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.
The Gophers are No. 1 in the USA Today poll after being tied with Boston College for the top spot last week.
None of the top 15 teams have played a game yet, so at least two voters must have changed their minds. Minnesota had only 12 first-place votes last week. Now the Gophers have 14 while the number of first-pace votes for BC fell from 20 to 19 and for Michigan from two to one.
Boston College, the defending NCAA champion is still No. 1 along in the USCHO.com poll.
Union, a Frozen Four team last April, is the only team in the top 15 in the ratings that has played a game. The Dutchmen lost to Merrimack 4-1.
Rank School Last Week's Ranking
1 University of Minnesota, 483 (14) 1
2 Boston College, 482 (19) 1
3 University of Michigan, 429 (1) 3
4 University of North Dakota, 406 4
5 Cornell University, 284 6
6 UMass-Lowell, 263 7
7 Western Michigan University, 250 11
8 Miami University, 234 9
9 Union College, 227 5
10 University of Denver, 200 8
11 Ferris State University, 176 14
12 Minnesota Duluth,140 12
13 Notre Dame, 136 10
14 Boston University, 119 13
15 Wisconsin, 63 15
1 Boston College (37) 978 1
2 Minnesota (12) 948 2
3 Michigan ( 1) 871 3
4 North Dakota 837 4
5 Cornell 704 6
6 Mass-Lowell 680 7
7 Denver 624 8
8 Miami 588 9
9 Western Michigan 584 10
10 Union 0- 1-0 581 5
11 Ferris State 466 11
12 Boston University 429 13
13 Minnesota-Duluth 404 12
14 Notre Dame 400 14
15 Wisconsin 242 18
16 Michigan State 222 16
17 Harvard 179 17
18 Quinnipiac 1- 0-0 126 NR
19 Merrimack 1- 0-0 120 NR
20 Maine 0- 1-0 102 15
Minnesota State Mankato handled th University of Lethbridge on Sunday night about as easily as the Gophers the night before.
The Mavericks routed the Pronghorns 7-1. Freshman Bryce Gervais had two goals for the home team at the Verizon Wireless Center. Lethbridge scored first but Gervais' first goal made it 1-1 after the opening period.
Senior Eriah Hayes, freshman Dylan Margonari and sophomore Leitner made it 4-1 Mavericks after two periods.
“It was nice to see them build on a lead,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said. “I thought they would come out quick in the period.”
The Mavericks outshot Lethbridge 29-1 in the period and got three more goals.Junior Johnny McInnis, Gervais and senior Evan Mosey scored.
“Bryce is just a pure goal scorer,” said Leitner, who had a goal and three assists. “He has an ability to put the puck in the net.”
“Leitner is an easy guy to play with,” Gervais said. “He’ll always find the open guy.”
Said Hastings, the former Gophers assistant coach, “We got a long way to go. I like how we played for 60 minutes, but we have a lot of work we need to do between now and Friday."
The Mavericks play at Alabama-Huntsville Friday and Saturday.
* The Gophers beat the Pronghorns 7-0 last Saturday.
Senior Mathieu Dugas (L'Assomption, Quebec) played the first 30 minutes and 28 seconds in goal and stopped all 11 shots he faced. Freshman Fabian Sivnert (Holviken, Sweden) finished and gave up three goals on 14 shots.
The Beavers were out shot 28-26. Each team was 0-for-4 on the power play.
The Beavers play the U.S. Under-18 Team in another exhibition game Saturday at 7:07 p.m., then host Lake Superior State University to open the regular season on Oct. 19 and 20.
U WOMEN STILL NO. 1
The Gophers women's hockey team (4-0-0) remains No. 1 in USCHO.com's national ratings. It receiced all 15 first-place votes.
Other WCHA teams in the top 10 are Wisconsin at No. 4, North Dakota at No. 6 and Ohio State at No. 10.
Bemidji State has signed five hockey players for next season. And the Beavers spread a wide recruiting net, getting players from as far away as California and Sweden.
They five are:
* Markus Gerbrandt of Edmonton, Alberta. The 5-11, 175-pound forward had 40 goals and 86 points for Fort McMurray of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He has played three seasons of junior hockey.
* James Hansen of Maple Grove. The 6-1, 210-pound defenseman had three goals and 14 points in 60 games with Waterloo of the USHL.
“We are excited about the strength, size and mobility James possesses,” Beavers assistant coach Ted Belisle said. “He will add several dynamics to our defensive corps moving forward. He has great legs, he can eat up minutes and is a very good defender.”
* Brad Robbins of Murrieta, Calif. The 5-8, 165-pound forward led Sioux City in scoring with 25 goals and 49 points. He had 11 power-play goals.
* Fabian Sivnert of Höllviken, Sweden. The 5-11, 185-pound goale was 18-9-2 for the Valley Jr. Warriors of the Eastern Junior Hockey League last season. He had a 2.53 goal-against average and a .926 save percentage, which ranked third and second, respectively, in the EJHL. He had ar leasst 30 saves in 17 gamea and was the league's goalie of the year.
* Cory Ward of Las Vegas. The 6-0, 200-pound forward led Aberdeen of the NAHL with 35 goals, nine on the power play.
“Cory is a very exciting young prospect for us,” Belisle said. “He is a big, thick, strong player that has an incredible shot and has always been able to score. In addition, he has a tremendous battle level and that competitive skill is something we are looking forward to.”
BSU signed defenseman Graeme McCormack of Thunder Bay, Ontario, last fall. He played for Nanaimo Clippers of the British Columbia Hockey League.
BSU's 2012-13 schedule
Date Opponent Time
Oct. 7 Manitoba, exhibition TBD
Oct. 19 Lake Superior State 7:37 p.m.
Oct. 20 Lake Superior State 7:07 p.m.
Oct. 26 @ Nebraska-Omaha 7:37 p.m.
Oct. 27 @ Nebraska-Omaha 7:07 p.m.
Nov. 9 @ Colorado College 8:37 p.m.
Nov. 10 @ Colorado College 8:07 p.m.
Nov. 16 Michigan Tech 7:37 p.m.
Nov. 17 Michigan Tech 7:07 p.m.
Nov. 23 Alaska-Anchorage 7:37 p.m.
Nov. 24 Alaska-Anchorage 7:07 p.m.
Nov. 30 @ Minnesota State 7:37 p.m.
Dec. 1 @ Minnesota State 7:07 p.m.
Dec. 7 @ Minnesota Duluth 7:07 p.m.
Dec. 8 @ Minnesota Duluth 7:07 p.m.
Dec. 14 Denver 7:37 p.m.
Dec. 15 Denver 7:07 p.m.
At Hanov er, NH.
Dec. 30 vs. UMass 3:00 p.m.
Dec. 31 vs. Dartmouth/New Hampshire 3:00/6:00 p.m.
Jan. 4 Western Michigan 7:37 p.m.
Jan. 5 Western Michigan 7:07 p.m.
Jan. 18 @ Michigan Tech 6:07 p.m.
Jan. 19 @ Michigan Tech 6:07 p.m.
Jan. 25 Nebraska-Omaha 7:37 p.m.
Jan. 26 Nebraska-Omaha 7:07 p.m.
Feb. 1 St. Cloud State 7:37 p.m.
Feb. 2 St. Cloud State 7:07 p.m.
Feb. 8 @ Wisconsin 7:07 p.m.
Feb. 9 @ Wisconsin 7:07 p.m.
Feb. 15 Minnesota Duluth 7:37 p.m.
Feb. 16 Minnesota Duluth 7:07 p.m.
March 1 @ North Dakota 7:37 p.m.
March 2 @ North Dakota 7:07 p.m.
March 8 Minnesota 7:37 p.m.
March 9 Minnesota 7:07 p.m.
Gophers coach Don Lucia, those close to him say, is pretty astute when it comes to the PairWise ratings.
At this time of the season, those are the only important poll. The PairWise ratings, which compare teams in four statistical categories, mimic how the NCAA fills out its 16-team field for the national tournament.
The Gophers are No. 14 in the PairWise today. Almost on the bubble, but Lucia seems unruffled.
"It is so close with everybody right now," he said Wednesday during the Gophers weekly media day. "The system, we say it all the time, was meant to be looked at when the final game has been played. And there is a lot of hockey to be played. We all have six regular season games to go, we have playoffs to be had."
The Gophers play Bemidji State at home this weekend, then travel to Nebraska Omaha, and finish with another home series against Wisconsin.
"We are in a good position right now," Lucia said. "I like where we are in the league and even overall. We control our own destiny. ... As long as you win games, you don’t have to worry about it."
The Gophers next opponent is a hot Bemidji State team, coming off a sweep of Colorado College. "Everybody has tough games with them," Lucia said. "They have certainly one of the top goalies in the league [Dan Bakala]. They have very much a junior/senior team.
"They play pretty mistake-free hockey, and they make you beat them. They are not going to beat themselves. And that is why they are one of the most difficult teams to play in our league. We saw that last year. We had two great games with them [in Bemidji], both overtime games and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened again this week."
BSU EXCITED FOR GOPHERS
Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said his team is confident and excited going into the Gophers series.
"We have to adjust to the Olympic ice again," he said, "and the Gophers really know how to spread the rink out on that big sheet they have."
The rink at Mariucci Arena is 200 by 100 feet, of 15 feet wider than an NHL rink and most college rinks.
"But our guys are excited about it. It is always exciting playing the Minnesota Gophers."
The Beavers are 3-0-1 in their last four game and actually have been playing well since mid-November. "Our work ethic has been very good. We have been very tenacious. We have been strong on the puck and, when you are strong on the puck, there are going to be opportunities for offense. ... And they have converted.
"We are doing some good things right now and the guys are playing with confidence."
Especially playing well is senior goalie Dan Bakala.
"It is key that he plays this well at this time of the year," Serratore said. "It is crunch time right now. The stretch run. He stood tall [last] weekend. He was one of our best players and played like the vet he is."
Based on the past 20 or so WCHA seasons, team should not covet the MacNaughton Cup too much. It seems to be cursed.
The last team to win an outright regular-season WCHA title and go on to win the NCAA title in the Frozen Four was Wisconsin in 1990.
Since then, there have been two WCHA co-champions to win the big prize: North Dakota in 1997 and Denver in 2005.
Bottom line is that, in the 21 years since 1991, only three teams who won or shared the MacNaughton Cup celebrated a national title the same year.
THE DON SAYS
* On the one-game suspension to Kyle Rau for his hit on Denver's Jason Zucker: "Ultimately, we have to make sure we protect the players. And Kyle understands that and our whole team does. it is something we talk about and review after, whether it is a check from behind or a major penalty."
Lucia said Rau got a suspension for several reasons: "The lateness of the hit. The distance traveled. They felt the hands came up into the head and [Zucker] got launched into the boards. it wasn’t any one thing, but it was a combination of all four."
* On 4-3 overtime loss to Denver on Saturday: "I thought the guys played really well on Saturday night. That is why it becomes so disappointing. You are a minute and half away from having a good weekend and then we gave up the [tying] goal and gave up the overtime goal. So you go from having a good weekend, splitting at Denver, to not getting any points."
* On whether the team's stars need to play better in the stretch: "You need everybody to step up. Like any team, you need your goaltender to play well at this time of the year. You need your top-end guys to score on a regular basis and then you need your secondary scoring to come through."
Denver beat Bemidji State 3-2 as Wild prospect Jason Zucker had two goals and an assist for the Pioneers. Teammate Joey LaLeggia had three assists.
But DU lost another player during the game to injury, forward Zac Larraza was hurt when checked from behind in the opening period. He may have suffered a concussion.
Five Denever players were already injured:
* goalie Sam Brittain
* forward Beau Bennett
* defenseman Dave Makowski
* defenseman John Ryder
* forward Drew Shore
The Pioneers started the game with five defensemen because of injuries and, when Scott Mayfield got a five-minute major for checking from behind and a game misconduct near the end of the first period, played the final two periods with only four.
"We had a real test and that's as good a team win as we've had all year long," DU coach George Gwozdecky said. "Certainly it's great to have Jason Zucker back. He scored two big goals and I am as excited about the effort we got [Saturday], considering the situation, as I have been in a long, long time."
Zucker, who had been gone playing the World Junior Championships, has 13 goals and 16 assists now.
Ben Kinne and Brady Wacker scored the two goals for BSU.
The Gophers play at Denver on Feb. 10-11 and face Bemidji State at Mariucci on Feb. 17-18.
GOPHERS CLIMB IN BOTH POLLS
The Gophers impressed voters apparently with their split at North Dakota this past weekend. They moved up in both major polls.
In the USA Today/USA Magazine poll, the Gophers jumped three spots to No. 2. UMD got all 34 first-place votes and reamined No. 1. Boston University and Boston College are Nos. 3 and 4, respectively.
In the USCHO.com poll, the Gophers moved up just one spot to No. 4.
The top three teams there are: 1. Minnesota Duluth -- the Bulldogs received all 50 first-place votes, 2. Boston University -- up from sixth, and 3. Boston College.
Only three other WCHA teams are in the ratings, and none are in the top 10: Colorado College, which plays the Gophers at Mariucci this weekend, is No. 11, Denver is No. 15 and North Dakota is No. 17.
OUTDOOR GAME UPDATE
Gophers coach Don Lucia said Saturday that Wisconsin has talked to him about playing an outdoor game next season and he is interested.
The Gophers-Badgers game would be part of a college doubleheader, according to several reports, at Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears. Miami and Notre Dame would play a CCHA game the same day.
“In order to make this work, we’d have to play Thursday night at the Kohl Center and give both teams [the Gophers and the Badgers] a chance to practice in Chicago,” said Mike Cerniglia, the assistant to Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, according to a uscho.com story.
Cerniglia helped coordinate the Camp Randall outdoor game in 2010 between Wisconsin and Michigan.
Goalie Andrew Walsh of Bemidji State was named the national rookie of the month for December on Friday by the Hockey Commissioners' Association.
Walsh was 4-0-1 last month with a 1.04 goals-against average and a .961 save percentage. He had shutouts in two of his victories and was twice named the WCHA rookie of the week.
He also had a shutout streak of 163 minutes, 2 seconds over four games. Walsh made a career-high 36 saves as the Beavers beat Denver 2-1 on Dec. 10.
In nine games overall, Walsh is 6-2-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage. He is tied for first in most wins by a rookie goalie and is third nationally in gaa and save pct.
* The national player of the month is forward Spencer Abbott of Maine. Abbott had six goals and nine assists last month as Maine went 4-1-0.
Abbott leads Hockey East in scoring with 11 goals and 18 assists for 29 points.
Defenseman Nick Jensen of St. Cloud State was among four honorable mentions.
* The first two national players of the month were Gophers. Goalie Kent Patterson was picked for the award in October, forward Nick Bjugstad for November. ... Forward Kyle Rau of the Gophers was the national rookie of the month in October.
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