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.
After Minnesota and Wisconsin announced they were leaving the WCHA for the Big Ten hockey conference, rumors started about a realignment of western college hockey.
Four recent stories tied up those rumors with comments from key officials.
First is Brad Schlossman's story in the Grand Forks Herald on the role of North Dakota ...
Second is a story by Kevin Pates in the Duluth News Tribune on the future status of defending NCAA champion UMD.
Third is a story by Chad Purcell of the Omaha World Herald on Nebraska Omaha's position.
Fourth is a story by Joe Paisley of the Colorado Spring Gazette urging caution on what has become a hot web topic.
When the Big Ten Conference announced it was going to form its own hockey league last March, rumblings started about what the aftershocks might be.
The BTC will start play in 2013-14, with the Gophers and Wisconsin leaving the WCHA and Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State leaving the CCHA to join newcomer Penn State in a six-team league.
At the time, WCHA commission Bruce McLeod said his 10-team league would be fine if everybody stuck together. He is probably looking for some super glue right about now.
North Dakota, UMD and Nebraska Omaha are all hinting they are looking for what is best for them. Notre Dame and Miami (Ohio) of the CCHA also could be looking for a stronger league to be part of when the Big Ten Conference starts up.
Those five schools, plus maybe Denver and Colorado College of the WCHA, and maybe Western Michigan of the CCHA, are the teams most often mentioned for a new "super conference".
This could be a summer of big changes in college hockey if it happens.
Forty forwards and defensemen have been invited to attend USA Hockey's junior evaluation camp. The players will try out for the U.S. team which will play in the World Junior Champinships in late December and early January in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta.
Sophomore forward Nick Bjugstad and sophomore defenseman Justin Holl of the Gophers are among those invited. (Goalie invitations will be released later.)
Bjugstad is one of seven players back from the 2011 team, which earned a bronze medal in the World Juniors in Buffalo, N.Y. Camp dates are Aug. 6-13 in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Besides the two Gophers, the only other Minnesotans invited were Justin Faulk, a defenseman who played on UMD's national championship team before signing with Carolina, and Derek Forbort, a defenseman for North Dakota. Faulk is from South St. Paul, Forbort from Duluth.
Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais will be the team's head coach, assisted by UMD's Scott Sandelin and Tom Ward, head of the boys' prep team at Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribualt..
The other six players who were on 2011 team are Faulk, Forbort, Wild draft choice Jason Zucker of Denver, Jon Merrill of Michigan, Charlie Coyle of Boston University and Emerson Etem of Medicine Hat (WHL).
Among other players invited forwards Nick Shore of Denver and Michael Mersch of Wisconsin and defenseman Kevin Gravel of St. Cloud State.
Two incoming Sioux freshmen, forwards Rocco Grimaldi and J.T. Miller, also were invited to the camp. They played for the under-18 U.S. national development team this past season.
The complete roster is here
MICHIGAN TECH RELATED NEWS
Jamie Russell, who resigned as coach at Michigan Tech this spring, has been hired as an assistant coach at Providence. And new Tech coach Mel Pearson has hired former Michigan All-America and ex-NHL Bill Muckalt as an assistant.
UMD men's hockey coach Scott Sandelin has to be a happy man today.
Sandelin, 46. has signed a five-year contract extension though 2016-17 paying him a base salary of $235,000 -- $65,000 more than he received this past season.
The Bulldogs, of course, beat Michigan 3-2 in OT in the title game of the Frozen Four last month.
Sandy, his nickname, had one year left on his contract. His overall record at UMD is not impressive, 192-200-46, but the Bulldogs have been 71-40-15 the past three seasons with forwards Jack and Mike Connolly and Justin Fontaine.
Only Jack Connolly returns for the 2011-12 season.
"We are very pleased with the leadership Scott has provided to our men's hockey program and are encouraged about what lies ahead for the Bulldogs," said Bob Nielson, UMD's athletic director. "He's continually demonstrated the ability to bring in top quality student-athletes -- young men who excel both on the ice and in the classroom. The extension represents a commitment to him and to UMD hockey."
The 2011-12 Bullogs will have 16 returning lettermen, including three of the top five scorers and both goalies from a team which finished 26-10-6 overall, 15-8-5 in the WCHA.
"I'm excited about the future of this hockey program and on building on what we've done," Sandelin said. "It's a great time to be here."
Lucia watch: There's another WCHA coach with one year left on his contract negotiating for an extension. That is the Gophers' Don Lucia. He said recently he anticipates signing an extension sometime this summer. He expects no problems in reaching an agreement with the U.
Gophers AD Joel Maturi has said repeatedly he wants Lucia back despite some pressure from Gophers fans who are unhappy with the team's struggles the past four seasons. The U has finished seventh, fifth, seventh and fifth in the WCHA those years and has missed the NCAA tournament three consecutive years.
The Gophers have released their 2011-12 hockey schedule.
The season starts with an exhibition game against visiting British Columbia Oct. 2. The regular season starts with a non-conference home series against Sacred Heart Oct. 7-8.
The Gophers have a home non-conference series against Vermont later in October, and a road non-conference series at Michigan State on Thanksgiving weekend.
Niagara, Northeastern and Princeton are in the Mariucci Classic in late December, and the Gophers play host to Notre Dame in the Hall of Fame game Jan. 7 at a yet-to-be-determined site.
The first WCHA series is Oct. 14-15 at national champion Minnesota Duluth.
The Gophers play North Dakota, Wisconsin and St. Cloud State four times, and all other WCHA teams twice.
Oct. 2 British Columbia (exhibition)
Oct. 7-8 Sacred Heart
Oct. 14-15 at Minnesota Duluth*
Oct. 21-22 (or 23) Vermont
Oct. 28-29 at Alaska Anchorage*
Nov. 4-5 North Dakota*
Nov. 11-12 at Wisconsin*
Nov. 18-19 at St. Cloud State*
Nov. 25-26 at Michigan State
Dec. 2-3 Minnesota State*
Dec. 9-10 Michigan Tech*
Dec. 30-31 Mariucci Classic: Participating teams Minnesota, Niagara, Northeastern, Princeton
Jan. 7 Notre Dame (Hall of Fame Game)#
Jan. 13-14 at North Dakota*
Jan. 20-21 Colorado College*
Jan. 27-28 St. Cloud State*
Feb. 10-11 at Denver*
Feb. 17-18 Bemidji State*
Feb. 24-25 at Nebraska-Omaha*
March 2-3 Wisconsin*
March 9-11 WCHA First Round playoffs
March 15-17 WCHA Final Five, St. Paul
#Location of Hall of Fame Game is yet to be determined
Michigan has its awards banquet on Saturday, Notre Dame on Sunday. Seems a little unusual to do so before the season ends, but maybe neither team was planning on being in the Frozen Four.
The irish MVP was freshman forward T.J. Tynan. No surprise. He led Notre Dame in scoring with 22 goals and 31 assists for 53 points. He also was the CCHA rookie of the year.
Irish players voted Anders Lee, another freshman, their co-rookie of the year along with Tynan. That is a little surprising to an outsider. Lee, though, had a great first year, too. He led the Irish in goals with 24 and had 20 assists for 44 points, second on the team and fourth in the nation among freshmen. Tynan was the top scorer among first-year players in Division I.
Lee, of course, is from Edina. Played his junior and senior years of high school hockey for the Hornets. Was at St. Thomas Academy before that.
Senior forward Calle Ridderwall of Sweden was named the student-athlete of the year. He has a 3.41 gpa.
Junior defenseman Sean Lorenz was picked the top defenseman. He has a plus-29 ranking, tops in the CCHA.
Senior winger Ryan Guentzel of Woodbury was named the unsung hero on the team.
Sophomore defenseman Sam Calabrese was named the most improved player.
UMD WATCH PARTIES
There will be UMD watch parties at all four Joe Senser's Sports Grills in Bloomington, Eagan, Plymouth and Roseville, starting at 3 p.m. on Thursday. All will include Bulldog giveaways.
There is also a pregame party at 317 on Rice Park -- a classy event center -- from 2 to 4 p.m., but to attend you had to already reserve a spot.
For more info on activities for UMD fans and alumni, go to http://www.d.umn.edu/alumni/
... BULLDOGS TICKETS SOLD FAST
A UMD spokesman said the school was looking for more tickets. The 600 it had went quickly. UMD staff and players were taken care of first. They were given about a third of the tickets. The 400-some left were distributed to season ticket holders on a priority basis.
MICHIGAN PRE-GAME PARTY
Fans and alumni of Michigan will gather at Pat McGovern's Pub, 225 7th St. W., in downtown St. Paul from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Thursday.
The Wolverines play North Dakota at 7:30 p.m. at the nearby X.
A team spokesmen said the Michigan band may stop by.
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