This is Michael Russo's 18th year covering the National Hockey League. He's covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005 following 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. Michael uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.
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The Gophers and the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program tied 2-2 tonight in an exhibition game at Mariucci. Vinni Lettieri, the former Minnetonka player, grandson of Lou Nanne and son of Tino Lettieri, was an injury replacement for the Under-18s. He scored a goal, was plus-2 and had four shots, while Tyler Motte also scored and Thatcher Demko was sensational with 39 saves.
In a humorous note, the locked-out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra will play the National Anthem for the locked-out NHL game.
I can get used to this covering hockey thing again.
Just finished up my first game story since April – a 5-1 win as the heavily-hyped University of Minnesota men’s hockey team cruised past Michigan State, a team that went to the NCAA tourney a season ago. The Gophers will look to redeem themselves from last year’s winless trip to East Lansing by sweeping the Spartans on Saturday night.
Remember, 8 p.m. puck drop.
Check out the gamer on www.startribune.com/gophers for most the particulars, and multi-media extraordinaire Brian StensAAs came out to shoot postgame video of the media scrums.
But good win for the Gophers, scoring three times in the first period on goals by Ben Marshall, Nick Bjugstad and Christian Isackson and second and third period goals by Erik Haula and Travis Boyd
The Gophers were sloppy at times in the final two periods, turning the puck over and making life a little more difficult on Mike Shibrowski, who won his first Gophers career start with 25 saves. His shutout bid was spoiled with 4:01 left when Tanner Sorenson, whom Shibrowski robbed a few times in the second, scored after a turnover in the Gophers’ zone.
Shibrowski wears No. 1 – the number of the Gophers goalie he used to pretend to be as a kid, Adam Hauser, who backstopped Minnesota to a 2002 national championship and won 83 games as a Gopher – second all-time.
Sorenson, though, was on the unenviable end of Haula schooling him in the corner before the Finnish-born, Shattuck-St. Mary’s product drove the net and scored on a follow-up to his first shot.
Bjugstad was great, as advertised, and humorously has been taken some flak from his teammates after Brian
Skrudland (aka Screwy) used the names of Super Mario and the Great One to describe Bjugstad in my feature on Thursday.
But Bjugstad scored a goal and an assist, had three shots and won 10 of 15 faceoffs.
Other than a foul-up at the blue line in the second, which triggered a 2-on-1 and a barrage of three shots that Shibrowski impressively turned aside, I thought Brady Skjei was outstanding alongside Nate Schmidt. He's big, and he's ridiculously mobile. Like, ridiculous.
As I mentioned in the gamer, the arrivals of Reilly and Skjei have created a traffic jam on the Gophers’ blue line.
“They didn’t look nervous at all,” Budish said. “They both came in calm and poised.”
Justin Holl was scratched tonight and Jake Parenteau, who was Schmidt’s regular defense partner last season, had to play fourth-line right wing. He was actually real good there. The thick forward popped a few unsuspecting Spartans.
Coach Don Lucia said to expect lineup changes Saturday, with freshman Adam Wilcox making his college debut in goal. As we all know, I'm such an expert on the Gophers , but I’d suspect we see freshman Ryan Reilly up front and Holl in the lineup as Lucia has to decide on the players they take to Michigan Tech next weekend.
Some other tidbits:
--Wild propect John Draeger, a stud at Shattuck, made his college debut for the Spartans and was their only plus player – impressive in a 5-1 loss. He was paired with Jake Chelios, the son of Hall of Famer Chris Chelios.
-- David Bondra, the son of former Washington Capitals star and 2010 Slovakia Olympic GM Peter Bondra, made his college debut. He was scoreless and was an even.
-- Lucia said “Isackson shows that he belongs to play with that group (Rau and Bjugstad). Remember, he had a hat trick in last weekend’s exhibition and was scoreless in 11 games last year.
-- Talk to you Saturday night.
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