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 postgame

Gophers knock off Badgers to take 3 of 4 points in "Border Battle"

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 18, 2012 - 12:00 AM

Entertaining hockey game tonight at Mariucci, and the Gophers pulled off a 3-1 win to take three of four points from the Badgers.

You can read the gamer for most the details on www.startribune.com/gophers, but …
Tom Serratore’s second goal of the season and seventh of his career 5:59 into the third amounted to the winner. He came off the bench, did a little fake and used the defenseman as a screen to score. It came after Erik Haula’s nifty move at the blue line to keep from getting run over by John Ramage.
The Gophers then couldn’t pad their lead on three consecutive power plays, but they pulled out the W after Kyle Rau sealed the deal with an empty netter.
Nick Bjugstad scored his sixth goal on a pure snipe and assisted on Rau’s empty-netter. Adam Wilcox made 16 saves, including clutch ones seconds before Bjugstad’s goal to keep the Gophers’ deficit to 1-0 and then one a few minutes after Serratore gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead.
The Gophers even scored a couple even-strength goals. They now have six in the past six games, in large part because Sam Warning’s upper body injury has disrupted the top-9 forward spots. He is expected to miss next weekend’s first-ever trip to Vermont.
Wilcox only gave up three goals this weekend and coach Don Lucia has all the confidence in the world in the confident rookie. The Gophers (7-2-2, 4-2-2) have only given up 21 goals in 11 games, best in the WCHA. Their penalty kill went 4 for 4 tonight, and has now killed 30 of 34 this season.
Bjugstad and Erik Haula each lead the team with six goals, and Haula had an assist and now has a team-leading 14 points. He is 13 points from 100 in his career.
Zach Budish, playing his 100th game tonight, had an assist. Kyle Rau scored an empty netter.
In other news, last week, five players signed letters of intent to play for the Gophers: Taylor Cammarata (Waterloo, USHL), Hudson Fasching (USA Under-18), Gabe Guertler (Fargo, USHL), Vinni Lettieri (Lincoln, USHL) and Lou Nanne (Penticton, BCHL).
That's it for me. Hope to see you all at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday at 5 for the Houston Aeros-Rockford Ice Hogs game. Tickets are $20.
Charlie Coyle. Jason Zucker. Johan Larsson. Marco Scandella. No NHL for now, so may as well watch the Wild's future, eh?

Gophers-Badgers Border Battle Round 1 ends in tie; Aeros coming to town

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 16, 2012 - 11:45 PM

Those who prepped me for the “Border Battle” made sure I was aware that no matter what the records of these two schools over the years, you can throw that out.

The Badgers entered the series with a 5-2-1 record in their past eight games in Minnesota. The Gophers were 2-8-1 in their past 11 Friday games vs. the Badgers. The Gophers haven’t won a season series against Wisconsin since 2006-07.
So throw the 6-2-1 and 1-4-1, respective records, out the window.
The Badgers, despite playing without their leading scorer and losing two forwards tonight to five-minute-major/game misconducts, hung on for a 2-2 tie despite being outshot 43-24.
Sophomore goalie Landon Peterson was awesome with 41 saves and Michael Mersch scored both goals. His 28 goals are the most of any active Badgers player.
Erik Haula scored a goal and assist and Zach Budish scored a goal. Adam Wilcox (5-1-2) made 22 saves.
The Gophers failed to score on two five-minute majors (one was actually 3:34), and that was all she wrote thanks to Seth Ambroz having a goal disallowed due to the ref losing sight of the puck, Kyle Rau hitting a pipe, Nick Bjugstad hitting a crossbar after a nifty shorthanded pickpocket and Christian Isackson missing the net from point-blank range in overtime.
The big concern for  Don Lucia is the lack of 5-on-5 goals since the opening weekend routs of inexperience, banged-up Michigan State. The Gophers have scored four even-strength goals the last four games (10 power-play goals).
Lucia said he was encouraged by one of Budish’s best game in awhile, but he wants more from Isackson and says the tough thing is the Sam Warning injury has disrupted the top-9. Warning is expected to miss at least the next three games, and if he’s unable to practice the following week in preparation for Nebraska-Omaha, Lucia said he would be shut down until after Christmas.
Besides the lack of power-play goals on the majors, Lucia didn’t like the Gophers’ shifts after the Budish and Haula goals. Mersch struck 26 seconds after Budish, and then before he tied the game in the second, the Badgers had a good four-minute surge after Haula’s power-play tally.
Haula was real good again. He now has a team-leading six goals and 13 points in 10 games. His dad, Tomi, flew in for the weekend from Finland, and hopefully you were able to read my Haula profile in Friday’s paper. Mikael Granlund was also planning to watch his first-ever college game tonight to see his buddy and Minnesota tour guide, Haula, play.
I wasn’t able to confirm though if Granlund did make it.
Loved Nate Condon’s hustle before Budish’s goal. Not only did the Wisconsin native’s speed cause the linesman to wave off an icing, Condon hit the brakes in the corner to cause defenseman John Ramage to crash into the glass. As Ramage gathered himself, Condon casually came out with the puck and slipped a backhanded pass into the slot for Budish.
Tom Serratore looked a little loopy after being hit in the head by Tyler Barnes. He said he felt OK after the game and passed his baseline test, Lucia said. As long as he feels well Saturday, he’d be OK to play in Saturday’s 8 p.m. rematch, Lucia said.
Speaking of Lucia, ahead of schedule, son Mario Lucia, a 2011 second-round pick by the Wild, made his collegiate debut this weekend for Notre Dame. He scored in tonight’s win, and he tweeted: “@MLucia2293: First time sweeping Michigan at yost since my dad was a freshman. Big weekend. #destiny#yostbusters
The Aeros lost in Rockford tonight, and in the game, there was a scary injury with defenseman Steve Kampfer, the 23-year-old who played 13 games for the Wild last season after coming from Boston in the Greg Zanon trade.
I didn’t see it, but there was a collision, a lot of blood and he was taken off on a stretcher. Aeros GM Jim Mill said in an email that Kampfer is at an Illinois hospital, responsive, has feelings in all his extremities but is very sore.
If I get any more updates tonight, I will update the blog.
The Aeros are currently bussing to the Twin Cities, will practice at the X on Saturday afternoon and host Rockford at 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are free for season-ticket holders and $20 for all others. They can be bought at the box office or wild.com or Ticketmaster.
Granlund, Jonas Brodin, Chad Rau and now Kampfer are injured.
In for the game will be prospects like Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Johan Larsson, Zack Phillips, Brett Bulmer, Tyler Cuma, Justin Fontaine, Chay Genoway, stud AHL defenseman and Bloomington’s own Brian Connelly, David McIntyre, etc., etc. NHLer Marco Scandella, a 2010 second-rounder, will also be playing.
Aeros players will sign autographs after the game for 30 minutes.
The Wild will conduct the seventh annual Toyota Food Drive to benefit Second Harvest Heartland, the Upper Midwest’s largest hunger-relief organization. Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items and/or monetary donations to Gates 1, 2 and 5 at 4:00 p.m. and continuing through the start of the first period.

Mavericks stun Gophers in Mankato; Aeros rally in the OKC

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 3, 2012 - 11:07 PM

The Gophers played with fire all weekend, having to rally twice from one-goal deficits on Friday night to pull out a victory, then falling behind by 2-0 and 3-2 here tonight in Mankato before ultimately falling, 5-3, thanks to Dylan Margonari’s winner with 3:41 left.

Check out the gamer for most the details, but …
The goal came 20 seconds after the Gophers failed to score on a power play. Bryce Gervais came out of the box and dumped the puck. Margonari jumped on the ice and skated wide open into the middle of the zone for the goal.
Coach Don Lucia said the center went to help the D down low and the winger never took the center’s spot, which left the middle of the ice wide open. The center was Ryan Reilly, who was helping Seth Helgeson. The winger was Tom Serratore, who was along the wall. Plus, the Gophers just didn’t realize Margonari had come off the bench.
Then compounding all this was the fact that Max Gaede won that down-low board battle.
Soooo, it kind of epitomized a weekend in which the Gophers looked disjointed and made a number of defensive mistakes. Not just the D. The forwards weren’t picking up assignments tonight, like Zach Lehrke’s goal to make it 2-0. He slipped past Bjugstad.
Lucia said the he’s concerned and the Gophers, who have been trying to give freshmen defensemen Mike Reilly and Brady Skjei a chance to get inundated to college hockey, will now have to evaluate that.
“Everybody’s fair game,” Lucia said, and he could be talking about a couple vets who have been up and down.
The Gophers were outshot 19-7 in the first period – two less shots the amount they had given up per game this season.
“Our start was probably our demise,” Lucia said. “We iced three times the first seven minutes. We were sloppy with it. We were outshot badly in the first period and outplayed.”
Erik Haula had a goal and two assists for his 21st career multi-point game (81 points in 84 career games). Nate Condon and Nick Bjugstad scored, too, and Adam Wilcox made 30 saves.
The Gophers could just never get that go-ahead goal after Condon tied the score with 7:20 left in the second. There was a power play where it spent two minutes in the zone, but Phil Cook made four saves. Then in the final seconds of the second, he made a spectacular post-to-post save to rob Haula.
Would have changed the game because the Gophers would have taken a 4-3 lead to the third.
“It looked like we were coming,” Lucia said.
As for the Mavericks, big win, especially after 5-1 losses at St. Cloud State last weekend.
“The last 10 days we’ve faced adversity, and we hadn’t stared it back,” coach Mike Hastings said. “Tonight we did. … They’re the ones putting the work in. [Friday] night I thought we made a step. We talked about continuing to make steps and tonight we made another one.”
As for the Houston Aeros, like Friday, they again rallied from a 3-0 deficit tonight in Oklahoma City. Unlike yesterday where they lost, tonight they won in a shootout.
David McIntyre, Chay Genoway and Joel Broda, with Zack Phillips setting up the last two goals. Phillips and Justin Fontaine scored in the shootout.
For injury updates on Jonas Brodin and Mikael Granlund, see my blog earlier in the day.
In CBA news, NHL and NHLPA No. 2’s Bill Daly and Steve Fehr have met for several hours today and it’s reportedly still going on. To me, no news is good news. Let’s hope this is all positive after yesterday’s developments that the owners to legitimately “make whole” all player contracts. The devil’s in the details, but there could be some real momentum right now.

Gophers' power play ignites; Granlund, Brodin both injured for Aeros

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 3, 2012 - 1:12 AM

The Gophers scored three power-play goals, won 36 of 55 draws and outlasted a tough Minnesota State Mankato team tonight for a 3-2 victory.

Game 2 of the home-and-home comes Saturday night in Mankato.
Zach Budish, reunited with last year’s linemates Kyle Rau and Nick Bjugstad because he had struggled the past two weeks, scored the game-winning goal early in the third period. Nate “Quote Machine” Schmidt scored a goal and assist, Travis Boyd scored one goal, Rau assisted on two and Adam Wilcox made 23 saves. Sounds like he will play in Mankato.
Lucia fiddled with all the lines tonight. Sam Warning is hurt, so Nate Condon and Christian Isackson moved to the second line, defenseman Ben Marshall, who has been one of the best blue-liners this year, moved to the third and defenseman Justin Holl played fourth line wing.
Brady Skjei returned and was a bit rusty. Freshman Mike Reilly had another good game, while Mark Alt, who has struggled the past few weeks, was up and down. Lucia feels it’s getting used to playing with Reilly, but he said there needs to be a “give and take” because the Gophers obviously will keep playing Reilly and Skjei.
Lucia did move Marshall back to D tonight in crunch time.
The Gophers had a lot of good looks 5-on-5 tonight, and they were cooking pretty good on the power play. They were 3 for 6 (Mavericks have been scored on 11 times on 34 chances this year) and took nine power-play shots.
By the way, freshman Connor Reilly, out for the season with a knee injury, just had reconstructive surgery and attended the game tonight.
You can read the gamer for the rest of the story, but potentially bad news if you’re a Wild fan tonight. The Aeros lost 4-3 in Oklahoma City and suffered two significant injuries late in the game.
Jonas Brodin took what reportedly was a head shot from Taylor Hall, the Edmonton Oilers 2011 No. 1 pick, who was making his AHL debut. Hall said it was shoulder to shoulder and after the game told reporters he had heard Brodin broke his collarbone. Moments later, Mikael Granlund, fresh off being named AHL Rookie of the Month, took a hard hit in the corner and injured his leg.
Aeros GM Jim Mill said he should have more information Saturday, but right now, there is no update as to the injuries or the severity. So, if you’re a Wild fan, … think good thoughts and hope. But nothing is confirmed.
Fittingly if you’re a Wild fan, despite today’s inevitable news to axe the Winter Classic, it sounds like there is going to be potential bigtime movement in CBA talks in the coming days.
Par for the course with the Wild would be the lockout soon ending and two first-round picks being hurt.
The two No. 2’s from the NHL and the NHLPA are meeting in a secret location Saturday to stay away from the media to negotiate and I’ve confirmed a TSN report that the NHL informed the union Tuesday that it is willing to absorb the costs of that “Make Whole” proposition (where they pay players back for the 12.3 percent cut in share). The union hasn’t gotten details as to how yet, but that’s coming Saturday and this could be a huge concession that gets the ball rolling here toward movement.
In other words, the league had said it would pay back every player every penny they lose when it goes down to 50-50 split in revenue, but it would eventually be charged to the player share. Now it’s saying the owners would absorb that.
Way too soon to get excited yet, but this is very big news and even if they do resolve this, there are still several contractual demands the league is looking for that the union will want to tackle. I will also post an interesting CBA blog in the next couple days with proposal details that I haven’t seen reported yet.
Here are the videos of the Granlund/Brodin injuries:
Talk to you from Mankato, or when I get Granlund/Brodin updates Saturday.

Gophers blank Canisius 1-zip

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: October 28, 2012 - 5:14 PM

Canisius showed just why they’re considered to be a scrappy team this afternoon.

Despite getting nearly run out of the building in the first 10 minutes, goalie Tony Capobianco shut the door, let his nervous teammates settle in and put the Griffins in a position where they were one Gophers breakdown or bad bounce or great play away from tying the game and sending this one to overtime.
But in the end, freshman Adam Wilcox shut the door with 20 saves for his first college shutout by a 1-0 score. His last, with 30 seconds left to cruelly rob Tyler Wiseman, was a thing of beauty and may have earned him the No. 1 job.
Don Lucia wouldn’t say obviously, but he definitely raved about the South St. Paul lad and the confidence he has in him during the postgame press scrum. By Thursday, Lucia said the coaching staff will either decide to continue with the Michael Shibrowski-Wilcox rotation into a fourth weekend, maybe switch it up where Wilcox plays Friday and Shibrowski Saturday OR let one goalie play both games.
My guess?
That sounds to me like Wilcox plays Friday against Minnesota State, and if he plays well and/or isn’t overly taxed, he plays on the road in Mankato on Saturday.
Again, this is pure conjecture but an educated guess from somebody who’s covered a lot of hockey games (albeit not a lot of college games) and read the minds of a ton of coaches.
Kyle Rau scored 12 seconds in and looked like he had a ton of energy after missing Friday’s exhibition game with a bum ankle. He had seven shots and was robbed a bunch by Capacabana, I mean, Capobianco.
You’ve got to feel for the Griffins’ goalie. He made 41 saves tonight, was outstanding, has a 1.78 goals against average this year and a .933 save percentage, YET, the poor guy hasn’t gotten a W because of a lack of goal support.
In six games, Canisius has given up 12 goals and scored only five.
Tonight, Rau, Erik Haula and Nick Bjugstad combined for 20 of the Gophers’ 42 shots. They attempted 73. Bjugstad and Jake Parenteau, who played after taking a shot to the knee Friday, assisted on Rau’s goal.
Sam Warning didn’t play and his status isn’t known yet for next weekend. Lucia said he did ride the bike the last few days. Defenseman Ben Marshall played forward after just one day of practice on the second line today.
Lucia said Brady Skjei is looking good for next weekend. He missed both games this weekend but did practice the other day.
I’ll be blogging after the charity game later tonight, and you can follow all the anecdotes on www.twitter.com/russostrib.


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