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.
Jeff Taffe, 32, and has played in the American Hockey League for all or parts of 11 seasons.
And the ex-Gopher reached a milestone Saturday night in his 605th AHL game. He got his 500th point. Only four other AHL players have done that.
Taffe reached that milestone with an assist in the Bears' 4-2 loss to Binghamton. He has 203 goals and 297 asssists in the AHL. He also has played in 180 NHL games and has 21 goals and 25 assists for 46 more points.
This season he is the second in the AHL in scoring with 18 goals and 53 assists for 71 points in 72 games.
That puts him four points behind Brandon Pirri of the Rockford Ice Hogs (22-53--75). The Ice Hogs don't have any regular-season games left.
The Bears finish their regular season at 4 p.m. Sunday with a home game agaist Manchester. Currently, they are tied for eighth place -- the final playoff spot -- in the Western Conference with Connecticut and Norfolk. All have 79 points.
Taffe also could wrest the scoring title away from Pirri -- or tie him -- with a big game. Taffe has had three four-point game since early March.
“Jeff's been consistent in a season that there hasn't been a lot of consistency within our lineup,” Bears head coach Mark French is quoted as saying in a recent story in The Patriot-News of Cental PA. “Within our lineup in general, he's been a guy who's been a mainstay for us on the power play.
“He's been a guy that, even when we were struggling offensively as a group, he was a consistent guy that would produce offense for us. He's been very valuable to us because of his excellence throughout the entire season.”
* One of Taffe's new teammates is ex-Gophers defenseman Nate Schmidt. Schmitty had three shots on goal and was a minus-1 last night.
* Another Gopher defenseman new to the AHL is Mark Alt. He had a goal and a game-high six shots on net in Adirondack's 3-2 loss to Springfield on Saturday. Last week he also had a game-winning shootout goal. ... All of that is interesting because Alt did not a score a goal this past season at the U of M.
Work hard and good things will come to you. That's what you are told growing up.
Somtimes that is true. Sometimes not.
But there is a feel good story about perseverance at the U of M involving the women's tennis team
Freshman Jessika Mozia is receiving a full scholarship for next season.
Women’s tennis coach Chuck Merzbacher made that announcement this week.
"Jessika has worked so hard this year and has been a leader with the type of work ethic she displays each and every day,” Merzbacher said according to a news release. “I am very proud of her.
"She represents the University of Minnesota, her team, and her family in such a positive way. I look forward to Jessika being part of the bright future of this program."
Mozia is from Littleton, Colo. With two matches left in the regular season, Mozia leads the team with a 21-15 overall singles record, playing mostly fourth or fifth singles.
In doubles, with five different partners, she is 15-16.
It's unclear whether Mozia was a walk-on or had a partial scholarship this school year.
The Gophers are 9-12 overall, 3-6 in the Big Ten. Their home record is 8-2, but they are 0-6 in road matches, 1-4 on neutral courts.
And Merzbacher's team is very international, half of the 12 players are from different countries: Belarus, Czech Repblic, France, Isreal, Spain and the Ukraine.
Mozia is from Colorado and the Gophers also have a player from Georgia. Then there are four in-state players, one from Deephaven, three from Rochester.
The U of M athletics department recognized the athletic and academic achievements of its 750 student-athletes in a Golden Goldys/Scholar Athlete banquet held Monday night at TCF Bank Stadium.
The Golden Goldys -- modeled after ESPN's ESPYs --were held for a seventh time and the Scholar Athlete banquet for a 24th time.
For the second-consecutive year, women’s hockey and wrestling dominated the big awards, sweeping as Best Team, Best Coach and Athlete of the Year.
WOMEN'S HOCKEY SWEEPS
Amanda Kessel was named Female Athlete of the Year after winning the Patty Kazmaier Award.
She was the fourth player in NCAA history to tally 100 points in a single season, was named a first team All-American, and the WCHA Player of the Year.
Her linemate Hannah Brandt was named the Female Rookie of the Year. She was first-team All-WCHA, named the WCHA Freshman of the Year and the U.S. College Hockey Online's rookie of the year.
Coach Brad Frost led the Gophers to their second NCAA title in a row and a 41-0-0 record.
WRESTLING CLEANS UP
Wrestling’s Tony Nelson earned his second Male Athlete of the Year award after winning Golden Goldy after repeating as NCAA heavyweight champion. Nelson was 33-1 and won his last 25 matches.
Under J Robinson and Brandon Eggum, the Gophers finished third at the 2013 NCAA championships, won the National Duals, and the Gophers had eight All-America wrestlers.
Female Breakthrough Athlete was volleyball’s Katherine Harms. In her first three seasons, Harms was never even Big Ten player of the week.
But as a senior, she was a unanimous All-Big Ten selection and a first team All-American. Harms went from ranking third on the team in kills (305) and kills per set (2.82) as a junior to a team-high 516 kills and 4.10 kills pet set.
Male Breakthrough Athlete of the Year went to men’s basketball guard Andre Hollins. As a sophomore, Hollins increased his scoring from 8.7 ppg to a team-high 14.6 ppg. He raised his assists per game from 1.8 to 3.4 and rebounding from 2.1 to 3.7 to become third team All-Big Ten.
Men’s hockey goalie Adam Wilcox was named the Male Rookie of the Year. He was named third-team All-WCHA. He ranked second in the nation in wins and seventh in goals-against average at 1.88, a school record. His .921 save percentage ranked second in program history.
The Outstanding Achievement Award, for accomplishments in both academics and athletics, went to women’s hockey goalie Noora Raty and hammer thrower Quentin Mege in men's track and field.
Outstanding Achievement in Leadership and Service awards went to Olivia Bagnall in women's soccer and Josh Hall in men's swimming.
The Top Five Award, given to the top five female and male student-athletes with the highest cumulative GPAs, went to:
* Rachel Drake (Track/CC), Kathryn Ritter (Track/CC), Rebecca Gusmer (Track/CC), Allison Phillips (Soccer), and Katherine Windsor (Rowing)
* Troy Larson (Baseball), Jared Anderson (Swimming), Nathan Fortunato (Gymnastics), Ryan Todhunter (Track) and John Rabe (Football)
The Outstanding Academic Team Awards went to:
Large (22 or more athletes): swimming and diving Small: gymnastics
Large: cross-country. Small: tennis
Most community service hours: men's and women's basketball
Gladys Brooks Commitment to Academic Excellence Award: softball
Norman Borlaug Commitment to Academic Excellence Award: men's hockey
Richard “Pinky” McNamara Student-Athlete Achievement Award: Connor Cosgrove, football
This award is given to a student-athlete who has inspired all by making an extraordinary effort to succeed despite difficult circumstances, preserving during a time of tremendous adversity and/or overcoming a great challenge.
A Monday blog had all the candidates for the 10 athletic awards. I guessed on each and got eight correct. Hoping to be 10 for 10, but I'll take that.
The Golden Goldys will be held tonight at TCF Bank Stadium. It's a U of M awards program modeled after ESPN's ESPYs. I've gone to several of them. It's a fun night.
Men's gymnastics coach Mike Burns always walks across the stage on his hands. He's a pretty spry guy. The AD talks -- at least Joel Maturi did.
Athletic accomplishments are reviewed. There is usually some video. Food is good. Athletes, especially the women, dresss up. And a good time is had by all.
Here are the candidates ... and I'll guess at the winner -- guess along with me please:
Female Athlete of the Year
Rachel Banham, Basketball
Katherine Harms, Volleyball
Amanda Kessel, Hockey
Maggie Keefer, Diving
Taylor Uhl, Soccer
My guess: Kessel. Led her team to unbeaten season.
Male Athlete of the Year
Harun Abda, Track
Tony Nelson, Wrestling
TJ Oakes, Baseball
Nate Schmidt, Hockey
Derek Toomey, Swimming
My guess: Nelson. Won second NCAA title at heavyweight. Doesn't have to worry about what he eats tonight. That's good.
Female Rookie of the Year
Hannah Brandt, Hockey
Lindsay Mable, Gymnastics
Daly Santana, Volleyball
Lauren Votava, Swimming
Tyler Walker, Softball
My guess: Mable. Best gymnast on team going to NCAAs for first time in a decade.
Male Rookie of the Year
Michael Handel, Baseball
Philip Nelson, Football
Manny Pollard, Diving
Leandro Toledo, Tennis
Adam Wilcox, Hockey
My guess: Wilcox. Set a program record for best goals-against average. Filled a big hole for U in nets.
Female Breakthrough Athlete of the Year
Laura Docherty, Cross Country/Track
Katherine Harms, Volleyball
Kiera Janzen, Swimming
Doron Muravnik, Tennis
Micaella Riche, Basketball
My guess: Harms. She was amazing in her senior year. Led team in kills time and time again.
Male Breakthrough Athlete of the Year
Andre Hollins, Basketball
Donnell Kirkwood, Football
Ellis Mannon, Gymnastics
Scott Schiller, Wrestling
John Simons, Cross Country/Track
My guess: Stumped here. This is a tough call. Will go with Hollins. Still remember his game against Memphis when he couldn't miss a shot.
Best Female Team
Swimming and Diving
My guess: Gotta be hockey
Best Male Team
My guess: A sweep for hockey. Gophers tied for WCHA regula-season title. Won't say what happened after that.
Best Women's Team Coach
Meg Stephenson, Gymnastics
Brad Frost, Hockey
Kelly Kremer, Swimming & Diving
My guess: Hockey.
Best Men's Team Coach
Don Lucia, Hockey
Steve Plasencia, Track & Field/Cross Country
J Robinson/Brandon Eggum, Wrestling
My guess: Robinson ... battled through serious knee problems to lead team. Courageous guy.
If I don't get at least 80 percent of these right -- 8 of 10 -- I will leave town.
Hey Kobe, admit it. It didn't hurt that much.
Late in Friday's game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors, Kobe Bryant made a move to the basket. But this time, he didn't get anywhere close. He fell down and grabbed his ankle.
Bryant, 34, had a fully ruptured left Achilles' tendon. He is done for the regular season -- what little remains of it -- and the playoffs if the Lakers qualify. He limped off the court.
"I just made a move that I have made a million times -- and it popped," Kobe said.
Me, too. I had a sheet of plywood on two horses. I was cutting it up to burn the samller pieces in the firepit in our backyard. I was going to cover the Lynx-Phoenix WNBA game that night for the Star Tribune.
So there I was, making a motion I have done a million times. I was sawing. And then I bent forward to break the piece of plywood which was almost -- but not quite cut all the way.
And pop. Somebody or something whacked me on the back of my left ankle. At least that was my initial reaction as the plywood broke.
I actually looked around. Mouthed a bad word. Nothing behind me. No person. No object. But something had hit me in the back of my ankle, right?
I limped into the house, careful not to bend the shaken up ankle. I told my wife we had to go see a doctor. Right away, pronto, like now. Something was definitely wrong with my ankle. It felt like something snapped or pulled apart. The strangest feeling
Same for you, Kobe? But Kobe, you are luckier than me in one way. When you are out and about on your crutches or later wearing your boot, people won't ask you what happened? I got that question, 1,000 times. Was tempted to make hang a piece of cardboard on my chest, saying: "Torn Achilles' tendon." And in smaller type: "Garage accident."
I told some people I got it skydiving, climbing a mountain, saving a cat from a tree ... but always fessed up quickly.
Everybody knows what happened to you. If they didn't see live on TV, they heard or read about it. You're Kobe, the Black Mamba, the nickname you gave yourself.
I don't even have a nickname. Used to be the prep czar.
But back to my tear ... After the sharp pain right away -- no, I didn't cry or fall to the ground or anything like that .. you looked a lot worse than me -- it really didn't hurt that much. I was more worried than anything.
I called work. Told them I probably had a torn Achilles. They got someone to replace me at the Lynx game. Then I went to the doctor and she told me it was just a strain. What a relief.
But she was wrong. But that's a long story for another time.
So I'll jump ahead. I had surgery on August 1. Woke up with my ankle in a white cast and my toes pointing down rather than being parallel to the floor.
Here is what is going to happen Kobe:
You will have three casts in the next six weeks, as your medical team gradually brings your toes back to a normal position.
The first one your toes are pointing down because they just retied the tendon. They don't want to put much pressure on it, but will gradually stretch it out with the next two casts -- gradually bringing the toes to a normal position, so the foot is flat on the ground..
I picked Vikings purple and neon green as the colors on my next two casts. You might want to go with Lakers colors being a team guy.
For the first week to 10 days after the surgery, they don't want you to get out of bed much. Just keep the leg elevated. I watched a lot of TV, read books. You want some of my paperbacks? I really like James Patterson novels and crime mystery stories, in general.
I even slept with my leg elevated. Nice thing was I had my food brought to me at home by my wife or daughters. Lost weight, too. Never snacked. Couldn't go to fridge or kitchen on my own. Stayed in my room except for bathroom trips. But I doubt you need to lose weight, Kobe.
Oh, my crutches. I still have those. Want 'em? They adjust to different heights. I'm 5-9 something. I know you are a little taller.
Also you need to get a scooter you can put your bad leg on. Makes it much easier to get around. You put your shin on top of the scooter, and push yourself with your other leg. Has four little wheels, so it can turn in a tight spot. I rented my for $90 a month. Better than crutches. Well worth it. Of course, you probably aren't worried about the price.
Most exciting adventures in my cast. Getting the plastic bag on my leg to take a shower once a day. Kinda tough. And one day, the green plastic chair I was sitting on in the tub broke.
I got my cast off on Sept. 17 and went back to work that day, covering the Lynx-Indiana WNBA game.
Of course, my left foot was in a boot. A big, black boot with five straps to limit your foot and ankle from moving too much. The straps were attached to the boot by velcro, they often came off or got tangled, were awkward to put on. And the boot weighs quite a bit, too. You won't like it..
The boot stays on for six weeks. So it's six weeks in three different casts, six weeks in a boot. That's your next three months, Kobe.
But two weeks after getting the boot, which I always wore except when I took a shower, I started physical therapy twice a week.
Lots of gentle stretches, riding a stationary bike, and getting my foot wrapped in a device that squeezed my foot and was as cold as a bucket of ice. Helped bring the swelling down. But I did a lot of clock watching. Got it off after 20 minutes.
Also, once the boot was off, got to bounce on a small trampoline and to stand on a platform with a ball underneath it -- you move it around to strengthen.
April 1 was nine months after my surgery. My physical therapist said I could start playing tennis then, but to ease into it. I haven't yet. Winter is still here. Maybe I should get my cross-country skis down from the rafters in my garage?
But Kobe, I'm sure you will rehab much quicker than me. At 34, you are several decades younger. And I'm sure you will actually do the exercices you are supposed to do three-four times a day, put ice on your left ankle daily, and everything else they tell you. Your legs are important to your job. Not so much to mine.
I sit a lot, so you know what is important to me.
But you will do fine in your PT (physicial therapy). I was not so conscientious. I did my exercies the day before, and the morning of my physical therapy sessions in case I was asked if I had been doing them. I could honestly say, "Sometimes."
But you, Kobe, I'm sure you will do more than they tell you. Go got 'em, guy.
My ankle still swells up on me every day. I won't be able to ever dunk -- of course, I never could. But my outside shot was pretty good at one time. That might come back.
I have a pretty nasty-looking scar that is 4-5 inches long on my ankle. Guessing you will have that, too.
So that makes us members of the same club -- the RATS. Which stands for people with "ruptured Achilles' tendon scars." We will have those for as long as we live.
But hang in there, Kobe. I'm OK now. You will be soon, too.
Just don't forget, when you get into your boot, my doctor's advice about always wearing it: "It can tear," he said, the day I got my cast off. He was referring to the Achilles' tendon.
So always wear your boot, buddy.
And then my doctor repeated the same three words three or four more times to make sure they sunk in with me: "It can tear. It can tear. It can tear."
"I don't want to see you back again," my doctor said, finishing the visit.
Got it doc: "It can tear." Don't want to see you again either, doc.
Do want to see you, Kobe, on the court soon. After all, us members of the RATS have to root for one another.
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