Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.
Don Lucia has hinted that the Gophers would be in the Ice Breaker Tournament this coming season.
Well, on Friday, the official announcement was made.
The 2013 Ice Breaker Tournament will be at Mariucci Arena. As its name implies, it is sorta the traditional start to the college hockey season.
Dates are Oct. 11-12. Pairings have not been set yet. but the other three teams are all from the East: Clarkson, Mercyhurst and New Hampshire. Not the greatest field:
* Clarkson. Finished ninth in the suddenly powerful ECAC, which had two teams in the Frozen Four title game. Clarkson was 8-11-3 in conference, 9-20-7 overall. So only 1-9-4 in nonconference games.
* Mercyhurst. Was 12-11-4 in Atlantic Hockey to finish sixth. Was 19-17-5 overall.
* New Hampshire. Wildcats tied for third in Hockey East with Boston University and Providence. All had 32 points -- two behind conference champion UMass-Lowell. NH was 17-14-7 overall.
The Gophers, of course, tied for first in the WCHA with St. Cloud State. They were 16-7-5 in conference play, 26-9-5 overall finishing with a thud, losing 3-0 to Colorado College in the Final Five semifinals and to eventual NCAA champion Yale 3-2 in overtime in the West Regional semifinals.
Expect U of M to be matched up with either Clarkson or Mercyhurst in first game, setting up a possible meeting with New Hampshire in the championship game.
This is the 17th annual Ice Breaker.
And, in 2013-14, more than any other season, there will be a lot of changes in college hockey. The Gophers will be in the new Big Ten Conference, for instance.
“Next year will be the beginning of a new era for the Gopher hockey program, and we’re excited to open the season at Mariucci Arena with the Ice Breaker Tournament,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said in a U of M news release. “It’s a great event for college hockey as a whole, and considering we haven’t seen these teams for a few years, I think it will be an exciting weekend for our program as well as our fans.”
“Mariucci Arena is one of the best venues in college hockey and a terrific location to celebrate the start of the 2013-14 season,” College Hockey Inc. Executive Director Mike Snee said. CHI is putting on the Ice Breaker along with the Gophers. “The four participating programs have storied histories, outstanding coaches and talented student-athletes who will showcase our sport in the Ice Breaker.”
The four schools in the 2013 field have combined for 89 NCAA Tournament appearances.
New Hampshire was also in the NCAA tournament this year.
Ice Breaker Tournament tickets will be included in season-ticket packages for Minnesota season-ticket holders. Single-day and standing-room tickets will be available at a date to be determined.
Minnesota is hosting the Ice Breaker Tournament for the third time. In 1998, the second year of the tournament, Boston College won the title at Mariucci Arena. In 2007 the event took place at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, with the host Gophers winning the tournament.
What comes to mind from the 2007 tournament -- which I covered -- is that forward Ryan Stoa suffered a season-ending knee injury. He took a medical redshirt that season and played the next season for the Gophers before turning pro.
Clarkson and New Hampshire are each making their third Ice Breaker appearances. The Wildcats captured championships in both their previous appearances (2000 at Michigan, 2004 at UNH).
Clarkson was part of the first Ice Breaker Tournament, in 1997, and in 2001 at Maine.
Mercyhurst will be making its first Ice Breaker appearance.
This will be an unusual hockey season for the Gophers. They will play in three regular-season tournaments. They also will host their traditional holiday tournament in late December and then be part of a four-team, all-Minnesota tournament at the Xcel in January, playing St. Cloud State in their first game. Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State Mankato will meet in the other game the first day.
That tournament does not have a name yet. Its modeled, roughly, after the Beanpot in Boston.
Mark Alt, in his junior season with the Gophers, didn't score a goal.
But in his third game as a pro, Alt got a chance to shoot in a shootout because he was one of the last players on the bench.
And Alt put a shot into the upper right corner as the Adirondack Phantoms beat Binghamton 2-1 after a 15-round shootout on Sunday.
"A defensive defensman usually doesn't get the call for the shootout but I got it today so I was pretty happy that I scored," said Alt, according to the Phantom's web site.
"It was my first shootout. We don't do them in college. [My shot] was actually something I picked up from one of my teammates. I rarely even try and rarely do it in practice. But I came down, it worked, I just put it over his shoulder. It was a long one and was really exciting, especially to get the game-winner."
The AHL record for the longest shootout is 16 rounds.
"It was a great shot," Phantoms head coach Terry Murray said. "A right-handed shooter against a left-handed catcher...you go high-glove side and that's a nice shot. It was great for him. We haven't had any shootouts with him in practice. It's winding down to the last three guys on the bench; Lilja, Eddy and Alt. So that's what we had left and he took advantage of it."
A photo of Alt's shot is here. The Phantoms had seven goals in the shootout, Binghamton six.
Alt has one assist for the Phantoms, mired in last place in the 15-team Eastern Conference.
Garrett Roe, a former St. Cloud State star, tied the game at 1-1 for Adirondack with three-tenths of a second on the clock.
Adirondack, which is in Glen Falls, N.Y., ends its season with three games this weekend.
The first is at home against Hershey, which has former Gophers defenseman Nate Schmidt. The Bears are 10th in the Eastern Conference, two points out of a playoff spot. So Adirondack could play spoiler.
ALT DEPARTURE A SURPRISE
Alt signed an entry-level contract with the Philadelphia Flyers on April 7, shortly after the Gophers lost to Yale in an NCAA regional.
“It has been an honor to play for the Gophers for the last three years,” Alt said in a statement at the time. “I want to thank the fans, my teammates and coaches for making it such a great experience. I will forever cherish my days in the Maroon and Gold.”
In 117 games with the Gophers, Alt had seven goals and 32 assists over his career.
Alt had a career-best 22 points as a sophomore when he had five goals and 22 assists and played in all 43 games.
He was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft (53rd overall). But the Hurricanes traded his rights to Philadelphia during the 2012-13 season.
A third of the 18 players on the all-USCHO teams are Minnesotans.
USCHO.com is the web site for U.S. College Hockey Online.
On the first team are goalie Eric Hartzell of Quinnipiac from White Bear Lake and forward Danny Kristo of North Dakota from Eden Prairie. Both are seniors.
Two St. Cloud State teammates are on the second team. They are defenseman Nick Jensen of Rogers and Drew LeBlanc of Hermantown. Jensen is a junior, LeBlanc a senior.
On the third team are goalie Brady Hjelle of Ohio State from International Falls and forward Anders Lee of Notre Dame from Edina. Hjelle is a senior, Lee a junior.
The three complete teams:
Goaltender Eric Hartzell, a senior from Quinnipiac
Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, a junior from Massachusetts-Lowell
Defenseman Jacob Trouba, a freshman from Michigan
Forward Kyle Flanagan, a senior from St. Lawrence
Forward Johnny Gaudreau, a sophomore from Boston College
Forward Danny Kristo, a senior from North Dakota
Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, a freshman from Massachusetts-Lowell
Defenseman Nick Bailen, a senior from Rensselaer
Defenseman Nick Jensen, a junior from St. Cloud State
Forward Greg Carey, a junior from St. Lawrence
Forward Drew LeBlanc, a senior from St. Cloud State
Forward Steven Whitney, a senior from Boston College
Goaltender Brady Hjelle, a senior from Ohio State
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, a sophomore from Union
Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, a sophomore from New Hampshire
Forward Corban Knight, a senior from North Dakota
Forward Anders Lee, a junior from Notre Dame
Forward Andrew Miller, a senior from Yale
The Gophers tied St. Cloud State for the MacNaughton Cup but they were shut out from any USCHO honors. Why? The general perception, I have to believe, is that they underachieved.
After going 8-0-0 in nonconference games -- they were the only unbeaten, untied team in the country outside their league -- the Gophers managed to sweep just two series in the WCHA this season and those sweeps came against bottom feeders Alaska Anchorage and, in the last series of the regular season, Bemidji State.
They went into conference play as the overwhelming favorite to win the Cup, but played down to the level of their competition too often. This was a team with six of their top seven scorers returning from a Frozen Four team and their top six defensemen coming back.
The question was in the nets and freshman goalie Adam Wilcox broke the program's single-season record for the lowest goals-against average. Obviously, he had a great year.
The Gophers led the nation in scoring, were always high up in the national polls, but until late in the season were unsure if they had home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs because a top six finish in the conference was in doubt.
Then in postseason, they beat Bemidji State twice, but on the bigger stage, did little, losing to Colorado College 2-0 in the Final Five semifinals and to eventual NCAA champion Yale 3-2 in overtime in the West Regional semifinals.
In their last three NCAA appearances, the Gophers have lost to the eventual national champion.
Last year, they fell to Boston College 6-1 in the Frozen Four semifinals in Tampa.
Then, you have to go back four years, to 2008 for their next most recent NCAA trip. They trekked to Worchester, Mass., and lost 5-2 to BC in a regional semifinal. Maybe there is a little solace there. Being taken out by the champs.
But it has been 10 years now since Don Lucia has won a national title. His Gophers were back-to-back champions in 2002 and '03.
This was a veteran, junior-stacked team with the talent to do it.
The American Hockey Coaches Association picks the annual All-America teams, which are listed here.
The USHL's 64-game regular season is over.
And at the top of the scoring list are the three Minnesota players on Waterloo's top line.
Taylor Cammarata, the left winger from Plymouth, finished with 38 goals and 55 assists for 93 points in 59 games. He was a plus-39 and will wear the Gophers' maroon and gold next season. He came within two points of the franchise record for a single season.
He won the USHL scoring titlte by six points over Justin Kloos, of Lakeville.
Kloos, the center, had 29 goals and 58 assists for 87 points in only 54 games. He was a plus-34. Kloos will also play for the Gophers next season. His 58 assists were one shy of the USHL TIer I record.
Both Cammarata and Kloos had 10 power-play goals.
Zach Stepan, of Hastings, the right wing on Kloos' line did pretty well, too. He had 32 goals and 46 assists for 78 points, third in the USHL. He is a cousin of Derek Stepan, who plays for the New York Rangers. Zach Stepan has committed to Ohio State and will join the Buckeyes next season.
Waterloo finished the season in third place in the Western Conference at 39-21-4 (third number is overtime losses) for 82 points -- just one point out of a tie for second. The Black Hawks will play at Fargo on Wednesday in the first round of the USHL playoffs.
The Black Hawks tied the franchise record for victories with 29 after beating Indiana 5-2 on Sunday. They set a franchise record for goals with 273. They are on an eight-game winning streak.
P.K. Handley, Waterloo's coach, marvels at Kloos sometimes. "He has got ways to make plays."
“He is so unselfish with the puck, and obviously he has two unbelievable linemates that have found some chemistry together,” O’Handley was quoted as saying in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. “The great story about Justin is he is so humble. You wouldn’t know he won Minnesota ... anything. [Kloos was Mr. Hockey.] He is a Waterloo Black Hawk and likes being a Black Hawk.
“He could’ve came here with a little chip on his shoulder thinking maybe I should be at Minnesota right now. But he came in with the exact opposite approach that ‘I need to learn everything I can and work as hard as I can on and off the ice.’ I respect how he approached this season. He approached it as a professional, and I think in time he will be one.”
Until midsummer last year, Kloos still had a chance to be a Gopher for the 2012-13 season. His status was dependent on whether Nick Bjugstad turned pro or not. Bjugstad, of course, stayed for his junior year at the U and Kloos joined Waterloo and tore up the league.
What a day for U women's hockey on Tuesday.
Junior forward Amanda Kessel scored the game-winning goal early in the third period as the U.S. beats Canada 3-2 for the gold medal in the Women's World Championship in Ottawa, Ontario.
"I feel like it is revenge," Kessel said, according to a U of M release. "We got beat on our home soil last year. To come into Canada and win the gold medal is unbelievable. We used our speed and worked hard. It gives us great confidence heading to Sochi."
She was speaking of the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, next year.
Senior defenseman Megan Bozek, Kessel's Gopher teammate, had the second U.S. goal. on a 5-on-3 power played, she scored on a slapper. It was her only tournament goal, but she also had two assists.
With the score knotted at 2-all, Kessel carried the puck into the right circle on an odd-man rush, then sniped a shot over one of the Canadian goalie's shoulders.
It was the fifth gold for the U.S. in this tournament.
Kessel was named the U.S. team's player of the game and one of its top three players. She tied for second in tournament scoring with two goals and six assists for eight points.
As for Noora Raty, she was in the nets for Finland in the bronze medal game. The punchless Finns lost 2-0 to Russia.
Raty kept the game scoreless until the third period when the Russians scored when Raty was screened. The second goal was an empty-netter in the last minute.
Raty was named to the media all-star team.
On Monday, Raty made 40 saves as the Finns lost 3-0 to the U.S. in the semifinals. She kept the score 0-0 until the U.S. got a puck past her at 13:55 of the third period. The Americans also scored once more before scoring into an empty net for the third goal.
Shots were 42-11 for the U.S. Raty has to rank as the one of the best women's goalies in the world right now, if not the best. She had an incredible season for the U, too.
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