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Goalie Wilcox Gophers MVP

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December 5, 2012

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Gophers coach Don Lucia agreed with the suggestion freshman goalie Adam Wilcox is the early season team MVP.  “I think without question so far what he’s done. …His numbers are phenomenal and he’s given us a chance to win every night he’s started so far this year.”

Wilcox has a WCHA-leading 1.61 goals against average.  Stephon Williams from Minnesota State is second to Wilcox at 1.92.  Wilcox’s 819 game minutes is also best in the league.

Before the season it was uncertain who would replace last year’s senior All-American goalie, Kent Patterson.  But Wilcox has responded so well he’s been a major contributor to the Gophers 10-3-2 record with Minnesota being ranked among the nation’s best teams despite struggling to score goals.

The Gophers opened their season dominating Michigan State at Mariucci Arena, winning 5-1 and 7-1.  Fans may have expected similar performances from the talented Minnesota roster.

“Michigan State had a very young team,” Lucia told Sports Headliners.  “They had four freshmen defensemen playing their first college games after one week of practice.  We were able to jump on them and seal the deal early in the game both nights.  That (series) was more of an aberration than anything else.

“We have a long ways to go as a team.  It’s been a struggle for us offensively.  Defensively we’ve played pretty well.  Our shots against are very good, low 20s where you want them.  Our specialty team play is good but we have to try to figure out a way to score … five on five.”

Lucia said the Gophers, thought by some to be the No. 1 team in the country before the season, were probably overrated.  The optimism was based on the Gophers qualifying for the Frozen Four last season, having healthy players in 2011-12 and a “lot of things” going right, according to Lucia.  He said the Gophers miss last year’s seniors who played “integral roles” and there have been more injuries on the team this fall.  There are players too, the coach said, who need to play better.

Does this team have the potential to be better than last season’s group?  “I think your team always has potential,” Lucia said.  “Now I think a big part of it is going to be two things. Your best players have to be your best players night in and night out.  That next group of guys that are your support players have to take their game to another level.”

The Gophers, 5-3-2 in league play, are at Colorado College, 8-5-3 and overall 8-7-1, Friday and Saturday nights.  USCHO.com ranks the Gophers No.4 in the country, Colorado College No. 19.

Worth Noting

Can’t help but wonder if the Vikings and Bears will play a fine-free game on Sunday at Mall of America Field.  A week ago Sunday in Chicago, Vikings defensive end Jared Allen and Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher were involved in plays resulting in fines of $21,000 and $15,750 respectively.

Adrian Peterson wasn’t hurt on Urlacher’s horse-collar type tackle but Bears offensive lineman Lance Louis suffered a season-ending ACL injury after being hit hard by Allen.  Allen said last week he doesn’t expect revenge from the Bears but will deal with what comes on Sunday.

The Vikings will honor the 30-member Minnesota all-state prep football team at halftime of the Bears game.  The team was selected by media, the Vikings and high school coaches.  Dwight Lundeen of Becker, whose 2012 team was a Class 4A power, was selected Coach of the Year.

The all-staters: Marley Allison, Edina; Jordan Anderson, Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s; Brady Ayers, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown; Dalton Bass, Hills-Beaver Creek; Lance Briard, Springfield; Zach Creighton, Lakeville North; JT DenHartog, Hopkins; Jake Disterhaupt, Moose Lake-Willow River; Tucker Forsgren, Pelican Rapids; Alex Grove, Willmar; Aaron Haatja, Dassel-Cokato; Jordan Hein, Perham; Jared Lea, Chanhassen; Chase Morlock, Moorhead; Jack Nelson, Byron; Daulton Olinger, Spring Lake Park; James Onwualu, Cretin-Derham Hall; Elijah Patrick, Prior Lake; Ashanti Payne, Robbinsdale Cooper; Jacob Peterson, St. Cloud Tech; Daniel Polansky, Goodridge/Grygla; Nate Ricci, Stillwater; Noah Scarver, Washburn; Shaun Schindler, Hutchinson; Brandon Schmitt, Dawson Boyd; Jordan Staples, Morris; Bridge Tusler, Osseo; Brett Watercott, Becker; Jake Wieneke, Maple Grove; Alex Wood, Lakeville North.

Two Minnesotans are first team selections on the American Football Coaches Association FCS All-American team—Marcus Williams, the North Dakota State junior cornerback from Minneapolis, and Zach Zenner, the South Dakota State sophomore running back from Eagan.

Texas Tech, the Gophers opponent in the December 28 Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston, sees benefits playing in that football-rich area.  The Red Raiders have a large alumni base in the Houston area and have put a bull’s-eye on recruiting in Texas’ largest city, according to a Sunday online article by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said in the story:  “The lifeblood of a program is recruiting.  Players win games.  For our program right now, for what we need to do and where we need to go, I think this is good for us.

“I know we’re recruiting a lot of players from that area, trying to get more players on the team from the Houston area.  We were kind of lacking the last few years, but our coaches have gone into Houston and selling our program, selling Texas Tech, and it’s worked pretty good.”

The Gophers recruit Texas and three of their more promising freshmen are tight end Lincoln Plsek from Waco, and running back Rodrick Williams Jr. and nose guard Scott Ekpe, both from Lewisville.  Minnesota has several Texans on its two-deep depth chart.

Texas Tech could be about a two touchdown favorite in the Meineke game.  The Big Ten will have six other teams in bowl games and all of the conference’s schools may be underdogs.  The Big Ten has no teams in the top 15 of the BCS standings, with Nebraska at No. 16, Michigan No. 18 and Northwestern No. 20.

UW-Oshkosh plays at St. Thomas on Saturday in a game starting at 2 p.m. involving two undefeated teams trying to advance to the national Division III football title game. The Titans have drawn attention for not only winning but their comebacks, according to the school’s website.

After trailing St. Scholastica 10-0 in their playoff opener, the Titans scored 55 unanswered points in a 55-10 win.  Bethel scored the first 14 points in a second round playoff game but the Titans responded with 37 straight points in a 37-14 victory.

Last Saturday, trailing 21-6 at halftime against Linfield, the Titans tied the game with 15 unanswered fourth quarter points, then won 31-24 in overtime and ended the Oregon school’s 26 game home winning streak.

Baseballamerica.com posted its listing of the Twins top prospects and also the projected lineup for the big league team in 2016.  The November 20 article ranked third baseman Miguel Sano No. 1 among prospects with outfielders Byron Buxton, Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks at numbers 2, 3 and 5 respectively.  Starting pitcher Kyle Gibson ranked No. 4.

For the 2016 season, Gibson is projected as the No. 1 starter on the Twins with Sano at third base, Buxton in center field, Hicks in right field and Arcia the designated hitter.  Other projected starters: catcher Joe Mauer, first base Chris Parmelee, second base Eddie Rosario, shortstop Daniel Santana and left fielder Denard Span.  Span has been traded to the Nationals since the article was posted.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was at St. Louis Park High School last night watching Apple Valley  junior point guard Tyus Jones play against the Orioles.  MSU is on Jones’ final eight schools under consideration for college.

The 9-1 Gophers basketball team, 88-64 winners over South Dakota State last night, play next at 3-4 USC in a 7:30 p.m. start Minneapolis time on Saturday.  The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.  The Trojans lost 63-51 at Nebraska on Monday night.

USC, coached by former Northwestern coach Kevin O’Neill, is led in scoring by J.T. Terrell and Eric Wise, their only double figures scorers at 12.7 and 10.4.  Minnesota, ranked No. 14 in the latest A.P. poll, defeated USC, 55-40, in Minneapolis last December.

KSTP TV sportscaster Joe Schmit said on Monday night a source predicted injured Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio may play his first game this season on December 15 at Target Center against the Mavericks.

Dave Mona, co-host of the WCCO Radio Sports Huddle, will be the speaker on Thursday, January 10 at the C.O.R.E.S. luncheon in Bloomington.  Anyone interested in more information can email Jim Dotseth at dotsethj@comcast.net.  C.O.R.E.S. is an acronym for coaches, officials, reporters, educators and sports fans. 

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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