Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Posts about Gophers sports

Gophers (Top ranked; Michaelson receives scholarship) and Wild prospect news (Nanne injured, Graovac soaring)

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: October 15, 2012 - 3:02 PM

The Gophers men’s hockey team, No. 1 in last week’s USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll, is now the top-ranked team in the nation in both polls considered to be the guide to college hockey.

This is thanks to annihilating Michigan State by a 12-2 combined score in consecutive wins Friday and Saturday. In the USCHO.com poll, the Gophers moved from No. 2 to No. 1. Defending NCAA champ Boston College, the previous No. 1 team who lost to Northeastern Saturday, fell to No. 3, while the University of North Dakota moved to No. 2.

In the new USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll, it also goes Minnesota, North Dakota and Boston College. Minnesota-Duluth is ranked 13th. 

The Gophers’ women are also ranked No. 1 in the USCHO poll. For a look at the poll, click this link, and for more on the polls, check out Roman’s twitter at @romanstrib.
I also did a Podcast with College Hockey Inc. today on the Gophers. Here’s that link.
In other Gophers news, I talked to Lou Nanne today. He is actually in Dallas, where Mike Modano, the former North Stars great, is being inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame along with Lou Lamoriello and Eddie Olczyk.
Three days before his son, Michael Nanne, died last month after a long battle with brain cancer, the Michael Nanne Endowed Scholarship was created. It will lead to an annual scholarship for a student-athlete on the Gophers’ men’s hockey team.
Lou Nanne said the endowment has received many generous donations already, and that the first scholarship will go to Gophers forward A.J. Michaelson, a freshman from Apple Valley that Nanne says happens to be good friends with Michael Nanne’s daughter, Lauren.
To donate to the Michael Nanne Endowed Scholarship, you can visit the Golden Gopher Fund page here or call the Golden Gopher Fund at (612) 626-4653.
In Wild news, they’re still locked out.
In prospect news, the Aeros lost their opening two games 3-1 (empty netter) and 3-2.
In Saturday’s loss to Charlotte, Jonas Brodin scored his first goal in North America. In yesterday’s loss at San Antonio, Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker scored their first pro goals, with Mikael Granlund getting his first point in North America on Coyle’s goal. Coyle and Zucker had two points apiece, with Minnesota native Brian Connelly also assisting on Zucker’s goal.
Also, Wild 2012 seventh-rounder Lou Nanne, who played at Edina, was injured Saturday and taken to hospital after being checked in the boards while playing for BCHL Penticton.
As I mentioned, I talked to Lou Nanne’s grandfather, Lou Nanne, this afternoon. Nanne said his grandson needs to get an MRI, but he could have a broken bone in his shoulder or torn his rotator cuff. Nanne had gotten off to a terrific start for the Vees, including a hat trick Oct. 6 against Trail Smoke.
“I saw him play two weeks ago, and I told him after the game he needed to work on three things – deflections, driving the net and getting the puck and coming with speed through the neutral zone,” Grandpa Louie said. “His hat trick? First goal was a deflection. Second goal was a drive to the net. Third goal was a breakaway.”
Also, as TSN Bob McKenzie tweeted today, one of the biggest surprises this season in the Canadian Hockey League is Wild 2011 seventh-rounder Tyler Graovac, who impressed bigtime at July’s development camp.
He scored eight goals last season for the Ontario League’s Ottawa 67s. His career high is 10. Well, Graovac has nine in nine games this season, and McKenzie tweeted, “Graovac is 6-4 but has put on 30 pounds, now 204, since being drafted. Playing his way into legit prospect territory.” 

Gophers' Lucia on polls, goalie situation, taking Budish off Bjugstad-Rau line

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: October 10, 2012 - 2:53 PM

The Gophers open the season against Wild prospect and former Shattuck-St. Mary’s star defenseman John Draeger and the Michigan State Spartans this Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (8 p.m.).

The Gophers are 101-44-13 all-time against the Spartans, although they’re just 4-4-5 since 2000-01. They were 0-1-1 in East Lansing last season.
Check out Thursday's paper for a feature on Nick Bjugstad.
The Gophers held media access this afternoon, and veteran coach Don Lucia, in search of career win Nos. 598 and 599 this weekend, addressed a few subjects:
On this weekend’s lineup: “We’ll do a lot of experimenting this weekend and probably try to play quite a few guys from Friday to Saturday night before we go to Michigan Tech the next weekend and we’re limited to who we can take. Both goalies will play this weekend, and this is the first weekend we can start to find out more about our team.”
Do you expect to rotate goalies Michael Shibrowski and Adam Wilcox the first couple weeks? “At least that’s the plan right now. You look at October with this weekend, going to Houghton and then I think we have the U.S. [Under-18 Team] and Canisius, I think if you asked me today, more than likely we’d probably split the first three weekends and then head into November and see where we’re at. But I think it’s important to see your goaltenders at home, it’s important to see how they react on the road and then if they both play well, they’ll continue to play. I’ve had teams where we’ve rotated goalies all season long – I mean, right to the end – and I’ve had other years like last year where the goalie played every night. We’ll have to wait and see how that plays itself out.”
Do you look at Zach Budish playing with Erik Haula this year as opposed to last year when he played with Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau, and if so, how’d you come to that decision? “We looked at it as Erik’s a good player, too, and sometimes Erik gets kind of forgotten. Everybody talks about Nick, but Erik did lead our team in scoring a year ago. When we looked at our team this year and who we felt the top four forwards were, we felt with Rau and Bjugstad and Haula and Budish. Well, if we can do it, it’d be nice to have two on two different lines rather than three on one. We could move [Nate] Condon up, but I liked the way Condon and [Travis] Boyd played together at the end of last year. It gives us a lot of comfort if we can spread the guys out a little bit with three lines that we can go into a game and really not worry which line’s out against who. So that’s why we’re trying Christian [Isackson] up there with [Bjugstad and Rau]. Obviously it worked well in that first game [with a hat trick], but he’s a guy that has to step forward and show us that he can play with those two. He’s got the skill. He can make some plays. He has to continue to learn to play at a pace and compete on pucks. He did a nice job of that in Game One, but now he’s got to continue to do that.”
(Lucia said he may continue to juggle things around, but right now, Sam Warning will play with Budish and Haula; Lucia noted that Seth Ambroz played with Haula in junior hockey, so that’s always a possibility, too).
Have you made a decision if you’ll redshirt Blake Thompson? “No, we have not. We don’t have to make a decision yet. We’ve talked to him about that, so it is an option. But it’s an option we don’t have to worry about for a few weeks. We’ll see where we’re at injury-wise, we’ll see where we’re at personnel-wise. Today, I think we feel comfortable with nine or 10 of our forwards in our lineup. Now the question becomes what else do we do with Forward 11 and 12? We got some freshmen, we’ve got Jared Larson, do we move a defenseman up? Those are some things that we’re going to keep experimenting with because I don’t want to have a guy sitting out that could help us even if it’s a defenseman that has to move up.”
On being the preseason No. 1? “Last year we were No. 6 in the league, so what does it really mean? I think they should start taking polls after Thanksgiving when people have actually had a chance to play a game. You don’t see preseason polls in the NHL, ‘Here’s 1 through 30.’ You know, how do you know? Let’s play some games. Some teams are going to get rated higher than they should and others lower than they should because you really don’t know. We’re rated where we are because of how we finished last year – good or bad. But we have to prove it. We haven’t proven anything yet.”
On his health: “I just got my last thing back from the Mayo today that I’m good to go, and everything came back great.”

Wild, LaPanta appear to be inching toward play-by-play marriage

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: May 12, 2012 - 8:59 PM

It's looking more and more like Anthony LaPanta, the man with the most famous hair in the Twin Cities and Fox Sports North's longtime studio host for pre- and post-games for the Wild, Twins and Wolves, will be the Wild's next television play-by-play man.

If officially hired, he'll replace Dan Terhaar, whose contract was not renewed last month after seven seasons at the microphone. That move could happen as early as Monday. The Wild last week ironed out new deals with TV color man Mike Greenlay and the radio team of Bob Kurtz and Tom Reid.

LaPanta became the Gophers' TV play-by-play voice in 2010.

There has been a lot of national interest in the position, but LaPanta has been the frontrunner since Day One.



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