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MINNESOTA SPORTS ROUND-UP: Gophers lose in triple OT vs. Purdue

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. --  A.J.  Hammons registered a double-double with 20 points and 14 rebounds as the Purdue Boilermakers narrowly won in triple overtime against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 77-74, in a Big Ten matchup at Mackey Arena. 

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Kendall Stephens added 14 points for the Boilermakers (14-9, 4-6 Big Ten), who snapped  a four-game  losing skid.  Ronnie  Johnson and  Sterling Carter  both scored  in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively, the former also tallying eight assists and eight boards.  Maurice  Walker  scored 17 points for  the Golden Gophers (15-8, 4-6), who had their  losing  streak stretched to three  games. DeAndre Mathieu chipped in 15 points,  while  Joey King and  Austin Hollins had 14 points apiece, with King clearing nine boards before fouling out.  In  a game that  featured 11 ties and 17 lead changes, Purdue did a better job on the glass as it outrebounded the Golden Gophers, 50-40, pulling down 23 at the offensive end alone.

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Kevin Durant dropped in 26 points with nine rebounds and seven assists as the Thunder topped the Timberwolves 106-97 in Oklahoma City.  Reggie Jackson helped out with 20 points and nine assists for OKC, which has won two in-a-row.  Serge Ibaka chipped in with 14 points and seven boards in the win.  Ricky Rubio tallied 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists for Minnesota, which has lost three-of-four.  Dante Cunningham posted 18 points and eight rebounds in place of Kevin Love, who was out with a stiff neck.

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By all accounts, the University of Minnesota football team did a great job landing some big names during yesterday's National Letter of Intent Signing Day.  The big prize was Minneapolis Washburn running back Jeff Jones.  Rivals.com rated Jones as the #44 ranked overall recruit and #7 overall running back.  As a whole, the Gophers recruiting class was ranked #53 in the nation and #8 in the 14 school Big Ten. 

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Tonight the Minnesota Wild wrap up their pre-Olympic break schedule by hosting the Nashville Predators.  The Wild are coming off a 2-1 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday night which extended their home winning streak to four straight. Darcy Kuemper is expected to get his 12th consecutive start in net.  The Wild have taken two of three in the season series with the Predators and have shut them out eight consecutive periods.  Opening face off is set for 7 p.m. tonight from Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

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MInnesota  Wild defenseman Marco Scandella left Tuesday's win over Tampa Bay about two minutes into the game after going down awkwardly.  Wild head coach Mike Yeo announced yesterday that Scandella's injury was a sprained knee and would miss Thursday's game against Nashville.  It's expected, with help from the Olympic break, that Scandella won't miss any further games and could rejoin the line up when play resumes at the end of the month.

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Following tonight's game action, the Wild and the rest of the NHL will have just over two weeks off as the league's best players make their way to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.  Five Wild players will represent their country:  Zach Parise and Ryan Suter for the United States, Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund for Finland and Nino Niederrieter for Switzerland.  Canada took hockey Gold in 2010 in Vancouver while the United States took home the Silver.

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Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher yesterday announced the Wild has acquired right wing Curt Gogol from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for center Chad Rau.  Gogol, 22 (9/21/91), has totaled four points (3-1=4) and 149 penalty minutes (PIM) in 40 games with the Worcester Sharks (AHL) this season, ranking seventh amongst all American Hockey League players in PIM. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound native of Calgary, Alta., totaled six points (4-2=6) and 139 PIM in 38 games with the Worcester last season, and 10 points (6-4=10) and 167 PIM in 53 games in 2011-12. Rau, 27 (1/18/87), has totaled seven points (1-6=7) in 33 games with the Iowa Wild (AHL) this season. The 5-foot-11, 178-pound native of Eden Prairie, Minn., was selected by Minnesota in the seventh round (228th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and has played with Minnesota's AHL affiliate during the last five seasons. He totaled two goals in nine NHL games with Minnesota in 2011-12.

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Wednesday the Minnesota Wild put forward Stephane Veilleux on waivers.  If he clears this morning, he's expected to join the Iowa Wild in Des Moines of the Amercian Hockey League.

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The Minnesota Minute Men announced yesterday the Top Ten Candidates for the 30th Annual Mr. Hockey Award are: Philip Beaulieu (Duluth East), Tyler Cline (Blaine), Spencer Naas (Benilde St. Margaret's), Tyler Nanne (Edina), Avery Peterson (Grand Rapids), Mitch Slattery (Hill Murray), Steven Spinner (Eden Prairie), Luc Snuggerud (Eden Prairie), Nick Wolff (Eagan) and Zach Yon (Roseau). The Minnesota Minute Men also announced today that Maclean Berglove (Elk River) and Hunter Shepard (Grand Rapids) are the finalists for The Frank Brimsek Award, in recognition of the state's top senior goaltender. The 30th annual Mr. Hockey Awards Banquet will be held at 12 p.m. on Sunday, March 9 at the Grand Ballroom at RiverCentre.  The Boys State High School Hockey Tournament will be held at Xcel Energy Center and Mariucci Arena, March 5-8. The Minnesota Wild sponsor the Mr. Hockey Awards Banquet. The Mr. Hockey Award is hosted, coordinated, and presented by the Minnesota Minute Men. The Mr. Hockey Award is given to the outstanding senior high school boys' hockey player in the state of Minnesota and is selected by a panel of National Hockey League Scouts, Junior Scouts/Coaches and selected media members from around the state.

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Multiple media outlets are reporting that Minnesota Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel will opt out of his current contract before Friday's deadline.  NFL.com says Cassel will forgo the final season of a two-year deal he signed with Minnesota last year.  He was set to make three-point-seven-million dollars in 2014.  Thirty-one-year-old Cassel went three-and-three in six starts for the Vikings last season, throwing for 18-hundred yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions.  Cassel will likely test free agency in hopes of landing a multi-year deal. 

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The 19th annual Minnesota Vikings Arctic Blast Snowmobile Rally will be held at Lake Mille Lacs this Friday through Sunday. This event will feature current and former Vikings players and coaches along with team executives. Viktor the Viking and the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders will also be in attendance to help raise money for the Vikings Children's Fund.  New head coach Mike Zimmer is expected to be in attendance along with GM Rick Spielman, former Viking coach Bud Grant and current Vikings Matt Kalil, Jerome Simpson and Toby Gerhart amongst others.  Find more information on the event at www.vikings.com.

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The WCHA announced it's weekly awards yesterday and a couple of Minnesota players received recognition.  Goaltender Amanda Leveille of the Gophers was named the WCHA's Defensive Player of the Week while UMD forward Ashleigh Brykaliuk was named WCHA Rookie of the week.

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The National Collegiate Hockey Conference has named St. Cloud State sophomore forward Jonny Brodzinski the NCHC Player of the Month for January.  UMD freshman forward Alex Iafallo was selected as the NCHC Rookie of the Month for January.  Brodzinski has 10 points last month; Iafallo led all rookies with seven points on the month.

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