Time to look to next year for Gophers

Feb. 18, 2008

by Aaron Schultz

I never, ever thought there would come a day when I actually didn’t enjoy watching Gopher hockey, but my friends, that day is upon us.

As much as I hate to admit it, the Gopher hockey team is just bad, plain and simple.

Don’t get me wrong, every chance I get I still sit down and watch my favorite team, but it is so tough.

They just don’t have much offensive talent. Surprisingly enough, they have been in most of their games over the past month, or so.

The reason they are even in most of their games is due, in large part, to freshman goaltender Alex Kangas.

For years, even when the Gophers were dominant (which is most years), their goaltending wasn’t too good.

That came to a head through the early portion of the season, when the offense wasn’t playing too bad. The goaltender for most of those games was junior Jeff Frazee.

Frazee, a high NHL draft pick several years ago, has always shown flashes of brilliance, but has never been called upon to be the main man in net, until this year.

With that added pressure, he has crumbled, and the rumors flying around are that he just doesn’t work very hard.

Thankfully, Gopher head coach Don Lucia finally gave Frazee the hook, and called upon Kangas, who looks like he might turn out to be Minnesota’s best goaltender since Hobey Baker winner Jeff Stauber.

While the future looks bright for the Gophers in net, offensively, Lucia needs to have a strong recruiting class to come in and give it a shot in the arm.

Mind you, at some point, losing as many players early to the NHL was going to come back and bite the Gophers, and this year appears to be that year.

Currently, the Gophers have nine players that have either signed letters of intent, or have verbally committed to come to the “U” next year.

This class is led by Roseau junior defenseman Aaron Ness, who is finishing high school early in order to enroll at Minnesota this fall, and play right away.

While just 5’10” and 170 pounds, Ness has that rare offensive skill for a defenseman that the Gophers, for the first time in many years, are missing.

From Jordan Leopold, to Paul Martin, to Keith Ballard, the Gophers always seem to have an offensive-minded defenseman that gets the offense going, and hopefully, Ness will be next in that long line.

Other defensemen that have committed to coming to the Gophers next season include Sam Lofquist, 6’1”, 181 pounds from Faribault, who is playing with at the US National Development team in Michigan this year, and Grant Scott, 6’3”, 200 pounds, who is playing in Michigan, and can also play forward. He is from Sewickley, Penn.

The final defenseman committed to the “U” for next season is Elk River’s Brandon Martell.
Martell is a 6’2”, 195-pound high school senior.

This brings us to the centerman that will be new to the Gophers next year, and there is just one – White Bear Lake’s Jake Hansen.

Hansen, at just 6’0”, 168 pounds, will need to put on some size, but playing for Sioux Falls at the junior ranks this season should help.

This brings us to the four forwards committed to the Gophers for the 2008-09 season.

This groups starts with Jordan Schroeder, who at just 5’8”, 173 pounds is pretty small, but that hasn’t stopped him from having success for the US Development Team.

From Lakeville, Schroeder played at St. Thomas Academy and led them to a state championship as a sophomore prior to heading to Michigan.

Schroeder has great hands, and is said to be able to score from anywhere on the ice – just what the Gophers need.

Another forward that should be a big help to the Gophers next year is Virginia’s Nico Sacchetti.

Sacchetti, 5’11”, 189 pounds, was drafted in the second round by the Dallas Stars last year, and is a big-time scorer.

The third forward coming to the “U” is Roseville’s Michael Dorr, who was a Mr. Hockey finalist in Minnesota as a junior.

The fourth and final forward coming to Minnesota according to www.gopherhockeyhistory.com is Holy Angels’ Taylor Matson.

The 5’10”, 165 pound Matson, picked in the sixth round by the Vancouver Canucks, can also play center, and was born in Mound.

Even if only a couple of these incoming freshmen make immediate impacts, the Gophers should be much improved in 2008-09.

That is, as long as Kangas continues to make strides in goal, the likes of Patrick White and Cade Fairchild make strides after a season of college hockey, and veterans Jay Barriball and Blake Wheeler stay in the program and bounce back after a sub-par year.

I know, a lot of ifs, but the way this season is going for my favorite team, I’ve got to look to the future.

Hey, at least St. Cloud State still isn’t any good.

New gym at HLWW

There have been several rumors flying around about the gym at the new Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School, and I’d like to put an end to one of those rumors right now.

I’ve heard from a few people that the new gym isn’t big enough for basketball games.

True, the gym will seat far fewer than Humphrey Hall does. However, Laker Gymnasium in the new school is more than big enough, and is still bigger than many other gyms in the area.

The new gym will hold around 950 fans, more than enough room for high school basketball games.

Granted, Humphrey Hall seated an estimated 2,750 fans. But, only on rare occasions does it get filled, if ever.

The new, smaller gym, will have more than enough room for seating, and will actually provide a better atmosphere for those games when there aren’t as many fans in attendance.

Top 100 movie quotes

The top 100 movie quotes picked by ESPN continue, with quotes 50 through 46.

• 50: “I sure miss playing basketball. I got depressed as hell when my athlete’s foot and jock itch went away.”
This quote comes from the movie “Breaking Away.”

I’ve never heard of the movie. When I Googled it, I found out that it came out in 1979, and has something to do with cycling. No wonder I’ve never heard of it.

As for the quote, it isn’t too bad, I guess.

• 49: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
This quote, from “Chariots of Fire,” isn’t bad, but I don’t believe it should have made the top 50.

• 48: “Hey, unless you’re gonna kiss me, get your hands off my butt.”

Again, nothing special – for either the movie or the quote. The movie is “Any Given Sunday.”

• 47: “I was crippled for the rest of my life. I got better. He made me better. Hell, you made me better.”
This comes from a very good movie, “Seabiscuit.”

While I really liked this movie, I don’t think the quote is worthy of this high placement.

• 46: (Ed Rooney learns the score of the baseball game is nothin’-nothing’.) “Who’s winning?”

This comes from one of my favorite movies growing up, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

The quote is pretty funny, but since this isn’t a sports movie, I don’t think it belongs on this list.