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.

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Posts about Coaching

Seawolves' coach proud of his team for late-season run

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz Updated: March 24, 2011 - 11:50 AM

Alaska Anchorage spent about 2-1/2 weeks in the Twin Cities this hockey season.

But the Seawolves had a good time, for the most part. They split with the Gophers in laet January, losing 5-1, then winning 1-0.

With a late regular-season charge, they finished tied for eighth place in the WCHA and got the eighth seed, which meant playing the Gophers in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. No problem. They swept the fifth-place Gophers 4-3, 2-0. Minnesota came into the series 5-0-2 in its last seven games.

But the Seawolves Minnesota magic ended there. They lost to Colorado College 4-2 in the second quarterfinal of the Final Five.

Listening to Shyiak, its easier to understand how they beat the Gophers to qualify for the Final Five for the second time in 18 years.

PROUD OF PLAYERS

"I told the guys after the game, I am proud," UAA coach Dave Shyiak. "You can not take [away] that great season we had. I thought our seniors were incredible this year. I think they build the foundation and the blueprint that our program needs to move forward. And hopefully we can become a repeat participant [in the Final Five] down here.

"I thought it was important for us to get here with this glad. I thought they were a great class. Now everybody has that experience of getting here and what it takes to get here. It is a good step forward for our program. And we are not just happy we got here. Again we want to be somebody who is here every single year and have a chance to play for a championship. That is what college hockey is about.

"Proud of the guys. And proud of our accomplishments this year."

UAA LOSES PLAYERS, TOO

Gophers coach Don Lucia often talks about losing players early to the pros. It happens even at UAA.

"That is the way it works right now with the CBA in the NHL. You lose players and maybe it effects us a little bit more," Shyiak said. "But everybody has to deal with it. You just have to learn to figure it out and plug some holes and maintain your competitiveness."

 SEAWOLVES ON OWN PLANET

"People don't really understand what we have to go through, our challenges being in such a remote area -- almost a different planet. The miles we travel, and to make things work. Missing school and the time changes. It is very demanding on these kids. And our guys do an incredible job balancing their academics. Conditioning is a big thing. Look what happens. We have come so far.

"We have been out here for 10 days. Had we won this thing. Just to put things in perspective, had won three, we would probably have to stay out again. that puts a lot of demands on these young individuals. But our guys are resilient. They get used to it. They take pride in being in shape.

"And I tell the guys, appreciate the opportunity to be in the WCHA. It's such a great league. And our guys have done a great job doing that."

Shyiak said the Seawolves could have done a little more in the playoffs. "You like to win one more and take it one next step," he said. "And that is going to stick with you for a while. But if you look back on the season: We have had our best home record ever at the Sullivan Arena and in the WCHA. Best wins ever in the WCHA era. Probably the most road wins. If you combine all that, and we did it without all-league players, there should have been some of our guys on all-league players. That tells you how special this group really is, playing hard for one another.

"Those are the type of kids we have to get. Another thing is, a lot of these kids never got any other scholarship offers. Our staff did a great job getting character guys with a team-first attitude and look what happens, look what happens.

"And now to get over the hump, we need a couple difference-makers. And hopefully that will come in time, and hopefully we got some in the making here.

"it was a great season. You get a taste of success and it makes you want more."

CC UPDATE

* The Tigers have played 43 games, but only 12 on smaller, NHL-size rinks. ... CC is the last team to beat North Dakota, which has a 13-game (12-0-1) unbeaten streak. the Tigers needed to beat UAA to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

* CC coach Scott Owens on North Dakota: "They are so deep, they can beat you different ways. They can beat you offensively. They can beat you up physically. They can shut you down defensively."

* The Tigers have never won the Broadmoor Trophy.

* Owens on CC: "We have been an underdog a lot this second half. We have a little confidence." And on freshman forward Jaden Schwartz: "I think he is a 100 percent healthy, but it is hard to know exactly with the ankle. You can see for a true freshman, the poise and the strong stick he has out there."  

 

 

 

Maturi plans to offer Lucia contract extension

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz Updated: March 15, 2011 - 8:52 PM

Gophers coach Don Lucia's job appears safe.

Joel Maturi said Tuesday he wants to give Lucia a contract extension but said he didn't want to set on timetable on when the deal would get done.

Lucia has been the WCHA Coach of the Year three times, in 1994 and '96 at Colorado College and in 2006 with the Gophers.

He just completed his 12th season at Minnesota. And the Gophers' 3-2 overtime victory over Bemidji State on March 5 was his 500th game as the Gophers coach.

His overall record at the U of M is 290-159-53. But the last four seasons have not been kind.

The 2007-08 team finished 19-17-9, lost to Denver 2-1 in the championship game of the Final Five and 5-2 to Boston College in their first NCAA tournament game. BC was the eventual national champion. Bad draw.

The 2008-09 team finished 17-13-7 and ended its season with a 2-1 loss  to UMD in the quarterfinal game of the Final Five.

The 2009-10 team finished 18-19-2 and was lost two of three games at North Dakota in a first round WCHA playoff series.

The team this season finished 16-14-6 and was swept by Alaska Anchorage in a first round WCHA playoff series at home.

But Maturi still has confidence in Lucia.

What will be interesting to watch in the offseason is if Lucia will make any staff changes, if any players will leave early, and if Lucia changes his recruiting strategy.

Lucia, on his radio show on Monday, and Maturi, in a phone interview, both said they have higher expectations for the Gophers' program. And they should.

 

Lucia: Gophers need to play their style against Seawolves

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz Updated: March 9, 2011 - 10:06 PM

Gophers coach Don Lucia said Wednesday his team just has to continue to play the way it has recently to do well against Alaska Anchorage this weekend in a best-of-three, first round WCHA series at Mariucci Arena.

"They are a good team," Lucia said, referring to the Seawolves. "They have obviously played very well the second half of the season. They are 8-6 in the last 14 WCHA games. We don't have to change so much as continue to play the way we have been playing.

"We are going to have our style, they are going to have their style. We have to make sure we take care of the puck. We have to make sure the puck goes behind their defensemen and not skate ourselves offsides like we did a few times the last time we played them."

The Gophers and UAA split a series on Jan. 28 and 29 at Mariucci. The Gophers won the first game 5-1, getting all their goals in transition. The Seawolves won the next game 1-0 as backup freshman goalie Chris Kamal stopped 30 shots.Since then he has become UAA's top goalie.

"It is still [about] prepping and trying to play the way we want to play," Lucia said.

"The guys feel good about themselves. We have been through a lot during the course of the season. Whether it is the ups and downs of winning and losing or the ups and downs of guys being injured and who is available and who is not. But the kids have found a way. We finished up in fifth with home ice."

The past four seasons, the Gophers have finished seventh, fifth, seventh and fifth again in the WCHA race.

"You work hard to get to this point of the season to be at home," Lucia said, "because it is important to have the two out of three games in your own building and to have the comforts of being able to stay at home and no travel or anything like that. The guys feel good. We had a good end, and any time you have a good finish it makes you feel good heading into the playoffs."

The Gophers are 5-0-2 in their last seven games. Last weekend, the visiting Gophers  tied Bemidji State 3-3 and beat the Beavers 3-2 in overtime.

"The [Saturday] game meant a lot," Lucia said. "You get to the end of the year, we need to keep winning games. Obviously, for this team, if we don't win this weekend our season is over. Every game at this point in time is critical."

Right now the Gophers are tied for No. 19 in the PairWise ratings. They need to move up to at least No. 15, probably No. 14, to have a chance for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

"We were a little short-handed on Saturday night," Lucia said, referring to being without defenseman Aaron Ness and forward Taylor Matson out with injuries. "And we were able to come back from a deficit on the road and win an overtime which we hadn't won an overtime game for a while. I was kind of happy both games were tight, contested games. That is the way they are going to be this weekend."

PATTERSON SUPER

Against Kamal, the Gophers can put in a pretty good goalie of their own, junior Kent Patterson.

"He has had a terrific year," Lucia said. "He has probably been our best player during the course of this season. He's got the comfort level -- when Alex [Kangas] did go down with his injury -- [knowing] that he was going to be playing every game. And so he wasn't in a situation where he had to look over his shoulder: 'Am I going to start tonight? Am I going to play both games?'

"But before that even, he had earned that right to play by his performance."

In conference games, Patterson is first in save percentage (.926), second in goals-against average (2.31) and third in winning percentage (.674, 13-5-5).

"This will be the first time he goes through the playoffs," Lucia said. "So this will be a little bit new, although he did play in the Final Five a couple of years ago. But he is playing well, he is playing confident. And that is a pretty important position at this time of the year."

HEALTH UPDATE

Junior defenseman Aaron Ness and junior forward Taylor Matson were injured in the second period of the Gophers' 3-3 overtime tie on Friday at Bemidji State.

"We have a couple of guys that have been banged up," Lucia said. "We will have a better idea probably after practice [Wednesday] or [Thursday] about who will be available.

"Let's just say they are day-to-day. I think [Ness] is a little further ahead than Taylor. But again, we gave the guys [Tuesday] off, we did not practice. [Wedneasday] we will have a better idea of where those guys are at."

THE DON SAYS

 

 

 

* On whether upperclassmen need to take leading role on team in playoffs: "They have. You look at [senior center] Patrick White and all of his points have come here at the end of the season. And he is playing well for us right and we have pretty good balance with our line, especially our top three lines/ We are really not too concerned about who is out against who."

* On shortening the bench: We are playing probably more three lines than four at this stage, but everybody is going to have to produce.A lot of times your best player get neutralized and then all of a sudden a guy who maybe has not scored a lot comes up with a real big goal at this time of the year."

 * On scoring 91 goals in WCHA games during the regular season, same as the 2006-07 team en route to the MacNaughton Cup: "We've scored here in the last month. We have asked a lot of our freshmen. but our seniors. have stepped up. All of a sudden we are scoring three-plus goals a game and that is the ticket. You've got to score some goals, too. We have played a lot of good hockey during the course of the season. When you don't score, you don't win. Definitely, we have to continue to play well, that obviously is going to be important  this weekend. We have to try to get to three [goals], too.

* On improved power play, clicking at 32.3 percent in 5-0-2 streak: "We have two pretty balanced units. I don't think we have a No. 1 unit with our power play. We are comfortable with either unit starting depending on who is the most rested.Having two groups with the ability to score helps out, rather than just one."

On Zach Budish recovering from knee surgery: "He is just starting to skate. ... [Rehabilitation] is going well. He has kept himsefl in good shape. He is only three pounds heavier than when he got hurt. and that's not easy to do when you haven't done anything other than trying to work out for a number of months. He is right on schedule. He will 100 percent this summer. He will be able to skate and have a good summer prep for next fall."

 

Eliminating body checking for Pee Wees hot topic

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz Updated: January 27, 2011 - 1:20 PM

Proposed rule changes, membership development, the American development model and safety were among the topics at last weekend’s USA Hockey winter meetings.

USA Hockey total membership is up and, for the first time in its history, there are more than 100,000 registered players at the 8 & Under level.

“Try Hockey for Free clinics, OneGoal starter equipment programs and other initiatives are paying dividends,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey in a news release.

One much discussed proposed rule changes would prohibit body checking in games for youth hockey players until they reach the Bantam level (13-14 year-olds). The current rule allows checking in games at the Pee Wee level (11-12).

“This is a proposal that has significant support and we look forward to continued dialogue throughout the country on this and all proposed rule changes,” said Ron DeGregorio, president of USA Hockey. “In the end, we need to do what is best for the kids who play the game.”

DeGregorio noted the board of directors is extremely pleased with the progress related to the American development model. “With the support of the NHL, we launched the ADM in January of 2009 and have already made significant headway in its implementation throughout the country,” he said. “The focus on cross-ice hockey at the 8 & Under level this year is wonderful and, while I know we have a lot of work to do, we’re positively affecting the landscape of youth hockey in America.”

Dr. Michael Stuart, USA Hockey’s chief medical officer and a professor of orthopedic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., presented summary findings from the ice hockey summit on concussions he led in October at the Mayo Clinic. His presentation included the following recommendations to USA Hockey:

* Implement concussion education for coaches, parents, officials and athletes

* Through rule changes, eliminate tolerance of any contact to the head

*  Delay legal body checking in games in youth hockey until age 13

* Emphasize current curriculum that teaches body control, angling, anticipation, body contact and body-checking skills

*  Eliminate fighting through more stringent penalties for engaging in such behavior


Dr. Stuart’s recommendations -- and other proposed rule changes -- will be formally dealt with at USA Hockey’s Annual Congress in June 8-11 in Colorado Springs.

Lucia may move Bjugstad back to center when he returns

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz Updated: December 29, 2010 - 11:27 PM

 

Gophers coach Don Lucia said he enjoyed watching the U.S. team beat Finland 3-2 in overtime on Sunday in the World Junior Championships in Buffalo. Two Gophers freshmen play center in that game, Nick Bjugstad for the Americans and Erik Haula for the Finns.

"Watching Erik and Nick facing off numerous times, it could have been [our] practice the way they played," Lucia said, "and I thought they played well."

Bjugstad had the game-winning goal, Haula had an assist.

"Hopefully both of them will have great tournaments individually and their teams will have a lot of success as well," Lucia said.

"We are going to miss them" in the Mariucci Classic, said Lucia, whose Gophers play Union on Friday and Ferris State on Saturday, "but the good thing is we do get a chance to maneuver some guys around a little bit. There is a good chance we might play 11 forwards [he probably meant 13] and seven D this weekend.

"Some other guys are going to get an opportunity on the power play. They are going to get an opportunity on some specialty team play. And we are going to need some guys to step up this weekend."

 * Haula scored his first goal of the World Juniors on Wednesday as the Finns beat Germany 5-1. He had the fifth goal and tied for the team lead in shots with six. He was a plus-1 for the game.

* Lucia likes how Haula practices: "He has a high skill level, but the way he competes every day to get better, that has really impressed me from Day one. Every day he comes out and really works. That’s why he is as successful a player as he is."

* Lucia said he is happy Bjugstad is playing center for the U.S. team. "That’s going to give us an option to move him back to center when he returns," Lucia said. "Because that is his more natural position. What we tried to do when he came back from mono was to protect him [by moving him to right wing] and make the game a little less responsible in our own zone for him. So now, playing against this elite level competition, that should put him back in a position to probably move back to center when he returns."

OUTDOORS GAME ON HOLD 

The NHL will have its Winter Classic on Saturday. Washington will play outdoors at Pittsburgh. Which leads to the question, what’s up with the Gophers’ outdoor game?

 "The higher ups have to make that final call," Lucia said. "I have been kind of pushing them a little bit. ... In this state it would be great. With this football stadium [the TCF Bank Stadium], I think it’s a natural so hopefully the finances work themselves out. It is a very expensive proposition and that is the big hurdle, what the financials are on a game like that."

THE DON SAYS

 * On mood of his players: "[It’s] good. They don’t have school to worry about now. It is always a stressful time when you get through final exams. It has been a long layoff. We had two complete weeks off without any practice. And it will be three complete weeks before they play a game [on Friday vs. Union]. So we were a little rusty when we got back on Monday but every day the team, their hands and feet are getting better every day."

 * On format change for Mariucci Classic, going to predetermined opponents: "We changed it this year because Bemidji {State] being in the WCHA. When the field was set up, we didn’t know they would be in the league this year. We want to try to play as many nonconference opponents as we possibly can. All four teams are fine with [the change]. It’s predetermined we will play Union and Ferris [State] and, as it turns out, they are two quality opponents. And both are going to present real challenges for our team this weekend."

* On meaning of two tournament games this weekend: "It’s really important. We are 3-1 nonconference. We are playing two quality opponents. It is only going to help our strength of schedule. And so if we can win this weekend it will be very valuable come the end of the year."

 * On facing Union’s power play, the nation’s best at 34 percent: "We need to be aggressive. We have been too passive at times. Like the second game against UMD we were a little more aggressive and on our toes. We have some guys who can skate. We will try to be a little bit more aggressive the second half of the year. You can’t be crazy but, at the same time, you have to be anticipating and be ready to jump."

 * On Ferris State’s defense, which is giving up an NCAA-low 2.00 goals per game: "Their goaltender is very good. And they are an older, veteran team. And they are committed to that. They are going to win by winning the game 2-1. They don’t feel they are in a position to win games 5-4. And I’ve talked to some other coaches [about the Bulldogs]. They said you better score in transition because they are so good in their own zone."

 * On sophomore defenseman Seth Helgeson: "Seth has grown a lot. He is using his body better. He is more confident. He is more physical. He has gone from being [part of] a third set, playing against other people’s third and fourth lines last year to be thrown into a position where he is playing against other people’s best players. He has had some games where he has struggled at times, but he still is only a sophomore."

 

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