Jess Myers / Forum News Service
MINNEAPOLIS — Rogers Arena in Vancouver was emptying out on Friday night, June 21, as the final few picks in the NHL Draft’s first round were being announced. But thankfully, Ryan Johnson and his family had stuck around.
MINNEAPOLIS -- For the North Dakota State University softball team, the last one was one of the roughest ones. Drake pitcher Nicole Newman struck out 13 of the 16 Bison she faced on Saturday evening, May 18, as NDSU’s season came to a cold, quiet end via a 8-0 five-inning loss in their second NCAA regional game.
MINNEAPOLIS -- For some folks, standing beneath the east basket on the court for the NCAA Final Four 90 minutes before tipoff of the national title game would be the sports thrill of a lifetime. For former NDSU volleyball player Lauren McLaughlin, it’s just another day on the job. Now in her fourth season with the NCAA’s marketing and broadcasting arm, McLaughlin travels to the Final Four and a handful of other national tournaments each year, working with the crush of media that comes from all over the world to cover American college sports.
DULUTH — Silas Berry had his back to a persistent north wind, staring down at a hole in Lake Superior ice and watching his fish locator. Icicles were forming on his ample mustache and beard. “Nothing yet. A few have come in, but nothing has hit yet,” Berry said as he jigged a lure on a midweek morning on the freshly frozen surface of Lake Superior, 100 yards or so off the Duluth shoreline.
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- An ardent follower of the Minnesota Wild since the NHL franchise’s first game in 2000, Mike Hutchens of Mankato, Minn., didn’t need to ponder much when offered the chance to meet someone from the team. While other fans would’ve chosen star forward Zach Parise or stalwart goalie Devan Dubnyk, Hutchens wanted to visit the pressbox to meet radio hosts Bob Kurtz and Tom Reid. Since he was a teen and first started following the Wild, Hutchens, who was born blind, has relied on those voices to paint him a picture of every save, shot and win.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Brent Gates Jr. didn’t get to home to his native Michigan for Thanksgiving, but he made sure that the home state folks didn’t forget about him on Black Friday. Gates set up a trio of goals for the Minnesota Gophers in their Big Ten home opener as they took an early lead and cruised past reeling Michigan State 7-2.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Unlike many other hockey players from warm-weather regions, Minnesota Gophers freshman forward Nathan Burke didn’t grow up playing roller hockey. Living five minutes from the Arizona Coyotes practice facility in Scottsdale, Burke was on ice skates starting when he was 3, but his love for the sport started even earlier.
MINNEAPOLIS -- When you’re mired in a drought, it makes sense that someone from the desert can guide you out of it. Nathan Burke, the first Gopher hockey player from Arizona, scored the first two goals of his collegiate career, helping Minnesota to a 3-0 non-conference win over St. Lawrence on Saturday night.
MINNEAPOLIS - They coach teams located more than 1,000 miles apart, in vastly different settings, but St. Lawrence University coach Mark Morris and Gophers coach Bob Motzko have more in common than you might think. By comparison to Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota, both Canton, N.Y. (population 6,500) and St. Lawrence (enrollment 2,493) are tiny. But the Saints were a powerhouse in ECAC Hockey for a 15-year stretch between the late 1980s and early 2000s, making a pair of Frozen Four trips, and beating the Gophers in the national semifinals in 1988.
MINNEAPOLIS - Line combinations are seemingly always a work in project. The days of a three-player unit staying together seemingly forever, like the Detroit Red Wings’ “Production Line” of the 1950s or the “KLM Line” that meant gold medals for the Soviet Union in the 1980s, are a relic of an earlier era. Modern coaches tinker constantly with the players they put together on a line, and the new Minnesota Gophers coach admits that often they get it wrong.