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.

Also find Russo on Facebook.

Email Michael to talk about hockey.

Posts about Gophers

Gophers postgame: Message delivered and received

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: December 1, 2012 - 11:03 PM

As Don Lucia said, “this was an important game for us” after not only losing 3-2 Friday night, but doing so in a pretty unacceptable fashion.

 
The Gophers were lethargic and sloppy, turning the puck over 50 times and registering only 17 hits by the coaches’ count. Lucia wanted to see a response and he saw just that during a 3-2 win over Nebraska Omaha tonight.
 
It saved me from perhaps going with another Counting Crows lead for a second day in a row. Lead singer Adam Duritz, whom I know, saw my lead from Saturday’s paper about his song, “Omaha,” and tweeted me, “Haha. You kill me Mike. Just can't imagine how, on this day of ALL days, you resisted tossing in a "Long December" reference.”
 
Actually, that would have been clever (Duritz is a much better writer than me) and I joked back that maybe I’d go with that tonight if the Gophers lost.
 
Speaking of losing, Denver lost to Wisconsin, so the Gophers moved into third in the WCHA with 12 points – three behind DU. If St. Cloud State loses at Alaska Anchorage (the Huskies are down 2-0 as I write), the Gophers will be tied with them for second in the conference.
 
Lucia sent a message to his players tonight by scratching Mark Alt, moving Jake Parenteau back to the blue line, inserting Justin Holl on defense, and scrambling his forward lines.
 
But even Nate Condon, who was supposed to play on the first line, barely played there because Lucia wasn’t happy with Travis Boyd’s play. So Condon wound up moving to center.
 
It was that kind of night. An example? The eventual Tom Serratore second-period winning goal was created by Condon and Christian Isackson, who forced the turnover, “and that wasn’t even a line on the line chart,” Lucia said.
 
As for Alt, Lucia said he wanted the veteran defenseman to just watch a game from up top and he indicated he’ll be back in against Colorado College next week.
 
But Lucia was very pleased with Holl’s game with Seth Helgeson, and the play from Ben Marshall on the back end.
 
Nate Schmidt was outstanding in every area tonight, and the whole D corps was for the most part. It wouldn’t shock me if Alt returns to the lineup next weekend and maybe Brady Skjei comes out. He’s been seeing less and less ice time lately.
 
Sam Warning played a pretty solid game. He brings so much speed and energy, and Lucia was pleased with Isackson’s play.
 
Erik Haula scored a goal and assist and Nick Bjugstad scored as well. Haula is tied for second in the WCHA with 19 points. He’s eight points from 100. The Gophers scored two power-play goals and outshot UNO 33-20.
 
“A lot of guys had really good energy and they responded the way we needed to,” said Lucia.
  

Line scrambles, lineup changes as Gophers look for the split with UNO

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: December 1, 2012 - 5:27 PM

As the Gophers look to respond from last night's 3-2 loss to Nebraska Omaha, coach Don Lucia has made a series of changes to his lines and defense pairings and scratched a face unfamiliar to sitting.

Veteran defenseman Mark Alt won't play tonight. There's no word of an injury, and it's been abundantly that Alt is one of the "four or five" veterans Lucia wants more from.

The scratch snaps Alt's consecutive games streak of 92 games. Seth Helgeson will play his 96th in a row tonight. The only game the junior Alt has previously missed in his collegiate career was his first ever game vs. University of Massachusetts in Oct. 8, 2010.

Other moves: Christian Isackson moves from first-line right wing to fourth-line center, Nate Condon moves from third-line left wing to first-line right wing, fourth-line center A.J. Michaelson moves to third-line left wing and fourth-line right wing Jake Parenteau moves to the blue line. Justin Holl is in as a wing.

In the WCHA, Nebraska Omaha is third, four points behind conference-leading Denver. Minnesota is tied for fourth with 10 points.

WCHA rankings:

Offense: UNO third at 3.69 goals a game; Gophers fifth at 3.29

Defense: Gophers first at 1.86 goals against a game; Mavericks second at 2.08

Power play: Mavericks third at 22.6%; Gophers fourth at 21.5% and 1 for their last 18.

Penalty kill: Gophers first at 88.9%; Mavericks second at 87.7.

Shots for: Mavericks second at 33.69; Gophers third at 33.36

Shots against: Gophers first at 22.57; Mavericks second at 22.92.

Mavericks' Ryan Walters is now tied for first in the WCHA with 18 points; the Gophers' Erik Haula is tied for fifth with 17 points.

And the line charts:

Gophers

Forwards

Kyle Rau-Nick Bjugstad-Nate Condon

Sam Warning-Erik Haula-Zach Budish

A.J. Michaelson-Travis Boyd-Seth Ambroz

Tom Serratore-Christian Isackson-Justin Holl

Defensemen

Brady Skjei-Nate Schmidt

Seth Helgeson-Mike Reilly

Jake Parenteau-Ben Marshall

Goalies

Adam Wilcox

Ryan Coyne

Mavericks

Forwards

Ryan Walters-Dominic Zombo-Josh Archibald

Matt White-Brock Montpetit-Zach Raubenheimer

Brent Gwidt-Johnnie Searfoss-Andrew Schmit

James Polk-Aaron Pearce-Alex Simonson

Defensemen

Jaycob Megna-Andrej Sustr

Tony Turgeon-Bryce Aneloski

Michael Young-Brian O'Rourke

Goalies

John Faulkner

Anthony Stolarz

------------------------------

Gophers women beat Wisconsin 4-1 this afternoon and broke the Ridder attendance record, drawing 3,400 patrons. They play the Badgers again tomorrow at 2 p.m.

Postgame: Gophers asleep at the switch in the final 40 minutes

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 30, 2012 - 11:27 PM

Measured and disappointed but not at least publicly angry, Don Lucia said it simply: “I always judge our game by continuity coming up the rink and making the plays, and it was kind of like one guy slapping it and the next guy trying to get it and slapping it to the next guy.

“There was no cohesiveness to our game tonight.”
 
None at all, especially in the second and third periods when the Gophers couldn’t get anything accomplished and plainly looked lethargic as Nebraska-Omaha took Game 1 of the two-game set, 3-2, here at Mariucci.
 
 
The Mavericks extended their win streak to seven games while the Gophers’ six-game unbeaten streak was extinguished. They rematch Saturday night at 7.
 
Zach Budish’s turnover led to Josh Archibald’s winner early in the third as the Gophers’ nine-game home unbeaten streak dating to last March ended.
 
This was the biggest test of the Gophers’ season, and they certainly weren’t up to snuff as UNO’s gigantic defensemen kept the Gophers to the outside and away from John Faulkner’s kitchen.
 
“We were pretty sloppy,” Budish said. “We were missing our passes. We didn’t get pucks deep behind their defensemen. We had a lot of turnovers.”
 
The Mavericks scored first 4:17 into the game when Dominic Zombo got a step on Nate Schmidt, drove to the net and buried Archibald’s seeing-eye pass. It was Zombo’s fifth goal after two all of last year and extended his point streak to six games.
 
But the Gophers would respond just 83 seconds later.
 
First, Erik Haula spun along the half wall, bounced off a check and got the puck to Sam Warning, who made a beautiful one-touch pass to Budish alone in the slot.
 
Budish tied the score with his fourth goal.
 
Later in the period, Christian Isackson, standing between the circles, took Nick Bjugstad’s pass and surprised Faulkner with a quick shot and his first goal since the Oct. 12 opener. The tally snapped a 12-game drought for sophomore from St. Thomas Academy.
 
The Gophers looked sleepy in a poorly-played second period. They went the first 7:02 without a shot, although on that sequence, Faulkner made a brilliant save to rob Isackson on Mark Alt’s rebound.
 
The Mavericks tied the game at 2-2 with one second left on a power play. Ryan Walters, who also played at St. Thomas Academy and once upon a time uncommitted from the Gophers, set up Jaycob Megna, who stepped up from the point, in the left circle for a blast.
 
Then it was Walters who fed Archibald with the winner.
 
Just not a good effort from the Gophers, and it was troubling. Judging by those on Twitter, they’re starting to have a lot of doubters for a 9-3-2 team.
 
We’ll see if their play Friday sparks a better effort Saturday. If not, that will be a bigtime signal that something is off with this team right now.
 
Lastly, here is a feature I wrote in Saturday's paper on the women's team, which has won an NCAA record 24 in a row. They host Wisconsin Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Saturday's game costs just 1 measly dollar. Go see 'em

Pregame: Sam Warning returns tonight for the Gophers

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 30, 2012 - 5:21 PM

After missing nine games with an upper-body injury, left wing Sam Warning will return to his normal slot on the second line tonight as the University of Minnesota gets back to its early-season lines against Nebraska-Omaha.

The Gophers face their biggest test as the Mavericks have won six in a row. The Gophers are 4-0-2 in their last six and unbeaten in nine in a row at Mariucci.

Here is the preview and the advance box from today's paper.

And the line charts:

Gophers

Forwards

Kyle Rau-Nick Bjugstad-Christian Isackson

Sam Warning-Erik Haula-Zach Budish

Nate Condon-Travis Boyd-Seth Ambroz

Tom Serratore-A.J. Michaelson-Jake Parenteau

Defensemen

Brady Skjei-Nate Schmidt

Mike Reilly-Mark Alt

Seth Helgeson-Mark Alt

Goalies

Adam Wilcox

Ryan Coyne

Mavericks

Forwards

Ryan Walters-Dominic Zombo-Josh Archibald

Matt White-Brock Montpetit-Zach Raubenheimer

Brent Gwidt-Johnnie Searfoss-Andrew Schmit

James Polk-Aaron Pearce-Tanner Lane

Defensemen

Jaycob Megna-Andrej Sustr

Tony Turgeon-Bryce Aneloski

Michael Young-Brian O'Rourke

Goalies

John Faulkner

Anthony Stolarz

Gophers' Bjugstad sick, Wilcox excelling

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 21, 2012 - 3:46 PM

The 7-2-2 Gophers hit the skies for a charter flight to Burlington on Thanksgiving morning for Friday and Saturday games against the University of Vermont (2-4-2). It’s the Gophers’ first trip to Burlington in program history, and because it’s a non-conference game, the entire team is allowed to take the trip.

 
That will not include Sam Warning, who will miss his eighth and ninth games with an upper body injury, and goalie Michael Shibrowski, who got hurt in practice last week and is now out until after Christmas. Warning has been practicing sparingly and is a possibility for next weekend’s series against Nebraska-Omaha.
 
If he cannot play, coach Don Lucia has indicated that he may, too, be shut down until after Christmas. That would mean he would also miss the series at Colorado College.
 
Nick Bjugstad has the flu, Lucia said. He didn’t practice Tuesday or Wednesday, but he is expected to be on the flight Thursday and be quarantined to his own room in Burlington. Lucia said he may have to monitor Bjugstad’s ice time depending on his health and energy.
 
The Gophers get into Vermont Thursday afternoon, but because it’s their first trip there, Lucia wants to test out the ice and the wooden barn during a 4 p.m. skate. Then the Gophers will have a Thanksgiving meal together.
 
I am writing a profile on goalie Adam Wilcox for Friday. As lively as the freshman is on the ice, he’s equally as gregarious during an interview. Some fun stuff in Friday’s story, so please check that out.
 
Wilcox (6-1-2) ranks first in the WCHA and sixth in the nation with a 1.55 goals against average. His .778 winning percentage ranks ninth in the country and third in the WCHA. His .924 save percentage ranks third in the conference, and the Gophers have the WCHA’s best defense (tied for fourth in the NCAA) by allowing 1.91 goals a game. They also have the WCHA’s best power play and penalty kill.
 
With Shibrowski out and Ryan Coyne the lone backup, the Gophers are being more cautious in practice with Wilcox, Lucia said. That’s understandable since they’re now a goalie injury away from having to email the student body to see who knows how to tend goal.
 
Some Don Lucia quotes:
 
On future schedule? “We have a four-year deal with Northeastern and Boston College [starting next year], so it’s something I want to continue to do – at least every year get out to the east coast. Right now, we’ll have our 20 Big Ten games, our eight in-state games – that’s 28, we’ll have our tournament, that’s 30, so that’ll leave us four games a year. Right now we’re locked in with Notre Dame, B.C. and Northeastern, and when that drops off, we’ll get North Dakota back on when Notre Dame drops off. When B.C. drops off, that’ll free up another opportunity to go at East to play somebody every other year back and forth. The plan is to try to get out to the east coast every other year.”
 
On goalie situation and Shibrowski being out: “That’s forced us to look at how we practice. We’re so used to having three goalies and not worrying about the pace and how many shots a goalie’s getting because of having that third guy. But now with only two and knowing that Adam has to play every game, we have to make sure we do a good job of not wearing him out Monday through Thursday so he’s tired on Friday and Saturday.”
 
On success of 13 for 52 power play: “Start with personnel, but one of the key ingredients on a power play is you have to have offensive defensemen. If you don’t have a guy back there that can quarterback it or shoot it, it just makes it hard. I think we have five guys on both units who can make a play, and what’s helped us this year is our second unit is a lot stronger than last year.”
 
5-on-5? “Hockey in general, that’s kind of the trend. It’s hard to score 5-on-5. People get in shot lanes, it’s so difficult to get pucks through. You go back 20 years ago, guys would go out of their way not to get hit with a puck. Now it’s just an expectation. … It’s something we’re working on. We worked on it hard this week in practice. If we’re going to take another step as a team, we need to score another goal a game 5-on-5.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT