Two Gophers named to All-America team

The season didn't finish the way the Gopher hockey team had hoped, but two players on the two-time defending champions earned individual honors for their performance this season.

Junior defenseman Keith Ballard and sophomore forward Thomas Vanek were named to the 2003-04 JOFA All-American Ice Hockey Teams. Ballard was named to the first-team in the West, while Vanek was a second-team selection.

Ballard finished with 36 points (11 goals, 25 assists) in 37 games, and was second in the country among defensemen in points per game. The most telling statistic was the Gophers' record with and without him – when Ballard played, Minnesota was 26-9-2, but when he was injured the Gophers were 1-5-1.

Vanek had an up-and-down season but still led the Gophers in scoring (26-25-51). It was the second straight year he led the team in scoring.

Both players are possible candidates to leave school and join the NHL. Vanek's rights are held by the Buffalo Sabres, who drafted him in the first round of last year's draft, while Ballard is now the property of the Phoenix Coyotes, who acquired him in a trade with Colorado. He was a first-round pick of the Sabres in 2002.

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