New Jersey Devils want Martin to sign

New Jersey wants Paul Martin to sign, but the Gophers hockey star is still pondering his future. Meanwhile the Buffalo Sabres added a free agent defenseman, but will they now turn their attention to signing Thomas Vanek? Read about this and other Gophers sports news.

Lou Lamoriello, president of the Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils and a former Providence player and coach, told insidecollegehockey.com after the NHL draft that the team doesn't focus solely on college players, but that method has worked well for the team recently.

The Devils selected Gopher Paul Martin in the second round (62nd overall) last year and this year added Zach Parise of North Dakota this year in the first round.

"You can watch (college players) grow ... you can watch them develop," Lamoriello said. "We've had some success, and success breeds success."

Maybe that's why the Devils are putting the pressure on Martin to sign. In early July the Devils urged Martin to begin his pro hockey career and sign with the team, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

"They're leaning for me to try a new challenge and leave," Martin told the Star Tribune. "They think I'm ready to come into the organization. They said it would be my decision, but at the same time, they asked me to come.

"I want to take my time and make the right decision. Deep down, I have to ask if I'm willing to sacrifice my senior year to go ride a bus in Albany, but that might mean more for my development."

Martin has said he will continue to talk to Devils representatives and expects to decide no later than Aug. 1. He has been consulting with former Gophers now playing pro hockey, including Jordan Leopold and Jeff Taffe.

WILL VANEK BE NEXT?

Monday the Buffalo Sabres announced the signing of unrestricted free agent defenseman Joel Bouchard to a one-year contract. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Does this mean that the Sabres will now focus more attention to the signing of Minnesota sensation Thomas Vanek, the No. 5 overall pick by the Sabres in the June NHL Draft? Stay tuned to GoldenSports.net for more information on this situation.

GOPHERS WOMEN'S HOCKEY TEAM RELEASES SCHEDULE

The Minnesota Gophers women's hockey team recently released its 2003-2004 schedule. The Gophers open regular-season play Oct. 17 with a two-game series at Ridder Arena against WCHA foe Ohio State. The schedule features nonconference games against Brown, North Dakota, Mercyhurst, and Dartmouth, and four games against three-time defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth. The Gophers travel to Duluth for a two-game series Jan. 9-10 and host the Bulldogs Feb. 28-29 at Ridder Arena.

The Gophers will also host the 2004 WCHA Final Five championship March 11-13 at Ridder Arena. It is the first time that a conference school has played host to the tournament. Minnesota finished 19-4-1 in the WCHA in 2002-2003, in second place behind UMD. The Gophers were 27-8-1 overall, advancing to the NCAA Frozen Four for the second consecutive year.

FORMER GOPHER VB PLAYER STARS AT PAN AM GAMES

Former Minnesota Golden Gopher setter Lindsey Berg led the U.S. women's national volleyball team to a first place finish in the Pan American Cup. The national team defeated the Dominican Republic 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-19) in the first-place match at the Coahuila Convention Center. Berg, who was named to the National Team Training roster on Jan. 30, was honored at the end of the tournament as she received the "Best Setter" award for the Pan American Cup. Team USA finished the tournament with a perfect 5-0 record. The Pan American Cup first place finish qualified the U.S. national team for the 2004 FIVB World Grand Prix.

GOPHER GYMNAST NAMED TO ELITE TEAM

University of Minnesota senior gymnast Clay Strother has been selected to the 2003 Pan American Games Men's Gymnastics Team, while sophomore gymnast Guillermo Alvarez has been named to the 2003 World University Games Team. Alvarez finished 10th overall at the 2003 United States National Championships in the individual all-around with a score of 53.925, while Strother placed 13th with a score of 53.700. The Pan American Games are scheduled for Aug. 1-17 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

GOPHER SWIMMER SELECTED TO UNIVERSITY GAMES

University of Minnesota men's swimmer Justin Mortimer has been selected to participate in the 2003 World University Games, announced by USA Swimming. Mortimer will compete with USA Swimming and travel to South Korea for the World Games from August 16-27. Mortimer will compete in the 400 and 800 freestyle events for the U.S. Team.

"We were hoping that Justin would be added to the U.S. roster and we couldn't be happier for him," Minnesota head coach Dennis Dale said. "He deserves to be there. He's worked very hard to get to where he is and has earned the hardest worker award on our team for the past three years."

In his three years with the Golden Gophers, Mortimer gained nine All-America honors. In the 2003 NCAA Championships, Mortimer finished seventh in the 500 free, 14th in the 1,650 free, and was a member of the seventh-place 800-yard free relay. His seventh-place finishes earned two first-team All-American accolades, while his 14th-place finish gained honorable mention acclaim. Mortimer took home his first career Big Ten title in the 1,650 freestyle last season, earning him first-team All-Big Ten honors.

Matt Krumrie covers Gophers sports for GoldenSports.net. He can be reached at gopherhockeyinsider@yahoo.com

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