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.
Badgers assistant coach Bill Butters, in his third year there, is leaving the program and a search for a replacement has begun.
"I can't thank Bill enough for the time he spent with our program," Badgers head coach Mike Eaves is quoted as saying in a UW news release. "He has decided that it is in his best interest to return home to Minnesota to be with his family and to pursue other passions in his life.
"Bill is a good friend and a great hockey man. He has had a long and successful career in the game and, though I'm sad to see him go, I'm happy he will be able to move onto this next chapter in his life."
Butters' roots are in Minnesota. He played and coached at the University of Minnesota. He was the Gophers co-captain in 1972-73. He played two seasons with the NHL's old Minnesota North Stars. And from 1985-95 was a Gophers assistant coach.
Said Butters, "It's time for me to move on from coaching. I have appreciated Coach Eaves' support and friendship as I have come to this conclusion. Mike and I believe it will be in the best interests of both myself and the program if I take this step and return to my family and continue to develop the other pursuits on my horizon. It has been a fantastic opportunity to coach our players and work with the staff at Wisconsin."
The timing of this move has to raise questions. Not many teams change head or assistant coaches in the middle of the season. The Badgers are coming off a tough series at Kohl Center.
Colorado College swept them last weekend 5-4 in overtime and 3-0. The Badgers are off to a disappointing 1-4-1 start.
Butters and his wife, Debby, have been married 39 years. They have three children and seven grandchildren.
The Gophers plays Minnesota State Mankato this weekend in a home and home series.
The Mavericks are off to a 2-2-2 start after being swept by St. Cloud State last weekend in two 5-1 games. The scores were the same, but the games not.
On Friday at the National Hockey Center, St. Cloud State took a 3-0 lead in the first period. On Saturday, it was a 1-0 game into the third period when the Huskies scored two quick goals in the third period.
Hopes were high in Mankato for this team, loaded with young, promising forwards. But two of them are not scoring goals.
Matt Leitner, a sophomore center from Los Alamitos, CA., led the Mavericks in assists and points last season. He had 11 goals, 18 assists and 29 points. But in six games so far, he has one goal and five assists for six points.
Jean-Paul LaFontaine was a member of the WCHA all-rookie team last season and tied for the team lead in goals and was second in points. He had 13 goals -- eighth on the power play -- 15 assists and 28 points. He has one assist this season. He was the left wing on the Mavericks' second line in their last game.
LaFontaine's uncle Pat was an NHL Hall of Famer, he played for both New York teams and Buffalo. So he has the blood lines.
Another intriguing prospect up front is freshman Teddy Blueger, from Riga, Latvia. He has one goal and two assists and is a plus-4. Pittsburgh took him in the second round of the 2012 NHL draft.
The two goals last weekend MSU scored were both by senior defenseman Evan Mosey, one was short-handed.
First-year head coach Mike Hastings was the associate head coach at Nebraska Omaha the past three seasons and before that was a Gophers assistant for one season. ... Eight of his 27 players are from Minnesota.
* The Gophers lead the all-time series with MSU 30-7-6, but the Mavericks were on a 5-1-0 roll until losing twice to the Gophers last season.
* The Mavericks have outshot opponents 218-169. Last weekend the Huskies had a 28-23 edge in shots the first night, the Mavericks outshot SCSU 38-30 the second. ... MSU has outscored opponents 10-8 in the third period.
* Special teams is one problem area for Hastings. Opponents are eight for 28 on the power play, or 28.6 percent. Too high. The Mavericks are four for 27 with a man advantage, 14.8 percent. Too low.
* Leitner's wings are sophomore Chase Grant, who has three goals and two assists, and freshman Bryce Gervais, who has one assist. Gervais was a teammate of Gophers Mike and Ryan Reilly on the Penticton Vees in the BCHL last season. The Vees won the Junior A national title in Canada.
WISCONSIN FORWARD HURT
Wisconsin freshman Nic Kerdiles was given permission to play for the under-18 U.S. national development team even though he was under NCAA suspension for 10 games for violating amateur rules.
That looked like a big positive for him. Well, it has not turned out so well. Kerdiles played against the Gophers in a 2-2 overtime tie, but sprained one of his knees the next night in an exhibition game against the University of St. Thomas. So he won't be skating for a while but probably should be ready when the Badgers play at Denver on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 and his suspension is lifted.
Christian Isackson played in only 11 games for the Gophers last season as a freshman. In those games, he did not register a point and had 20 shots on goal.
This season could be different for him.
The 6-2, 190-pound forward had three goals -- and a game-high 10 shots on net -- as the Gophers overwhelmed Lethbridge 7-0 on Saturday at Mariucci Arena in an exhibition.
"It helps a lot playing with [Nick] Bgugstad and [Kyle] Rau," said Isackson, who took Zach Budish's spot on the first line with two holdovers from last season. "Those guys are amazing players."
Isackson has played with those two high-end forwards "a pretty good amount" in early practices. The Gophers' first official practice was 11:30 a.m. Saturday and then the exhibition game was at 7 p.m.
Bjugstad had an assist on Isackson's third goal. But his first two at 6:02 and 8:30 came during a five-minute U power play. Coach Don Lucia rolled out three power play units and Isackson was either on the second or third. Not sure which is which. Third-line center Travis Boyd and defenseman Ben Marshall had assists on each of those goals.
Isackson said talks with junior defenseman Nate Schmidt helped him get ready for this season. "He didn't have his best freshman year," Isackson said.
Schmidt went from one point as a freshman to 41 as a sophomore when he had three goals and 38 assists.
This summer, Isackson said he put 100 percent into lifting and skating.
Isackson, of Pine City, played high school hockey at St. Thomas Academy and helped the Cadets win a Class 1A state title in 2008.. Two seasons ago, he led the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL in scoring with 44 regular-season points.
The Buffalo Sabres took him in the seventh round of the 2010 NHL draft. ... About a third of the way into last season, Isackson injured his left hand and was out for a couple of weeks.
* Best highlight that someone came up with for Isackson's online bio on last season was that he won eight of 10 faceoff against St. Cloud State on Jan. 26. That's digging.
* Twenty-two skaters -- plus two goalies -- played for the Gophers and every skater had at least one shot on goal.
* The Gophers blocked nine shots. Travis Boyd and Tom Serratore had two blocks apiece.
* Seven Gophers were a plus-2, five were a plus-1 and nine were zero.
* The Gophers had three power plays, including one that lasted five minutes, and had three goals and 16 shots.
* The Gophers won 29 faceoffs, lost 24. Best in the circle were Ryan Reilly 4-1 and Erik Haula 7-4.
* Looking at shot charts, the Gophers attempted 89 shots. Seven were blocked by defense, 16 missed, one hit a pipe and 65 were on net.
* By line, here is how the scoring broke down:
first line, Kyle Rau, Nick Bjugstad, 1 a, Christian Isackson, 3 g -- 3 g, 1 a, four points
second line, Sam Warning , 1 g, 1 a, Erik Haula, 2 a, Zach Budish, 1 a -- 1 g, 4 a, five points
third line, Nate Condon, 1 a, Travis Boyd, 2 a, Seth Ambroz, 1 g, 1 a -- 1 g, 4 a, five points
fourth line, Tom Serratore, AJ Michaelson, Jared Larson, no points
two fill-in forwards, Ryan Reilly and Christian Horn, no points
Jake Parenteau and Justin Holl, no points
Seth Helgeson, 1 a, and Ben Marshall, 1 g, 2 a -- 1 g, 3 a, four points
Mike Reilly, 2 a, Mark Alt, 1 g -- 1 g, 2 a, three points
Brady Skjei and Nate Schmidt, no points
BADGERS THUMP U18 U.S. TEAM
Wisconsin beat the U.S. under-18 team 5-0. Goalies Joel Rumpel (nine saves) and Landon Peterson (14) combined for the shutout.
The Badgers scored twice late in the opening period to make it 2-0 Mark Zengerle and Kevin Schulze had the goals..
Freshman Morgan Zilinick and Brendan Woods scored in the second period, Chase Drake in the third.
Drake, a junior defenseman who had played only two games, also had two assists. ... Schulze is a freshman defenseman, Zulinick a freshman forward.
Team USA outshot the Badgers 23-19.
Next Wisconsin plays Northern Michigan at the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wis., Oct. 12-13.
* The Gophers host the U18 national team on Oct. 26 in an exhibition game.
Several months ago, the news came out that the Gophers and Wisconsin would play each other outdoors in Chicago this coming season.
But the 'U' never had an official comment because all four teams involved in the doubleheader had not signed the contracts. Now apparently they have because a news conference has been scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday on the 50-yard line at Soldier Field, home of the NFL's Chicago Bears.
The Gophers will play the Badgers on Friday, Feb. 15, at Kohl Center, then take a day off for travel and to get accustomed with the ice at Soldier Field. The outdoor doubleheader, called the Hockey City Classic, will be on Sunday, Feb. 17.
Notre Dame and Miami, two CCHA teams, will play in one of the games. The Gophers and Badgers in the other. It will be a historic game, in one sense, because it will be the last time the two border rivals meet in a WCHA game.
Intersport, a Chicago-based sports and entertainment marketing agency, and the Chicago Park District calls the news conference. Details about the Hockey City Classic will be announced then.
A representative of each team will be at the news conference. Forward Zach Budish, a redshirt sophomore and assistant captain last season, will represent the Gophers.
Three players from Illinois will be the other players there:
* Wisconsin junior defenseman Frankie Simonelli, Bensenville, Ill.
* Notre Dame senior defenseman Sam Calabrese, Park Ridge, Ill.
* Miami senior defenseman Steve Spinell, Vernon Hills, Ill.
After their hopes of an outdoor game at TCF Bank Stadium last season fell through, the Gophers will get a chance to play outside after all this coming season. But it will be at a neutral site far from home.
The Gophers will face Wisconsin in a WCHA game on Sunday, Feb. 17 at Soldier Field, home of the NFL's Chicago Bears, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
The game will be part of a college hockey doubleheader. Notre Dame and Miami (Ohio) will probably meet in a CCHA game, although that has not been officially confirmed yet.
Sophomore forward Mark Zengerle, the Badgers leading scorer with 50 points this past season, is excited about the news. He tweeted: "Outdoor game at Soldier Field vs minny is official for next year!! #letsgooooo #hurryupseason"
The Gophers will play the Badgers on Friday, Feb. 15 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis., as previously announced, then presumably travel to Chicago and practice at the outdoor rink the next day to prepare for the game.
The Badgers are 2-0 in outdoor games in February before large crowds. Wisconsin beat Ohio State 4-2 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay in 2006 in front of 40,890 fans and defeated Michigan 3-2 at home at Camp Randall in 2010 before 55,031.
Soldier Field seats 61,500 for football.
The outdoor game will have some historic significance, too. It will be the last regular-season meeting between the Gophers and Badgers in the WCHA. Both will join the Big Ten Conference for the 2013-14 season.
The Big Ten Conference will start with just six teams: two from the WCHA, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State from the CCHA and Penn State, which is starting a Division I program in 2012-13.
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