Recruiting Notebook: A look at the newest Gophers

It was a busy week for coaches on the campus of the University of Minnesota. The men's and women's hockey and Gophers wrestling team all announced the signing of recruits. Here is a look at the newcomers and what they will bring to the U starting in 2004-05. Included is exclusive comments with and about the men's hockey signees.

Men's Hockey

The Minnesota men's hockey program announced the signing of five top recruits to join the Gophers beginning with the 2004-05 season. Brent Borgen, Ben Gordon, Nate Hagemo, Mike Howe and Derek Peltier have all signed national letters of intent to play for Minnesota.

"We are extremely happy with the student-athletes that we are bringing into the Golden Gopher hockey program," Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. "All five of these recruits are welcomed additions to our team and bring impressive credentials, both on and off the ice. The outstanding skill, competitiveness and work ethic that these five individuals possess will be a great fit for Minnesota hockey."

Here is a look at the recruits, and comments about playing for the Gophers from previous conversations with GoldenSports.Net:

Brent Borgen is a 5-11, 185-pound forward from Mahtomedi, Minn. He is currently in his second season with the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League (USHL). This year, Borgen is 11th in the league in scoring with 5-12--17 in 19 games. Last season, Borgen played in 27 games, tallying four goals and six assists in helping to lead the Stars to the Clark Cup title. A member of the 2002 U.S. Under-18 Select Team and 2001 U.S. Under-17 Select Team, Borgen is a teammate of fellow Golden Gopher signee Ben Gordon. A 2003 All-Classic Suburban selection during his senior season at Mahtomedia High School, Borgen finished third in the state in 2002-03 in scoring with 35-3--71. He was 15th in the state in scoring in 2001-02 with 36-2--60.

"It's been a lifelong dream of mine to play for the Gophers," said Borgen. "Making the decision to come to the Gophers wasn't very tough at all. The Gophers always were the first choice. Who wouldn't want to play for their home-state team and a team that has been the best in the country?"

Ben Gordon, a 5-11, 165-pound forward from International Falls, Minn., is in his first full season with the Lincoln Stars. In 14 games this year, Gordon has scored two goals and three assists. Last season, he was 10-7--17 in 34 games. Gordon was a member of the 2002 U.S. Under-18 Select Team. He also represented the Iron Range in the 2003 CCM High School All-Star Game in Duluth, Minn. Gordon led the state in scoring with 38-43--81 during his 2002-03 senior season at International Falls High School. In 2001-02, Gordon was second in the state in scoring with 25-55—79, two points behind current Golden Gopher Gino Guyer and 10 points ahead of Andy Sertich.

"Most kids who grow up in Minnesota playing hockey dream of playing for the Gophers," said Gordon. "So when the opportunity came for me I didn't even hesitate to sign with them."

Nate Hagemo, a 5-11, 180-pound defenseman from Edina, Minn., joins the Gophers from the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. A member of the NTDP Under-18 Team this season, Hagemo is sixth on the team and first among defensemen in scoring with 1-8--9 in 14 games. Last season, with both the Under-17 and Under-18 teams, Hagemo registered five goals and 12 assists in 70 games. In 2001-02, he helped lead his Academy of Holy Angels team to the Minnesota High School State Championship, tallying two goals and 23 assists in 28 games. Hagemo finished his final prep season with a +53 rating.

Holy Angels coach Greg Trebil is happy to see a guy from his school come to the U of M.

"We've had a lot of guys go Division I, it will be nice to have one stay home," said Trebil.

Mike Howe is a 6-0, 185-pound forward from St. Cloud, Minn. Howe is the leading returning goal scorer for the River City Lancers of the USHL. Last season, he led the team with 25 goals and 17 assists for 42 points. In leading the Lancers to a second-place finish in the USHL Playoffs, Howe scored four goals and four assists in 11 games. A pure goal scorer and natural leader, Howe is 9-4--13 in 14 games this season for the Lancers. Howe was also a member of the 2001 U.S. Under-18 Select Team. During his 2001-02 junior season at St. Cloud Apollo High School, Howe was 11th in the state in scoring with 35-26--61.

"I always wanted to be a Gopher," said Howe, who also took official visits to St. Cloud State and Notre Dame. "It's not anything the other schools didn't have; it was just the Golden Gopher thing. I'm nothing but excited for it."

His junior hockey coach, Mike Hastings, feels Howe can make an immediate impact if he continues to work hard:

"He needs to be an unsatisfied hockey player. He needs to be real greedy, especially as a goal-scorer," said Hastings. "Going into Minnesota, the bar's set pretty high. He's going against some pretty good hockey players."

Derek Peltier joins the Maroon and Gold as a 6-0, 190-pound defenseman from Plymouth, Minn. Currently in his second full season with the USHL's Cedar Rapids Roughriders, Peltier is tied for first in the league in defenseman scoring with one goal and 10 assists in 16 games. Last season, he was 14th in the league during the regular season with 4-20--24. Peltier was also a member of the 2002 U.S. Under-18 Select Team. Peltier played for Robbinsdale Armstrong High School in 2001-02.

Peltier attended the same high school as former Gopher Jordan Leopold, and grew up watching as many Gophers games as possible.

"Our family had season tickets, and I went to every game I could," said Peltier. "It was always a dream of mine to be able to play for the Gophers."

Peltier picked Minnesota over Denver.

"I can't say anything bad about Denver," said Peltier. "It was a great school, and a good program, but being a kid from Minnesota, it's tough to pass up the opportunity to play for the Gophers."

Women's Hockey

The Gophers women signed: Erica McKenzie, Anya Miller, Jeneele Philipczyk and Liz Palkie. Here is a look at the four future Gophers.

McKenzie, a Hastings, Minn., native, was the 2003 recipient of the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year. She finished her junior season with 58 goals and 26 assists for 84 points, leading the metro area in goals scored. McKenzie, a team captain three straight years, enters her senior season earning first-team all-metro honors three straight seasons. McKenzie has earned all-state and all-conference honors every year since eighth grade when she was on the varsity team. She is known on the national scene as well, participating in USA Hockey's Development camps in 2002 and 2003 and is a member of the Olympic Development Program.

"Erica is one of the most dynamic players in the state," Halldorson said. "She has tremendous talent, work ethic and is a very unselfish team player."

Miller, hailing from Elk River, Minn., helped the Elk River Area Elks to a 2003 Class AA consolation championship, boasting a 27-3-1 record. Miller, a defenseman, scored 20 goals and 18 assists for 38 points and was a second-team all-metro selection her junior year. A team captain, Miller gained 2002-03 Pioneer Press all-state honors and Associated Press all-state second-team honors. In her sophomore season, Miller was a Pioneer Press third-team all-state honoree scoring seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points. She participated in USA Hockey's Development Camp in 2003, her first appearance.

"Anya is a steady defenseman who plays very well, both offensively and defensively," Halldorson said. "Her outgoing and friendly personality, along with her willingness to work hard really stood out as we got to know her through the recruiting process."

Philipczyk, from Woodbury, Minn., has been a varsity hockey player for Eagan High School since seventh grade, helping the Wildcats to three Lake Conference championships. As a junior, the 5-5 forward had 34 goals and 24 assists for 58 points. Philipczyk garnered 2003 third-team all-metro and all-state honors. A team captain, Philipczyk led the conference scoring her sophomore and junior seasons, earning three all-conference accolades. By the end of her career, she will be the first Eagan High School hockey player to letter six straight years. Philipczyk is a member of the Minnesota Selects team and has participated in USA Hockey's Development Camp.

"Jenelle is a talented forward who is committed to working hard both on and off the ice," Halldorson said. "She is a great skater with very good skills, and she will be a terrific addition to our team."

Halldorson was pleased with the trio.

"These three Minnesotans are some of the best in the state, and they will definitely make us better next year," Halldorson said. "They are all impressive hockey players, conscientious students, and fine young women. We are excited to be able to add them to the Gopher Women's Hockey program."

Liz Palkie also signed a National Letter of Intent and will join the Golden Gophers women's hockey team for the 2004-05 season.

Palkie, a Carleton, Minn., native, helped the Cloquet/Esko/Carleton girls hockey team to a 17-8-3 record, earning runner-up honors in the Class AA Minnesota State High School Championships last season. Entering her senior season with the Lumberjacks, Palkie has scored 96 goals and 74 assists for 170 points. The 5-6 forward was a member of the Class AA consolation championship team her sophomore season, earning her first of two all-tournament honors. Palkie, a two-year captain, earned first-team all-conference accolades for the first time in the 2002-03 season and all-area honors for the second straight year. Along with her high school hockey experience, Palkie has been a member of the Minnesota Selects team for six years, in the Community Olympic Development Program the last five years and has participated in the USA Hockey Development Camp the last four.

"Liz is a hard-working, intelligent hockey player who plays very well, both with and without the puck," Halldorson said. "She's a talented forward who will continue to improve because of her drive, her attitude, and her athleticism. We're very excited that she has decided to become a Gopher."

Gopher Wrestling

Tyler Safratowich is a two-time Minnesota state champion at Park Rapids High School. Entering his senior season, he is tied for fifth in school history for wins with a 105-26 career record. A Junior National All-American, Safratowich is projected to wrestle at 133 or 141 for Minnesota.

A native of Gainesville, Fla., Nick Davis won the Florida 2A, 171-pound title and compiled a perfect 45-0 record at Gainesville High School last year. His state title was the fourth earned by a member of his family. His older brother, John, won the 189-pound title in 2001, while his father, Jeff, won a pair of state championships and wrestled for the University of Florida. Davis is projected to wrestle at 174 for the Golden Gophers.

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