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.
What does the calendar say? May 25.
No matter. College hockey web sites write about hockey year round.
INCH has come out with is preseason top 10 and at the top are the Gophers. Michigan is No. 2 and North Dakota No. 3.
Here is INCH's blurb on the Gophers:
Assuming Bjugstad returns for his junior season instead of turning pro, the Gophers’ lineup will boast seven players who scored 20 or more points last season. Good thing they’ll score a ton, because Minnesota must break in a pair of untested goaltenders—junior Mike Shibrowski (20 career minutes played) and rookie Adam Wilcox, a South St. Paul, Minn., native who spent the last two seasons in the USHL with Green Bay and Tri-City.
Comment: Not sure the defense will be a huge concern. Shibrowski or Wilcox just have to be average. They might not see a lot of shots. Top six defensemen return from last season, plus the Gophers add two potential stars on the blue line: freshmen Brady Skjei of the national development team in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Mike Reilly of Penticton of the BCHL.
Skjei is expected to be a lower first round pick in the NHL draft next month. Reilly said a Vees' team record for points in a single regular season. He had more than 80 points before the playoffs, which ended with the Vees winning the national Junior A title.
Bjugstad still has not said whether he will sign with the NHL's Florida Panthers, who have his rights, or return to the Gophers for his junior year. He had 25 goals last season.
To read the INCH top 10, click here.
Senior Kent Patterson, who started every game in goal for the Gophers, and Nick Bjugstad, a sophomore center who led the team in goals with 25, were named the team's co-MVPs. The Gophers have had co-winners for this award only once before.
Sophomore center Erik Haula was named the Playoffs MVP for the Gophers who won the MacNaughton Cup and reached the Frozen Four before losing to Boston College 6-1 in the semifinals in Tampa.
Other award winners:
Unsung hero: senior goalie Jake Kremer
Leadership and sportsmanship, most determined: senior forward Taylor Matson, team captain
Rookie of Year: Kyle Rau, freshman forward
Community service: Seth Helgeson, junior forward ... third year in a row
Outstanding student-athlete: Nate Condon ... double major in finance and accounting
LUCIA, M. REILLY SINGLED OUT
International Scouting Services picked three players to watch from all five teams in te RBC Cup starting Saturday in Humboldt, Saskatchewan. Two of the players ISS picked from the Penticton Vees have Minnesota ties. Forward Mario Lucia is the son of the Gophers coach, defenseman Mike Reilly of Chanhassen will play for the Gophers this coming season.
Here is ISS on those two:
very talented … dangerous offensively … good size … soft hands … speedy … competes at a high level … has natural ability … quick feet … good hands … unselfish … second-round pick of the Wild in 2011 NHL draft
smooth skater … offensive defenceman … excellent mobility … plays in all situations … can rush the puck up ice … makes a good breakout pass … excellent point shot … fourth-round pick of Columbus in 2011 NHL draft
SCSU HONORS ITS PLAYERS
Outstanding Senior: Travis Novak, senior forward from Lethbridge, Alberta
MVP: Ben Hanowski, junior forward from Little Falls, Minn.
Most Determined: Nic Dowd, sophomore forward from Huntsville, Alabama
Outstanding Student-Athlete: Mike Lee, junior goalie from Roseau
Most Improved: Cory Thorson, sophomore forward from Crystal
Goalie of the Year: Lee and Ryan Faragher, freshman from Fort Frances, Ontario
Outstanding first-year player: Andrew Prochno, freshman from Minnetonka
Hanowski led the Huskies this season with 23 goals, seven power play goals and 43 points.
* Kalli Funk, a 5-5 forward who played for Cretin-Derham Hall, will transfer from Niagara University, where she played for one season and had seven goals and five assists, to SCSU. Her family lives in Roseville.
In 1994, when Don Lucia was the head coach at Colorado College, he was named the national coach of the year.
It could happen again.
Lucia is among the seven finalists for the Spencer Penrose Award, given annually to the Division I coach of the year. The name of the winner will be announaced April 6 in Tampa, the day in between the semifinals and championship game of the Frozen Four.
Lucia led the Gophers (28-13-1) to the WCHA regular-season title and the West Regional title. This year was their first NCAA appearance since 2008. He was the WCHA coach of the year in 1994, '86 and 2006.
Other candidates for the Penrose Award are the three other coaches with teams in the Frozen Four:
* Jerry York, Boston College. His team is on a 17-game winning streak and won the Hockey East regular-season and playoff titles
* Bob Daniels, Ferris State. His Bulldogs won the CCHA regular-season title and are making their first Frozen Four trip
* Rick Bennett, Union. The first-year coach of the Dutchment. His team won the ECAC playoffs and is also in its first Frozen Four
The other three candidates:
* Mel Pearson, Michigan Tech. He was the WCHA coach of the year
* Norm Bazin, UMass-Lowell. He led a big turnaround at the Hockey East school
* Ryan Soderquist, Bentley. He was the Atlantic Hockey coach of the year
The ballots are in and the votes are counted for the all-WCHA team this season.
The Gophers, the WCHA regular-season champions, had four players honored. Senior goalie Kent Patterson was named to the all-WCHA first team as was sophomore center Nick Bjugstad.
Patterson also was the conference's goaltending champion because his goals-against average of 2.06 was the league's lowest.
Other first team members were senior center Jack Connolly of Minnesota Duluth -- the Player of the Year -- and teammate J.T. Brown at the other forward spot.
The first team all-WCHA defenseman are junior Justin Schultz of Wisconin -- the Defensive Player of the Year -- and Joey LaLeggia of Denver -- the Rookie of the Year.
Sophomore Nate Schmidt of the Gophers made the all-WCHA second team, which has two players from Colorado College and two from Denver.
CC's players are forward Jaden Schwartz and defenseman Gabe Guentzel, the son of Gophers associate head coach Mike Guentzel. Denver's honorees are forwards Jason Zucker, a Wild draft pick, and Drew Shore. The goalie on the second team is UMD goalie Kenny Reiter.
The third all-WCHA team has two North Dakota players, forward Brock Nelson and defenseman Ben Blood. Mark Zengerle of Wisconsin and Travis Oleksuk of UMD are the other two forwards. Nick Jensen of St. Cloud State is the other defenseman. The goalie is Josh Torimbert of Colorado Springs.
The all-WCHA rookie team has players from six teams. Kyle Rau of the Gophers is one of the forwards along with Jean-Paul Lafontaine of Minnesota State Mankato and Jayson Megna of Nebraska Omaha.
The defensemen are LaLeggia and Andrew Prochno of St. Cloud State. The goalie is Juho Olkinuora of Denver.
Named the coach of the Year was Mel Pearson of Michigan Tech. Pearson, in his first season at Tech, made the Huskies program respectable. Tech finished in eighth place, two points out of a home-ice spot for the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
Senior Kent Patterson of the Gophers is the WCHA goaltending champion, which is based on a goalie's goals-against average in conference games.
Patterson started all 28 conference games and played in every period but one. His GAA was a league-best 2.06. North Dakota senior Brad Eidsness, who barely played the minimum 33 percent required to be considered, was second with a 2.19 GAA. Denver freshman Juho Olkinuora, who got a chance to play a lot because the Pioneers' first two goalies were injured, was third with a 2.32 GAA.
Patterson was third in save percentage at .918, trailing Josh Thorimbert of Colorado College (.929) and Eidsness (.919).
Thorimbert also was first in winning percentage (12-4-1, .735) while Patterson was second (20-8-0, .714).
The Gophers staff nominated Patterson as their team's candidate for WCHA Player of the Year. The all-WCHA team and other awards will be announced next week.
Jack Connolly of UMD was the WCHA scoring champion. The senior center had 16 goals and 27 assists for 43 points, six clear of everyone else.
Three players tied for second: UMD's J.T. Brown (16-19-37) and Denver teammates Jason Zucker (19-16-37) and Drew Shore (14-23-37). Sophomore center Nick Bjugstad finished 13th in league scoring. Bjugstad had 16 goals and 13 assists for 29 points.
The Gophers, who won an outright WCHA title last weekend, face an intriguing opponent this weekend in the first round of the conference playoffs in Alaska Anchorage.
The Seawolves ended the Gophers season a year ago at Mariucci with a two-game sweep, winning 4-3 and 2-0. This season the No. 4/5 Gophers and UAA met only once in Anchorage on Oct. 28 and 29. The Gophers won the first game 5-0, but had a harder time to win the second game 3-1.
In other first-round series:
* Minnesota State plays defending NCAA champion Minnesota Duluth. UMD won their series 3-0-1. The Bulldogs won 5-2 and 7-3 at Amsoil Arena on Nov. 18-19, and won 4-2 and tied 4-4 in overtime in Mankato on Feb. 17-18.
* Wisconsin plays at Denver. They split at the Kohl Center on Feb. 17-18. DU won the first game 3-0, the Badgers the second 5-2. The Badgers finished the regular season on a 4-1 run, winning three times on the road.
* Bemidji State plays at North Dakota, the WCHA playoffs champions a year ago. The two teams split at the Sanford Center on Nov. 19-20. UND won the first game 5-2, BSU the second 1-0. The Fighting Sioux are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games.
* Michigan Tech plays at Colorado College for the second weekend in a row. The Tigers swept Tech 5-2 and 2-0 last weekend in their only series this season.
* Nebraska Omaha plays at St. Cloud State. UNO had home ice in their sights until getting swept at home by the Gophers and Denver the past two weekend. The Huskies finished 5-2-1. In their only meeting this season, UNO beat St. Cloud State 4-3 and tied the Huskies 2-2 in OT on Nov. 26-27 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha.
FINAL FIVE SKED
After the first-round series, the six surviving teams will advance to the Final Five at the X in St. Paul. The teams will be reseeded and the top two will receive quarterfinal byes on Thursday. The schedule:
No. 6 seed vs. No. 3, 2:07 p.m.
No. 5 vs. No. 4, 7:07 p.m.
Winner of No. 6 vs. No. 3 game vs. No. 2 seed, 2:07 p.m.
Winner of No. 5 vs. No. 4 game vs. No. 1 seed, 7:07 p.m.
Friday's winners, 7:07 p.m.
FIRST ROUND SKED
The schedule for this weekend:
First Round • Best-of-Three
Games Friday and Saturday
Alaska Anchorage (9-23-2, 12) atGophers (24-12-1, 1), 7:07 pm
Minnesota State (12-22-2, 11) at Minnesota Duluth (22-8-6), 7:07 pm
Wisconsin (16-16-2, 10) at Denver (21-11-4, 3), 8:37 pm (8:07 pm Sat.)
Bemidji State (17-16-3, 9) at North Dakota (20-12-3, 4), 7:37 pm (7:07 pm Sat.)
Michigan Tech (14-18-4, 8) at Colorado College (18-14-2, 5), 8:37 pm (8:07 pm Sat.)
Nebraska Omaha (14-16-6, 6) at St. Cloud State (15-16-5), 7:37 pm (7:07 Sat.)
Games Sunday (if necessary)
(12) Alaska Anchorage at (1) Minnesota, 7:07 pm
(11) Minnesota State at (2) Minnesota Duluth, 7:07 pm
(10) Wisconsin at (3) Denver, 8:07 pm
(9) Bemidji State at (4) North Dakota, 7:07 pm
(8) Michigan Tech at (5) Colorado College, 8:07 pm
(7) Nebraska Omaha at (6) St. Cloud State, 7:07 pm
WCHA teams in the two national polls this week:
USCHO.com USA Today
UMD 3 3
Gophers 5 4
Denver 9 9
North Dakota 12 12
Colorado College 18 ---
|Sports (275)||Gophers game day (73)|
|Gophers postgame (167)||NCAA (2)|
|Bemidji State (36)||Frozen Four (49)|
|Gophers awards and honors (89)||Gophers post season (50)|
|Gophers roster moves (114)||MS-Mankato (40)|
|North Dakota (69)||St. Cloud State (47)|
|UMD (37)||WCHA news (346)|
|College hockey (428)||Coaching (40)|
|Lynx (255)||Gophers (430)|
|Men's hockey (458)||Pregame (50)|
|Volleyball (3)||WCHA (4)|
|Women's hockey (28)||Wrestling (2)|
|Alaska Anchorage (12)||Colorado College (7)|
|Denver (19)||Michigan Tech (7)|
|Nebraska Omaha (12)||Wisconsin (27)|