Halldorson leaves women’s hockey; O’Brien heads for NHL’s Senators

Mark Remme

Laura Halldorson announced Saturday that she’s stepping down as the Minnesota women’s hockey coach.

Halldorson spent 11 years behind the Gophers’ bench, and in the process she made Minnesota into a national powerhouse.

Her résumé includes three national championships (2000, 2004, 2005), five consecutive NCAA Frozen Four appearances and four Western Collegiate Hockey Association titles. She compiled a 278-67-22 mark at Minnesota, good for a .787 win percentage.

Halldorson said through a team news release that she’d been contemplating the move for some time due to the daily demands of the position and just recently made her decision final.

Athletic director Joel Maturi said he was appreciative of Halldorson’s services over the past decade.

“Laura put Minnesota women’s hockey on the map,” he said. “She started with a blank sheet and built a national championship program. She’s a true pioneer and the sport of intercollegiate women’s hockey owes her a great debt of gratitude.”

O’Brien leaves Gophers

Minnesota men’s hockey player Jim O’Brien opted to forego his final three years of collegiate eligibility to join the NHL’s Ottawa Senators organization.

The would-be sophomore played most of his time as a fourth line center last season and was highly anticipated to switch to defense during the 2007-08 campaign.

O’Brien was selected 29th overall by the Senators in last June’s NHL Entry Draft. The move was received with mixed emotions by coach Don Lucia.

“I believe Jim and his family have made a decision that they feel is in his best interests,” Lucia said in a team release. “Although I am disappointed in the decision and the timing, Jim’s decision opens the door for another player to get more ice time and advance in his development as a hockey player.”

Roberts joins Team USA

Minnesota junior swimmer Jon Roberts will compete for Team USA in the Japan International Grand Prix Aug. 21 through 24.

Roberts is one of 24 Americans selected to compete on the team in Chiba, Japan. He was selected on the basis of his performance at the ConocoPhillips National Championships earlier this month.

Roberts will swim the 100 breaststroke for Team USA after he finished fifth in the national championships with a recorded time of 1:02.17.

Gopher Invite teams announced

The Minnesota men’s golf team announced the teams competing in the 2007 Gopher Invitational Sept. 15 and 16 at Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata.

Among those attending are three top-25 teams from last years’ World/NIKE Golf Coaches Association final poll. That includes last season’s third-ranked Lamar University, ninth-ranked Minnesota and 23rd-ranked Michigan State.

Wisconsin and Illinois are making their Gopher Invite debuts, while Indiana will participate in the tournament for the third time. No other Big Ten schools are scheduled to attend.

Notre Dame, Southern Methodist University, Georgia Southern, Arkansas, Princeton and San Diego round out the field competing in the event.

Soccer begins play

The Minnesota soccer team opens up regular season play Aug. 31 against Central Florida in the Lady Vol Classic, but that’s not the first time the Gophers will suit up and take the field in 2007.

Minnesota plays an exhibition matchup at home against South Dakota State at 1 p.m. on Aug. 18.

It’ll follow up that contest with another exhibition – this time on the road – against Drake Aug. 22. That game is set for 7:30 p.m. in Des Moines, Iowa.

Football team returns

The Minnesota football team returned from its weeklong stint at St. John’s University and held its first practice on campus this weekend.

The Sunday workout, which lasted over two hours, was the team’s second in full pads during training camp. And despite seeing encouraging signs, coach Tim Brewster said he’d like to see more from his squad.

“(Sunday) was good, but not great,” Brewster said. “Obviously there are some things we need to work on and I made sure (the players) understood that.”

The Gophers are in their first week of two-a-day practices this week, and their first scrimmage is slated for 1 p.m. Saturday at the outdoor training facility.