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.
Junior forward Amanda Kessel of Madison, Wis., is the WCHA's offensive player of the week. She had one goal and three assists as the U of M swept Minnesota Duluth 4-1, 4-0 on the road.
She has 15 goals and 17 assists for 32 points in 11 games for the No. 1-ranked Gophers (12-0-0).
Center Hannah Brandt, of Vadnais Heights, is the conference's rookie of the week. She had two assists in both UMD games. So for the season, she has 12 goals and 21 assists for 33 points -- one ahead of Kessel -- in 12 games.
Kessel has received the same award twice, Brandt three times.
The defensive player of the week is Wisconsin junior goalie Alex Rigsby of Delafield, Wis. She shut out Minnesota State Mankato 2-0 and 5-0. She had 36 saves in the two games. ... Gophers defenseman Megan Bozek also was nominated for this award.
Senior goalie Noora Raty is nearing the end of a wondrous career at the U of M. Raty won her 82nd and 83rd games last weekend as the Gophers swept Ohio State 7-2 and 8-0. She is now tied in career victories at the U with Jody Horak for first on the all-time list.
She also earned her 10th WCHA defensive player of the week award. She was actually co-defensive player this week with sr. goalie Jorid Dagfinrud of North Dakota. Dagfinrud is from Sarpsborg, Norway and was in nets for UND's 3-1 and 1-0 sweep of St. Cloud State. She stopped 34 of 35 shots.
Raty stopped 15 shots the first night, 20 the second in her 30th shutout. The Gophers play at UND this weekend, so Raty, of Espoo, Finland, will probably face Dagfinrud.
FRESHMAN STAYS HOT
Hannak Brandy of Vadnais Heights, a forward for the Gophers, is the offensive player of the week. She had two goals and two assists for the U in the first game against the Buckeyes and two more assists in the second.
She has 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points in eight games. She was a plus-7 for the weekend.
* Tracy McCann, a junior forward for Minnesota State, was named the offensive player of the week. She had one goal and two assists as the Mavericks tied UMD 3-3 and then won the shootout on another goal of hers. She also had the goal as MSU Mankato beat the Bulldogs 1-0 in their second game.
Gophers forward Nick Bjugstad is the WCHA's offensive player of the week. He had two game-winners -- the fifth and sixth of his career --as the U beat Michigan State 5-1 and 7-1.
He also had one assist in the series and his llne had nine points.
Bjugstad has 35 goals, 30 assists and 65 points in 71 games. This is his fourth weekly WCHA award. He was the rookie of the week twice as a freshman and was named offensive player of the week once as a sophomore.
The five other nominees were Matt Bailey, F, Alaska Anchorage; Archie Skalbeck, F, Colorado College; Milos Gordic, F, Michigan Tech; Mike Seidel, F, Minnesota Duluth and Chase Grant, F, Minnesota State.
Colorado College senior defenseman Mike Boivin, Delta, British Columbia, is the defensive player of the week.
He had two assists, 12 shots on goal and earned a +1 plus/minus rating as the Tiger swept Clarkson by 5-4 scores twice. Gophers junior goalie Michael Shibrowski was the lone other nominee. He had a shutout against the Spartans until the closing minutes the first game.
UMD forward Austin Farley, Niles, Ill., is the rookie of the week. Farley had a goal and two assists as the Bulldogs beat Ohio State 6-2 on Friday. He also had an assist the second game which UMD lost 3-2.
Gophers defenseman Brady Skjie and CC forward Hunter Fejes also were nominated.
DU LOADED ON DEFENSE
Denver coach George Gwozdecky could go with a three-man rotation in the nets if he wanted to.
“Any successful team has to be strong down the middle,” Gwozdecky said during Pioneers' media day. “We have three outstanding goaltenders in Sam Brittain, Adam Murray and Juho Olkinuora all returning, and all of whom give us a chance to win any game.
"We’re going to be extremely strong on the blueline with great depth, not only with the incoming talent we have, but from our returning players as well, led by captain Paul Phillips. And last but not least, we’re going to be pretty strong down the middle up front. Nick Shore and Shawn Ostrow, just to name a few of our outstanding centermen. What we don’t know is where we’re going to get the offense from our wings. We’re hoping the guys like Ty Loney, Daniel Doremus, Chris Knowlton and Zac Larraza, just to name a few, will be able to add the firepower we need.”
Denver was picked to finish third in the WCHA and is No. 7 and 8 in the two national polls.
“The history of the [Denver] program has a lot of success, and a lot of tradition,” Gwozdecky said. “No matter where you go and no matter what year it is, I think people know DU is going to have one of the top teams in the conference and one of the top teams in the country.
"They’ll look at [this year’s] team a little differently, but I think no matter who is playing for us, and no matter who is in our lineup, we’re capable of winning any game that we’re in.”
Phillips talked about how the Pioneers are not overlooking anyone, including UMass-Lowell this weekend.
“We’re stressing the importance of these games, because last season we had some lapses in nonconference games,” Phillips said. “[The game against] Alabama Huntsville comes to mind, and that will not happen this year. It can’t happen this year. That’s a focal point for us going forward.”
* Referee Peter Friesema has been suspended indefinitely by the WCHA pending a review of an off-ice incident that occurred at the Anchorage International Airport on Sunday.
What does the calendar say? May 25.
No matter. College hockey web sites write about hockey year round.
INCH has come out with is preseason top 10 and at the top are the Gophers. Michigan is No. 2 and North Dakota No. 3.
Here is INCH's blurb on the Gophers:
Assuming Bjugstad returns for his junior season instead of turning pro, the Gophers’ lineup will boast seven players who scored 20 or more points last season. Good thing they’ll score a ton, because Minnesota must break in a pair of untested goaltenders—junior Mike Shibrowski (20 career minutes played) and rookie Adam Wilcox, a South St. Paul, Minn., native who spent the last two seasons in the USHL with Green Bay and Tri-City.
Comment: Not sure the defense will be a huge concern. Shibrowski or Wilcox just have to be average. They might not see a lot of shots. Top six defensemen return from last season, plus the Gophers add two potential stars on the blue line: freshmen Brady Skjei of the national development team in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Mike Reilly of Penticton of the BCHL.
Skjei is expected to be a lower first round pick in the NHL draft next month. Reilly said a Vees' team record for points in a single regular season. He had more than 80 points before the playoffs, which ended with the Vees winning the national Junior A title.
Bjugstad still has not said whether he will sign with the NHL's Florida Panthers, who have his rights, or return to the Gophers for his junior year. He had 25 goals last season.
To read the INCH top 10, click here.
Senior Kent Patterson, who started every game in goal for the Gophers, and Nick Bjugstad, a sophomore center who led the team in goals with 25, were named the team's co-MVPs. The Gophers have had co-winners for this award only once before.
Sophomore center Erik Haula was named the Playoffs MVP for the Gophers who won the MacNaughton Cup and reached the Frozen Four before losing to Boston College 6-1 in the semifinals in Tampa.
Other award winners:
Unsung hero: senior goalie Jake Kremer
Leadership and sportsmanship, most determined: senior forward Taylor Matson, team captain
Rookie of Year: Kyle Rau, freshman forward
Community service: Seth Helgeson, junior forward ... third year in a row
Outstanding student-athlete: Nate Condon ... double major in finance and accounting
LUCIA, M. REILLY SINGLED OUT
International Scouting Services picked three players to watch from all five teams in te RBC Cup starting Saturday in Humboldt, Saskatchewan. Two of the players ISS picked from the Penticton Vees have Minnesota ties. Forward Mario Lucia is the son of the Gophers coach, defenseman Mike Reilly of Chanhassen will play for the Gophers this coming season.
Here is ISS on those two:
very talented … dangerous offensively … good size … soft hands … speedy … competes at a high level … has natural ability … quick feet … good hands … unselfish … second-round pick of the Wild in 2011 NHL draft
smooth skater … offensive defenceman … excellent mobility … plays in all situations … can rush the puck up ice … makes a good breakout pass … excellent point shot … fourth-round pick of Columbus in 2011 NHL draft
SCSU HONORS ITS PLAYERS
Outstanding Senior: Travis Novak, senior forward from Lethbridge, Alberta
MVP: Ben Hanowski, junior forward from Little Falls, Minn.
Most Determined: Nic Dowd, sophomore forward from Huntsville, Alabama
Outstanding Student-Athlete: Mike Lee, junior goalie from Roseau
Most Improved: Cory Thorson, sophomore forward from Crystal
Goalie of the Year: Lee and Ryan Faragher, freshman from Fort Frances, Ontario
Outstanding first-year player: Andrew Prochno, freshman from Minnetonka
Hanowski led the Huskies this season with 23 goals, seven power play goals and 43 points.
* Kalli Funk, a 5-5 forward who played for Cretin-Derham Hall, will transfer from Niagara University, where she played for one season and had seven goals and five assists, to SCSU. Her family lives in Roseville.
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