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.
Four Minnesotans who played for four different WCHA teams in college will be on the U.S. team which will play in the IIHF World Championships May 3-19 in Helsinki and Stockholm.
Forwards Nick Bjugstad of Blaine and Danny Kristo of Eden Prairie, who played for the Gophers and North Dakota, respectively, will be teammates on the U.S. team.
Two of the defensemen are Justin Faulk of South St. Paul and Jamie McBain of Edina. Faulk played at UMD, McBain at Wisconsin before embarking on pro careers.
The rest of the U.S. team will be named later.
Team USA 2013 IIHF Men's World Championship Schedule
May 3-19 • Helsinki, Finland & Stockholm, Sweden
Date Opponent Location Time
Sat., May 4 Austria Helsinki 4:15 a.m.
Sun., May 5 Latvia Helsinki 12:15 p.m.
Tues., May 7 Russia Helsinki 12:15 p.m.
Wed., May 8 Finland Helsinki 12:15 p.m.
Sat., May 11 France Helsinki 4:15 a.m.
Sun., May 12 Germany Helsinki 8:15 a.m.
Tues., May 14 Slovakia Helsinki 4:15 a.m.
Thurs., May 16 Quarterfinals Helsinki 5:00 a.m.
6:30 p.m./11:30 a.m.
Sat., May 18 Semifinals Stockholm 8:00 a.m.
7:00 p.m./1:00 p.m.
Sun., May 19 Bronze-Medal Game Stockholm 9:00 a.m.
Gold-Medal Game Stockholm 1:30 p.m.
Minnetonka's Tommy Vannelli, a defensman for Minnetonka High School, is the highest ranked Gophers prospect in the Central Scouting Bureau's final ratings before the NHL draft in June.
His is rated No. 44, up from No. 77 in the mid-term rankings. That's a nice jump.
It's unclear whether Vannelli will be playing for the Gophers this fall or next. Coach Don Lucia recently said he will bring in three defensmen and named two of them, Jake Bischoff of Grand Rapids and Michael Brodzinski of Blaine. Brodzinski has been playing for Muskegon of the USHL all season. Bischoff joined Omaha of the USHL after the Thunderhawks' high school season ended.
Other ranked future Gophers -- who will be joining the team this fall:
Hudson Fasching, under-18 national team, Apple Valley, forward, No. 70
Taylor Cammarata, Waterloo forward, No. 193
Justin Kloos, Waterloo forward, No. 203
Gabe Guertler, Fargo forward, No. 208
Also ranked is Lincoln forward Vinni Lettieri, No. 209, but he is not expected to be a Gopher until 2014 at least.
The 17 other ranked Minnesotans, which brings the total to 23:
Connor Hurley, Edina HS, No. 45 ... headed for Notre Dame
Teemu Kivihalme, Burnsville HS, No. 64 ... Colorado College
Jake Guentzel, Sioux City, Woodbury, forward, No. 80 ... Nebraska Omaha
Blake Heinrich, Sioux City, Cambridge, defenseman, No. 81
Avery Peterson, Grand Rapids HS, forward, No. 86
Grant Besse, Benilde-St. Margaret's HS, No. 106 ... Wisconsin
Jonny Brodzinski, St. Cloud State, forward, No. 132
Parker Reno, Edina HS, defenseman, No. 140 ... RPI
Neal Pionk, Hermantown HS, defenseman, No. 141
Gage Ausmus, under-18 national team, East Grand Forks, defenseman, No. 148
Zach Glienke, Eagan HS, forward, No. 160
Jake Jackson, Tartan HS, forward, No. 170
Adam Johnson, Hibbing HS, forward, No. 176
Willie Raskob, Shattuck St. Mary's HS, of Hastings, defenseman, No. 178
Clint Lewis, under-18 national team, Burnsville, defenseman, No. 181
Connor Light, Andover HS, defenseman, No. 185
There was also one goalie listed among the top North American netminders:
Charlie Lindgren, Sioux Falls, Lakeville, No. 19
In the heat of the college hockey playoffs, the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference released its 2013-14 composite schedule.
In case you missed it or didn't pay much attention to it, there is a link to it below.
Four NCHC teams -- Denver, Miami, North Dakota and St Cloud State -- were among the 16 teams in the NCAA tournament. The Huskies reached the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh.
The conference regular season will lead into the inaugural NCHC post season tournament, with all eight teams competing in the quarterfinals, March 14-16. The top four seeds will host the bottom four seeds in best-of-three series.
The winners of the quarterfinal series will advance to the Target Center for NCHC semifinals on March 21.
The two semifinal winners will meet in the NCHC Championship game while the losers will play for third place, on March 22. Semifinal and championship games will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.
The NCHC tournament champion will receive the conference automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament.
"We are very excited to begin play in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, as this begins a new chapter in Miami Hockey,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “The CCHA produced many great memories and rivalries for us and I am confident the NCHC will do the same.
"We look forward to creating those rivalries and welcoming new teams to our building that our fans have not typically seen in the past. This league provides a very challenging schedule for us every weekend that will prepare our student-athletes for postseason play and give them new experiences."
Said Trev Alberts, AD for Nebraska Omaha: “The upcoming season brings almost the same anticipation as Omaha’s first season of conference play back in 1999-2000. As expected, we have a very challenging schedule in the NCHC, and our staff has worked very hard to put together an outstanding non-conference schedule to complement it."
St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko, in his last weekly radio show, said during the WCHA season he did not talk much about the NCHC with other coaches: "It is like cheating on your wife ... Now it is over. It is still hard to talk about it ... I don't how to start.
But Motzko know what to expect. "At christmas, there will be eight teams that are 8-8," he said. "We are going to beat the tar out of each other. We all better get used to .500 records ... We have find ways to survive it to get into the NCAA tournament."
The eight NCHC teams are:
From the WCHA: Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota Duluth, Nebraska Omaha, North Dakota, St. Cloud State
From the CCHA: Miami and Western Michigan
For a composite Natonal Collegiate Hockey Conference schedule -- albeit without game times -- go here.
To go to the NCHC home page on the web, click here.
A look at the three or four games the Gophers will play against NCHC teams:
Nov. 22-23: UMD at Mariucci Arena
Jan. 24: vs. St. Cloud State in Minnesota Hockey Tournament (no official name yet) at Xcel Energy Center
Erik Haula, the Gophers leading scorer the past two seasons ready,, was the last one of the big four to turn pro.
I was hoping he would come back to school another season. He could have been the Gophers captain and built upon an already solid career. But he signed an entry level deal with the Wild on April 7.
And in six games with the Houston Aeros, he has no goals and two assists.
The Aeros will play the Grand Rapids Griffins in the first round of the best-of-five Western Conference quarterfinals, starting with two games in Houston. The first is Friday.
So Haula will have at least three more games with Houston before that franchise closes its doors and packs up for Des Moines, Iowa next season.
Here are the numbers of the Gophers who left early or, in one case, was a senior:
Gms G A Pts. +/-
Zach Budish,Milwaukee, AHL 9 1 3 4 +6
* Seth Helgeson, Albany, AHL 4 0 0 0 +2
Erik Haula, F, Houston, AHL 6 0 2 2 +1
Mark Alt, Adirondack, AHL 6 1 1 2 -1
Nate Schmidt, Hersey, AHL 8 1 3 4 -4
Nick Bjugstad, Florida, NHL 8 0 0 0 -6
Totals 41 3 9 12 -2
* Helgeson was the only senior, others were all juniors.
Alt's and Helgeson's teams did not make the AHL playoffs. Bjugstad's Panthers have two regular-season games left and won't make the NHL playoffs.
Budish, Haula and Schmidt are on AHL teams which will be starting the conference playoffs this weekend.
* His signing with the Wild was announced April 7.
* In 114 career games with Gophers, he had 124 points and 42 goals. He was the first Gopher since Ryan Potulny (2003-06) to finish his collegiate career with an average of more than a point a game.
* Haula, of Pori, Finland, improved his offensive numbers each season, from 24 points to 49 with 20 goals, to 51 with 35 assists.
* He was the first 50-point scorer since 2005-06.
* Picked all-WCHA second team
* Picked in seventh round, 182nd overall, of the 2009 NHL entry draft by Wild
NHL draft picks by team in Frozen Four:
5 – St. Cloud State
4 – Yale
3 – UMass Lowell
3 – Quinnipiac
Source: College Hockey, Inc.
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.
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