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.
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Forty-four hockey players from across the country will try to make a quick, good first impression over the next couple of days at the national junior evaluation camp at the Olympic Training Center.
If they don't impress, they will be gone.
The 44 players will be divided into two teams, Blue and White, and play games against Finland and Sweden.
On Aug. 6, Gophers coach Don Lucia and his staff, will cut the roster in half and the camp will continue with games against the same two opponents, plus Canada.
Eventually, the top players at this camp will get together again in December for the World Junior Championships. Lucia will be the head coach of that team.
The Blue team has four Minnesotans: defensemen Brady Skjei of Lakeville and Gage Ausmus of East Grand Forks, and forwards Hudson Fasching of Burnsville and Dominic Toninato of Duluth.
Skjei will be a sophomore for the Gophers this coming season, Fasching a freshman. Skjei was one of the last players cut from the U.S. team which won the gold medal in Ufa, Russia, at the 2013 World Juniors. He should be a strong candidate to stick this time.
Both Fasching and Ausmus played for the under-18 U.S. national team last season. Ausmus has committed to North Dakota. Toninato, who is going to Minnesota Duluth this fall, played for the Fargo Force of the USHL last season.
The White team at Lake Placid has six Minnesotans, including three who will be freshmen at the U: defensemen Mike Brodzinski of Ham Lake and Tom Vannelli of Minnetonka and forward Taylor Cammarata of Plymouth.
Brodzinski played for Muskegon of the USHL last season, Vannelli split time between Minnetonka High School and the under-18 U.S. team and Cammarata led the USHL in scoring playing with Waterloo.
Other state-raised players on the White team are goalie Collin Olson of Apple Valley, forward Jake Guentzel of Woodbury and forward Zach Stepan of Hastings.
Olson will be a sophomore at Ohio State this season, Guentzel, the son of Gophers associate head coach Mike Guentzel, played for Sioux City of the USHL, and Stepan was a linemate of Cammarata's at Waterloo.
Guentzel will be a freshman at Nebraska-Omaha, where his father recently coached before returning to the U. Stepan will be a freshman at Minnesota State Mankato.
Sat., Aug. 3
USA Blue Practice, 8 - 8:45 a.m. (CDT)
USA White Practice 9 - 9:45 a.m.
Sweden Practice 10 - 11:30 a.m.
Finland Practice 11:45 a.m. - 1:15 p.m.
USA White/Blue Practice 4 - 5 p.m.
Sun., Aug. 4
Sweden Practice 7:15 - 7:45 a.m.
USA Blue Practice 8 - 8:30 a.m.
Finland Practice 8:45 - 9:15 a.m.
USA White vs. Sweden 12 p.m.
USA Blue vs. Finland 3 p.m.
Mon., Aug. 5
USA White Practice 8 - 8:30 a.m.
Finland Practice 8:45 - 9:15 a.m.
USA Blue vs. Sweden 12 p.m.
USA White vs. Finland 3 p.m.
Days to Gophers' first game in Ice Breaker vs. Mercyhurst: 70
Days until first practice, presumably Sat., Oct. 5: 64
College and state hockey preseason blog No. 4.
One thing the new Big Ten Conference in hockey has going for it is strong fan support.
Four of the top 10 programs in average attendance last season will be members of the Big Ten in 2013-14.
The Gophers were second in average attendance, Wisconsin third, Michigan State eighth and Michigan 10th. The other two members of the Big Ten will be Ohio State and Penn State.
The only other conference close to the Big Ten in turnstile numbers is the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The eight-team league also had four teams in the top 10 in attendance last season, including No. 1 North Dakota, which averaged 11,592 fans for 21 home dates.
2012-13 Average Attendance Leaders
1. North Dakota 11,592
2. Minnesota 9,950
3. Wisconsin 9,521
4. Nebraska Omaha 7,233
5. Colorado College 6,979
6. Boston College 6,384
7. Minnesota Duluth 6,206
8. Michigan State 5,869
9. New Hampshire 5,521
10. Michigan 5,357
9 MINNESOTANS INVITED TO U18 WOMEN'S CAMP
Almost a third of the 30 players inited to the U.S. women's under-18 evaluation camps in Lake Placid, N.Y., from Aug. 22-25 are Minnesotans.
Defenseman Sydney Baldwin of Shorewood (Minnetonka HS) and forward Taylor Williamson of Edina (Edina HS) attended the camp a year ago and played against Canada in a series that followed.
Those two and forward Maliya Rodgers of Minnetonka (Minnesota Junior White Caps) played on the U.S. team that won a silver medal in the U18 World Championships in January in Finland.
Rodgers is a third Minnesotan with a camp invite. The other six are:
* Goalies Erin O'Neil of Minnetonka (Hopkins HS) and Maddie Rooney of Andover (Andover HS)
* Defensemen Grace Bizal, Minnetonka (Hopkins HS), Mary Kate Hallet, Edina (St. Paul United) and Patricia Marshall, Thief River Falls (Shattuck-St. Mary's)
* Forward McKenna Brand, Nevis, Minn. (North American Hockey Academy)
Two staff members are also from Minnesota: Joel Johnson, White Bear Lake, video coordinator, and Dean Thibodeau, St. Cloud, hockey operations assistant.
* The Gophers' web site still does not list whom they will play in the first game of the 2013 Ice Breaker. But Mercyhurst's site does. The Lakers of Atlantic Hockey will play the U of M at Mariucci on Oct. 11.
Clarkson's site concurs. It has the Golden Knights playing New Hampshire in the other first-round game. UNH has the same pairing in the early game.
Which all makes sense. If the Gophers and the New Hampshire Wildcats of Hockey East both win, the two strongest teams in the field, based on records last season, will meet in the championship game.
* The Texas Tornado of Frisco, Texas, is pulling up roots and the NAHL franchise is moving south to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. It will play in the suburb of North Richland Hills and be known as the Lone Star Brahmas.
* Denver recently added three more players for this season: F Emil Romig of Vienna, Austria; D Nick Neville of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and G Greg Ogard of Wilmette, Ill.
Romig had 17 goals and 37 assists for 54 points in 54 games with Corpus Christi of the NAHL. ... Neville played the past two seasons with the Texas Tornado and had 12 goals and 52 assists in 119 games. ... Ogard had a 2.84 GAA and a .925 save percentage with Bay State of the Eastern Junior Hockey league last season. The Pios will have nine freshmen, including Matt Van Voorhis of Edina.
* Second-year St. Cloud State AD Heather Weems has started a monthly blog, called Words with Weems. The first blog reviews what happened in the 2012-13 school year in athletics with the Huskies.
Days to Gophers' first game in Ice Breaker: 71
Days until first practice, presumably Sat., Oct. 5: 65
College and state hockey preseason blog No. 3.
Junior defenseman Nate Schmidt was named the Gophers' MVP for the 2012-13 season.
Schmidt, of St. Cloud, was a second-team all-american and a first team all-WCHA pick after scoring nine goals and collecting 23 assists. His 32 points were the most of any WCHA defenseman and ranked third nationally among blue-liners.
He also has been the best quote on the team for several seasons. Reporters covering the team will miss him. Schmidt, a 6-0, 194-pound free agent, signed with the Washington Capitals shortly after the Gophers' season ended, giving up his last year of eligibility.
Goalie Adam Wilcox received three awards -- more than anyone else. He wasnamed the team's top rookie -- a no-brainer there -- the MVP of the playoffs and also got the community service award.
Wilcox, of South St. Paul, was a third team all-WCHA pick. He set a program record for the lowest single-season, goals-against average at 1.88. His 23 wins tied the rookie progream record and he was a workhorse. He played 2,331 minutes, the third most in the nation.
Captain Zach Budish, a redshirt junior, received the leadership and sportsmanship award. He had 14 goals and 36 points, both career highs.
Sophomore winger Kyle Rau was named the most determined player. He was second on the team in scoring wtih 15 goals and 25 assists for 40 points. He had seven game-winning goals, which tied him for first in the nation.
Junior forward Nate Condon was named the outstanding student-athlete. He had 12 goals and 31 points.
Sophomore Justin Holl, who split his time between defenseman and forward, was named the team's unsung hero. He had three goals and seven points.
The Gophers were 16-7-5 in conference games, good enough to tie St. Cloud State for first place, so the two shared the MacNaughton Cup. They finished 26-9-5 overall, losing to eventual NCAA champion Yale 3-2 in overtime in their opening NCAA tournament game.
The team has not announced a new captain nor the assistant captains for next season yet.
This is Offseason Blog 1 for the summer.
* St. Cloud State has started selling season tickets for the 2013-14 season, the Huskies' first in the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference. For a chairback seat, the price is $400. For a bleacher seat, it is $275, or $250 for SCSU faculty and staff.
Don Lucia has hinted that the Gophers would be in the Ice Breaker Tournament this coming season.
Well, on Friday, the official announcement was made.
The 2013 Ice Breaker Tournament will be at Mariucci Arena. As its name implies, it is sorta the traditional start to the college hockey season.
Dates are Oct. 11-12. Pairings have not been set yet. but the other three teams are all from the East: Clarkson, Mercyhurst and New Hampshire. Not the greatest field:
* Clarkson. Finished ninth in the suddenly powerful ECAC, which had two teams in the Frozen Four title game. Clarkson was 8-11-3 in conference, 9-20-7 overall. So only 1-9-4 in nonconference games.
* Mercyhurst. Was 12-11-4 in Atlantic Hockey to finish sixth. Was 19-17-5 overall.
* New Hampshire. Wildcats tied for third in Hockey East with Boston University and Providence. All had 32 points -- two behind conference champion UMass-Lowell. NH was 17-14-7 overall.
The Gophers, of course, tied for first in the WCHA with St. Cloud State. They were 16-7-5 in conference play, 26-9-5 overall finishing with a thud, losing 3-0 to Colorado College in the Final Five semifinals and to eventual NCAA champion Yale 3-2 in overtime in the West Regional semifinals.
Expect U of M to be matched up with either Clarkson or Mercyhurst in first game, setting up a possible meeting with New Hampshire in the championship game.
This is the 17th annual Ice Breaker.
And, in 2013-14, more than any other season, there will be a lot of changes in college hockey. The Gophers will be in the new Big Ten Conference, for instance.
“Next year will be the beginning of a new era for the Gopher hockey program, and we’re excited to open the season at Mariucci Arena with the Ice Breaker Tournament,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said in a U of M news release. “It’s a great event for college hockey as a whole, and considering we haven’t seen these teams for a few years, I think it will be an exciting weekend for our program as well as our fans.”
“Mariucci Arena is one of the best venues in college hockey and a terrific location to celebrate the start of the 2013-14 season,” College Hockey Inc. Executive Director Mike Snee said. CHI is putting on the Ice Breaker along with the Gophers. “The four participating programs have storied histories, outstanding coaches and talented student-athletes who will showcase our sport in the Ice Breaker.”
The four schools in the 2013 field have combined for 89 NCAA Tournament appearances.
New Hampshire was also in the NCAA tournament this year.
Ice Breaker Tournament tickets will be included in season-ticket packages for Minnesota season-ticket holders. Single-day and standing-room tickets will be available at a date to be determined.
Minnesota is hosting the Ice Breaker Tournament for the third time. In 1998, the second year of the tournament, Boston College won the title at Mariucci Arena. In 2007 the event took place at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, with the host Gophers winning the tournament.
What comes to mind from the 2007 tournament -- which I covered -- is that forward Ryan Stoa suffered a season-ending knee injury. He took a medical redshirt that season and played the next season for the Gophers before turning pro.
Clarkson and New Hampshire are each making their third Ice Breaker appearances. The Wildcats captured championships in both their previous appearances (2000 at Michigan, 2004 at UNH).
Clarkson was part of the first Ice Breaker Tournament, in 1997, and in 2001 at Maine.
Mercyhurst will be making its first Ice Breaker appearance.
This will be an unusual hockey season for the Gophers. They will play in three regular-season tournaments. They also will host their traditional holiday tournament in late December and then be part of a four-team, all-Minnesota tournament at the Xcel in January, playing St. Cloud State in their first game. Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State Mankato will meet in the other game the first day.
That tournament does not have a name yet. Its modeled, roughly, after the Beanpot in Boston.
Mark Alt, in his junior season with the Gophers, didn't score a goal.
But in his third game as a pro, Alt got a chance to shoot in a shootout because he was one of the last players on the bench.
And Alt put a shot into the upper right corner as the Adirondack Phantoms beat Binghamton 2-1 after a 15-round shootout on Sunday.
"A defensive defensman usually doesn't get the call for the shootout but I got it today so I was pretty happy that I scored," said Alt, according to the Phantom's web site.
"It was my first shootout. We don't do them in college. [My shot] was actually something I picked up from one of my teammates. I rarely even try and rarely do it in practice. But I came down, it worked, I just put it over his shoulder. It was a long one and was really exciting, especially to get the game-winner."
The AHL record for the longest shootout is 16 rounds.
"It was a great shot," Phantoms head coach Terry Murray said. "A right-handed shooter against a left-handed catcher...you go high-glove side and that's a nice shot. It was great for him. We haven't had any shootouts with him in practice. It's winding down to the last three guys on the bench; Lilja, Eddy and Alt. So that's what we had left and he took advantage of it."
A photo of Alt's shot is here. The Phantoms had seven goals in the shootout, Binghamton six.
Alt has one assist for the Phantoms, mired in last place in the 15-team Eastern Conference.
Garrett Roe, a former St. Cloud State star, tied the game at 1-1 for Adirondack with three-tenths of a second on the clock.
Adirondack, which is in Glen Falls, N.Y., ends its season with three games this weekend.
The first is at home against Hershey, which has former Gophers defenseman Nate Schmidt. The Bears are 10th in the Eastern Conference, two points out of a playoff spot. So Adirondack could play spoiler.
ALT DEPARTURE A SURPRISE
Alt signed an entry-level contract with the Philadelphia Flyers on April 7, shortly after the Gophers lost to Yale in an NCAA regional.
“It has been an honor to play for the Gophers for the last three years,” Alt said in a statement at the time. “I want to thank the fans, my teammates and coaches for making it such a great experience. I will forever cherish my days in the Maroon and Gold.”
In 117 games with the Gophers, Alt had seven goals and 32 assists over his career.
Alt had a career-best 22 points as a sophomore when he had five goals and 22 assists and played in all 43 games.
He was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft (53rd overall). But the Hurricanes traded his rights to Philadelphia during the 2012-13 season.
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