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.
Nebraska Omaha has hired Steve Johnson as an assistant hockey coach. He held the same position at St. Cloud State the past two seasons.
Johnson replaces Mike Hastings, who left to become the head coach at Minnesota State Mankato.
“Steve has the ability to be a great recruiter for us," UNO head coach Dean Blais said, "and his on-ice skills as a coach are very strong as shown by his work in both the United States Hockey League and at the college level. His knowledge and experience will make our team stronger. ”
Johnson led the USHL's Fargo Force to the 2010 Clark Cup finals.
UMD FAN EXTRAORDINAIRE DIES
Dick Stewart, 92, one of the biggest fans of the Minnesota Duluth men's hockey team, died on Monday. He was the longtime owner of Stewart's Wheel Goods in Duluth, sponsored many youth sports teams and always attended UMD games whenever he could, according to a story in the Duluth News-Tribune.
LUCIA'S MEDIA LINK SWITCHES SPORTS
Paul Rovnak has a new job at the U.
After two years as the assistant director for athletic communications for men's hockey, Rovnak has been promoted to associate director in the same department and will work with the football team.
As of Monday, he replaced Andy Seeley, who handled media relations and publicity for the Gophers for four years. He left for Central Florida where he will be assistant athletics director for communications.
“Paul has done an outstanding job with Gopher hockey since arriving at the ‘U’," said Garry Bowman. the U's director of athletic communications. "He understands the changing landscape of modern media relations, publicity and social media and has been a terrific addition to our staff. He has earned this opportunity and I am looking forward to see him roll up his sleeves and go to work in this new role.”
Before working with coach Don Lucia and the Gophers hockey team, Rovnak was assistant director of media relations for the Washington Capitals of the NHL for three seasons.
Bowman said that a national search will be conducted to fill in the communications position with Gophers hockey.
MODEL CAMP COMING
Lucia's Model hockey camp will be held next week at Mariucci and Ridder Arenas.
Applicants had to apply by May 10. There were 216 spots open. Players will be divided among 12 teams.
The camp is clearly aimed at the high-end player. Or as one promo on the camp web site reads: "The goal of this camp is to provide exposure to junior, college and NHL scouts. Every team is coached by an active NCAA college coach and every NHL Team and central scouting will be in attendance. Numerous players have gone on to play college hockey and play in the NHL."
Cost of the camp is $375. Let's see, 216 x $375 = $81,000.
The names of those attending have not been released yet on the Model camp web site, but they have been in past years.
* Bemidji State has updated its web site for athletics. It is available at BSUBeavers.com. One of the improvements is a scroll at the bottom of the page with upcoming athletic events.
BSU's web site for athletics is also available on mobile devices now.
Gophers coach Don Lucia was pleased with his re-juggled defensive pairs.
Freshman Ben Marshall was out of the lineup Friday because of an injury, replaced by another freshman, 20-year-old Blake Thompson.
That move led to a couple others. The end results was Nate Schmidt, Mark Alt and Jake Parenteau all were playing with new partners.
Even so the Gophers won 3-2 over Nebraska Omaha in overtime. The Mavericks had only 24 shots on goal -- or about 10 under their average of 34.4.
“Blake Thompson did a nice job," Lucia said. "I thought all the D was sharp [Friday] night as far as playing with new partners and mixing and matching. Mike [associate head coach Mike Guentel did a great job with that.
"Blake was steady. He was physical and he made good decisions with the puck all night long.
“We kept their shots down and kept a lot of it to the outside.”
Thompson's line: no shots, plus-1 and, really important, zero penalties in his fourth game as a Gopher. He had six penalties in his first three games for 23 minutes.
The Gophers did have a few breakdowns. Lucia talked about one of them: “Their shorthanded goal was just the result of a pass that bounced off our stick, and right to them. And away they came on a two-on-one. They had seven shorties coming in and they have some dangerous players that they use. And we don’t have Ben Marshall, who has been there all year.
“[We] had some good looks, too. Their goaltender made some real big saves there in the second period on [Jake] Hansen and [Nick] Bjugstad. We had some really good looks on the power play. But he made the saves.”
Ryan Massa had 29 saves for UNO.
The Gophers' lineup:
1st line/ Kyle Rau-Nick Bjugstad-Zach Budish ... Bjugey credited Budish for screening the goalie on his 23rd goal of the season ... Bjugey had four shots on goal
2nd line/ Sam Warning-Erik Haula-Jake Hansen ... Both Haula and Hansen had several Grade A scoring chances on Friday
3rd line/ Nate Condon-Taylor Matson-Nico Sacchetti .... Condon had a team-high five shots on goal and key assist on winning goal
4th line/ Joe Miller-Travis Boyd-Seth Ambroz ... Miller replaces Tom Serratore in lineup
Seth Helgeson-Justin Holl ... Holl had three shots on net
Nate Schmidt-Mark Alt ... Alt was the only plus-2 player in Gophers' lineup
Jake Parenteau-Blake Thompson ... Wonder if Parenteau has come down from his emotional high after OT goal?
Kent Patterson ... his goals-against average down to 2.09
THREE KEYS TO U WIN
1. Shoot the puck. How many times did a Gopher play with a chance to shoot pass it up and pass instead. And usually the shot was bit off, got blocked or the recipient shot wide. Lots of missed chances. Gophers need to put more sustained pressure on a good goalie
2. Keep taking goalie's eyes away. On two of the Gophers' goals, there was traffic in front. Massa was screened and either didn't see the puck or saw it too late. If he sees it, Massa is tough.
3. Figure out the power play. It looked awful at time. Five shots on four power plays and what's worse, short-handed chances for UNO. Did you see the three-on-one UNO had short-handed late in the second period? Gophers can do better. They must in the playoffs.
There are defining moments in every hockey season. Friday night in Omaha, Neb., looks like one for the Gophers right now.
Two weeks ago today, the Gophers blew a winnable game at Denver. The Pioneers scored a late power-play goal to tie and won in overtime. It was the Gophers' second overtime loss in conference play.
On Friday, the Gophers found themselves in OT again, on the road. This time they prevailed in the most unlikely fashion. Sophomore defenseman Jake Parenteau, playing in his 38th game -- 30 this season -- scored the first goal of his career. It was a long shot from the point.
He got it on net and later insisted he was trying to score. But Ryan Massa, the UNO freshman goalie, had stopped much tougher, much closer chances than Parenteau's blast. He just didn't see it because of the traffic in front of him.
The win enabled the Gophers to maintain a two-point lead over UMD. Both teams have three regular-season games left. The Bulldogs have the home-ice this weekend. They beat Colorado College 4-3 in OT at Amsoil Arena last night.
Next weekend, the Gophers get to play at home. Wisconsin visits. UMD has to go on the road -- although not too far -- to St. Cloud State.
If the Gophers and the Bulldogs tie for the title, they would be co-champions but the 'U' would be the top seed going into the conference playoffs.
Here is what the WCHA says about that: "Should two teams deadlock for the top spot, they will be declared co-champions and the No. 1 tournament seed would be decided using the league's tie-breakers."
The first tie-breaker in the WCHA is head-to-head competition. The Gophers played at UMD in the first conference series of the season on Oct. 14-15. The Gophers won the first gamer 5-4 in overtime and the second game 5-4 in regulation. So they hold the tiebreaker.
That first win over UMD was the Gophers' first signature win of the season. The Bulldogs, of course, came into the season as the NCAA champions.
UMD took a 4-3 lead with two minutes to play. But the Gophers rallied. Erik Haula, with goalie Kent Patterson pulled for an extra attacker, scored with 44 seconds to play. Then, in the last minute of overtime, Nate Condon got the game-winner with 56 seconds left.
The Gophers other huge win this season -- before Friday -- came at Mariucci Arena. The setup: the Gophers beat archrival North Dakota 2-0 on Nov. 4, but the second game was tied 2-2 until Kyle Rau's goal with 46 seconds left. So the Gophers won for a series sweep and gave the fans a stick salute.
It was a just result; the Gophers outshot the Fighting Sioux 42-19.
Friday's win was a third turning point. Again on the road. It gave the Gophers their third win in a row and kept their momentum going into the playoffs. And it came after the Gophers fell behind 2-1 after two periods.
The Gophers now are:
2-2-1 in overtime games
19-6-1 when scoring three goals or more
8-9-0 in one-goal games
2-7-1 when trailing after two periods
3-2-0 in the month of February
Freshman defenseman Ben Marshall was hurt last Saturday against Bemidji State and didn't finish the game. His status for this game was in doubt.
And now it's certain. He won't play this weekend. He didn't make the trip to Omaha. In his place in the lineup is freshman D-man Blake Thompson who has played only three games. Marshall had played every game, or 33 total.
Thompson is an older freshman. He is 20. He played two years for Waterloo of USHL after high school hockey at Eden Prairie. He had two assists in Gophers' season opponent, then sat until 5-4 loss to Vermont on Oct. 23. Only other game he played in was in a 6-2 win over Michigan Tech on Dec. 10.
He is being paired with Jake Parenteau, probably team's best defensive D-man.
Nate Schmidt, who usually skates with Parenteau, is with Mark Alt in place of Marshall. So two of the Gophers' defensive pairs are different. Wonder how concerned Gophers coaches are about those switches against a team that like to pepper goalies with shots.
Dean Blais said he is hoping Mavs get at least 25-30 shots a game this weekend.
The Gophers' lines:
1st line/ Kyle Rau-Nick Bjugstad-Zach Budish ... Top line had three goals and three assists last Friday against Beavers
2nd line/ Sam Warning-Erik Haula-Jake Hansen ... Second line carried Gophers on Sat., with three goals vs. BSU
3rd line/ Nate Condon-Taylor Matson-Nico Sacchetti ... Some Gophers fans probably look forward to U going on penalty kill just to see Condon and Matson on the kill. Condon has four shorties
4th line/ Tom Serratore-Travis Boyd-Seth Ambroz ... Sort of a homecoming for Ambroz, he played three season with Omaha Lancers of USHL while brother Matt played for UNO
Seth Helgeson-Justin Holl ... Helgeson played in his 100th game as Gopher last Sat.
Nate Schmidt-Mark Alt ... new combination; Schmidt is more offensive like Marshall was
Jake Parenteau-Blake Thompson ... Blake has probably heard a lot this week about staying out of the box
Kent Patterson ... making his 55th start in a row. Mr. Steady for Gophers
Terry Broadhurst-Jayson Megna-Matt White ... Goal total for them are 16, 11, 16. Gotta watch 'em
Ryan Walters-Brock Montpetit-Josh Archibald ... Walters is from Rosemount, Archibald from Brainerd
Dominic Zombo-Brent Gwidt-Brian O'Rourke ... Six goals combined ... can't let them score
James Polk-Joe Krause-Zahn Raubenheimer ... One goal combined
Comments: This is a two-line team when it comes to scoring. Big dropoff to two lower lines; only one forward over 6-2
Michael Young- Andrej Sustr ... Young is 6-4, 210; Sustr is 6-8, 218 ... Yikes
Jaycob Megna-Bryce Aneloski ... Megna is 6-6, Aneloski 6-2. Both weigh 200.
Matt Smith-Kyle Ensign ... Ensign has played 101 games and is still looking for first goal
Ryan Massa ... 2.34 goals-against average, .922 save pct. He's freshman from Littleton, Colo.
Nebraska Omaha coach Dean Blais coached two Gophers, Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau, when they were on the U.S. team in the World Junior Championships over the holidays in Canada.
"Nick, he is big and rangy and he has NHL all over him when he decides to go," Blais said. "Rau, on the hand, is dynamic. He has always been a scorer. He finds a way to get his points. Quick. He thinks the game really well.
"Nick can just blow it right by you or beat you one on one. Different type players, but certainly both effective."
He said knowing them better doesn't really help him as UNO's coach. "When you drop the puck, it is the players that are playing the game," Blais said, "and we will have to defend those guys as best we can.
"It helps that we are at home," Blais said. "Alex Hudson would have been our guy to go against Nick Bjugstad. He's big and strong and physical. We really don't have that type of team this year. We have to rely on our quickness. Our defensemen are good size, but our forwards are just young and we get a lot out of them through cycling and forechecking and creating something out of nothing."
Hudson was dismissed from UNO team halfway through the season.
Blais expects the Mavs to get 25-30 shots, even against the Gophers who have done well limiting opponents' chances. [Bemidji State had 13 shots a week ago.]
"Our style doesn't change from team to team," Blais said. "It is the other team's style that changes against us whether you are playing a team is more conservative, will try to trap, that blocks a lot of shots. Now Minnesota, from what I have seen this year, blocks a lot of shots.
"Instead of us getting our 35-40 shots, they might have 10 blocked shots, now you are down to 25-30. I am sure that is what you are seeing right now. Their defensemen and their forwards are blocking a lot of shots."
GOPHERS NOT IN HIS FUTURE
Blais laughs when asked if he sees himself coaching the Gophers some day. His name always comes up as a possible successor to Lucia -- who signed a contract extension this season -- when the Gophers are struggling.
"I am honored that people haven't forgot that I still [coach] and was a Gopher at one time," Blais said. "It makes me feel good because I am 61 years old right now. I will probably finish my coaching right here [UNO].
"It appears that Donnie Lucia is healthy again. For a while Donnie was sick and people were concerned about him getting over that. More than anything, people weren't looking for Donnie's job, they were concerned about Don's health. As a coach and friend of Donnie's and looking over the Minnesota program, which I have done every year since I left, I look at it more as, I hope Donnie gets healthy.
"Winning and losing -- you have to win wherever you are at."
NEW ARENA COMING FOR UNO
Blais said he expects an announcement on a new arena for the Mavericks in the next two to three months. UNO's contract with the CenturyLink Center runs out in two more years.
"It takes two years to build an arena," Blais said. "It [an arena announcement soon] would be perfect timing."
Blais said UNO has been working for three years on the proposed arena. "We have the plans and everything nailed down," he said. "And now it is just getting the pieces of the puzzle put together."
He said he expects 12,000 to 13,000 for the Gophers game tonight and, if UNO wins, maybe 14,000 the next night.
So people sometimes ask him why should UNO build an 8,000-seat arena?
He said it is all about revenue streams. "We don't get advertising," he said, "we don't get concessions, we don't get parking here. We don't have the branding because it still is Creighton basketball, too.
"We want our facility."
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