remaining. The big forward and Gophers junior defenseman Brady Skjei played under Gophers coach Don Lucia on the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team.

Gophers’ incoming international recruit Leon Bristedt scored a goal in one of Sweden's two wins through the opening weekend of competition. 

Full U.S. roster. Complete schedule.

Gophers Frozen Four hero Justin Holl signs one-year contract with Chicago Blackhawks affiliate

Posted by: Jason Gonzalez Updated: August 4, 2014 - 1:03 PM

Seth Ambroz, left, and Justin Holl celebrated Holl's game-winning goal in the national semifinal against North Dakota, last April in Philadelphia. ELIZABETH FLORES/Star Tribune
 

Justin Holl and the Rockford IceHogs (Ill.) agreed to a one-year contract, the AHL member and Chicago Blackhawks’ affiliate announced on Monday morning.

The defenseman anchored one of the best defenses in college hockey, last year, and helped guide the Gophers to the Frozen Four and national championship game. He compiled 13 points (one goal, 12 assists) as a senior and 38 points (eight goals, 30 assists) throughout 142 career games. 

Holl will be remembered most for the game-winning goal he scored in the final second of last April’s national semifinal against rival North Dakota. The 22-year-old from Tonka Bay scored shorthanded with .6 seconds remaining in the third period to advance to the Gophers to their 12th national championship appearance.

Holl was one of five seniors on last year’s squad labeled the “FabFive.” The self-given title was in reference to the group’s four-year commitment to reviving the Gophers hockey program after a brief dry spell from 2007-2011. The seniors were part of three straight regular-season conference championships, a first-time feat for the storied program.

Holl was a second-round draft pick (54th overall) by the Blackhawks in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Read more about Holl in the above links.
 

Gophers hockey finalizes dates for 2014-2015 schedule

Posted by: Jason Gonzalez Updated: July 29, 2014 - 12:23 PM

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.

Full schedule

Full roster (freshmen included)

Guertler granted release from Gophers hockey program; partial 2014-2015 roster annouced

Posted by: Jason Gonzalez Updated: July 17, 2014 - 3:55 PM

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.  

No early departures for Gophers hockey this offseason, Rau will return for senior year

Posted by: Jason Gonzalez Updated: July 10, 2014 - 9:24 PM

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.
 

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