Greedy Gophers: Numerous athletes honored

The Big Ten awards department will be sending a lot of plaques to the U of M this week. Hockey players Keith Ballard and Lyndsay Wall, and volleyball player Lindsey Taatjes were all honored for their play last week. Also, find out how you can watch former Gopher and Olympic wrestler Brandon Paulson in action.

Maybe we now know the value of having Keith Ballard in the lineup. Back after missing games due to injury, Ballard helped the Gophers sweep Michigan Tech last week, giving the Gophers a little more hope in a season that has been a struggle.

For that the junior defenseman from Baudette, Minn., has been named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week, following his one-goal, two-assist performance against Tech at Mariucci Arena. The series marked his return to the Minnesota lineup after a seven-game absence with a knee injury.

On Friday, Ballard was named first star in the Golden Gophers' 6-2 win with assists on Minnesota's first and fourth goals. In Saturday's 3-0 win, he rounded out Minnesota's scoring with a goal in the third period. For the weekend Ballard was +3 and held Michigan Tech's potent line of Chris Connor, Taggart Desmet and Colin Murphy to 1-1--2.

Ballard ranks 11th in the WCHA among defenseman in scoring with six points (two goals, four assists) in five games. The award is the first for a Minnesota player this season and Ballard's first career WCHA Player of the Week honor.

The Gophers compete in the College Hockey Showcase this weekend. Minnesota visits Michigan State on Friday, Nov. 28, at 6:05 p.m. Central time and Michigan on Saturday, Nov. 29, at 6:35 p.m.

Lyndsay Wall Also Honored By WCHA

Ballard was not the only Gophers hockey player recognized for outstanding play. The Western Collegiate Hockey Association has announced that Lyndsay Wall has been named the WCHA Rookie of the Week for her performance against Minnesota State, Mankato. It is the first time Wall has garnered the rookie award, and her second WCHA honor. She was named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week after Minnesota swept St. Cloud State (10/31-11/1).

Wall, a freshman from Churchville, N.Y., helped the Gophers to three points with a 1-1 tie and a 4-0 win at MSU-Mankato with a goal and two assists for the series. Wall scored the Gophers' lone goal on the power play in their 1-1 overtime tie Saturday. Sunday, Wall dished out two assists, with one coming on the power play on the game-winning goal. She totaled two power play points on the weekend and was +1.

The Gophers will host North Dakota Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Both games are scheduled for a 2:05 p.m. start at Ridder Arena.

Lindsey Taatjes Named Big Ten Volleyball Player of the Week

Junior setter Lindsey Taatjes (Prinsburg, Minn.) was named Big Ten Volleyball Player of the Week for Monday, Nov. 24. Taatjes becomes the third Golden Gopher to win player of the week honors, joining Erin Martin (Ames, Iowa) who won it on Oct. 6, and Cassie Busse (Prior Lake, Minn.) who claimed it on Oct. 13 and Oct. 27.

The Minnesota volleyball team moved up three spots in the USA Today/AVCA Top 25 poll to No. 19 this week. Minnesota won a pair of three-game matches at Michigan State and Michigan this past weekend. It was the first time that the Golden Gophers swept both Michigan schools on the road since 1999.

The Gophers currently sit in a two-way tie for second place in the Big Ten with No. 18 Illinois at 14-4. Those two teams trail No. 11 Penn State, who leads the Big Ten with a 15-3 record. If Minnesota were to defeat Penn State and Ohio State this week, it would capture first place in the Big Ten and claim the conference's automatic bid. A loss to either team would likely eliminate any chances of finishing first place.

Paulson to Wrestle in Exhibition during Iowa State-Minnesota Dual Match

Three-time U.S. National Champion Brandon Paulson will meet Hakan Nyblom in a Greco-Roman exhibition match at intermission of the Minnesota-Iowa State dual match at the Target Center on Dec. 12.

A native of Anoka, Minn., Paulson burst onto the world scene after claiming the silver medal at the 1996 Olympics. He also earned the silver medal at the 2001 World Championships. Paulson earned All-American honors with the Golden Gophers in 1998.

Hailing from Denmark, Nyblom is a five-time Danish national champion and has qualified for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece. He finished fourth at the 2001 Junior World Championships and eighth at the 2003 World Championships.

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