Gopher Sports share new info as Chalk Talk tour comes to an end

by Ben Gotz

After eight stops in four days, the Gopher Road Trip: Chalk Talk 2015 is complete.


Athletic Director Norwood Teague and many Minnesota coaches made appearances across the state during the two-week period, to interact with fans.


The Minnesota Daily attended the trip’s final event in Hutchinson, Minn., and picked up pieces of information from the assembled coaches.


Opening day motivating football


Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill said he’s seen his players work harder in spring practice each and every season.


This year, he thinks there’s a reason the team is raising the bar again.


“I think TCU has helped us in that situation because we’re going to open up with them,” Kill said. “And our kids know what a challenge that’s going to be.”


The Gophers open their season hosting the Horned Frogs, who finished last season No. 3 in the Associated Press Top 25. The game will be shown in prime time on ESPN .


“It’s really set the tone for the offseason,” Kill said to the crowd at Chalk Talk. “This team understands when we line up on prime time TV opening day of college football and play TCU, you better have [had] a good offseason.”


Lucia working on roster puzzle


Men’s hockey head coach Don Lucia said he’s had a few years with a lot of roster turnover, but this year is unique with three members of his junior class departing to the National Hockey League.


With six seniors and the stars of the junior class departing, the Gophers will rely heavily on inexperienced players at forward and in net. But Lucia told the assembled crowd he’s looking forward to piecing together his team.


“I think that’s one of the fun parts of coaching,” Lucia said at Chalk Talk. “Every year you’ve got to throw the puzzle back on the table and you’ve got to put it back together. Hopefully you like what the puzzle looks like at the end of the year. So our expectations won’t change.”

The Gophers will skate for a fifth straight conference title and fifth straight trip to the NCAA tournament during the 2015-16 season. Lucia said there will be a little extra motivation this year with a 2016 NCAA Regional in St. Paul.

Smith to compete for 2016 Olympics

200 breaststroke national champion Kierra Smith won’t return to the University of Minnesota next season, in order to train to qualify for the 2016 Olympics with Canada.


Smith, who was a member of the Canadian national team in 2014 and 2015, won the 200 breaststroke by over two seconds at the NCAA Championships in May.


“She’s clearly the best collegiate breaststroker on the planet,” Minnesota head coach Kelly Kremer said to the crowd at Chalk Talk. “I think she can medal next summer.”


Other notes


– Kill thinks the Gophers incoming class of freshman could be the team’s best recruiting class yet. “We’ll see, they’ve got to prove it on the field, but they’ve got length, they’ve got speed, and that solves a lot of problems,” Kill said at Chalk Talk.


– Women’s basketball head coach Marlene Stollings’ recruiting class sits at seven right now, with two freshman, two transfers and three junior college players. She said the team “might add a couple more late.”


– Volleyball head coach Hugh McCutcheon mentioned to the crowd at Chalk Talk five of his players will represent the U.S. at international competitions this summer.