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Tuesday @ The Rink

CHAT LIVE With Minnesota Defenseman Mike Vannelli

Welcome to the CSTV.com moderated chat room!

On Tuesday, November 21 at 2:00 p.m. ET, Minnesota defenseman and team captain Mike Vannelli enters the chatroom at "Tuesday @ The Rink", presented by CSTV.com and USCHO.com. The Golden Gophers face Michigan and Michigan State in the College Hockey Showcase on Thanksgiving weekend.

Mike Vannelli

The son of former Golden Gopher Tom Vannelli, a member of Minnesota's national championship teams in 1974 and 1976, Mike Vannelli is trying to lead Minnesota to a championship in his own right as the Gophers' captain in 2006-07.

The St. Paul native is well on his way to his best season yet for the Gophers, with 11 points (3g, 8a) in his first 11 games of the season. Vannelli has increased his scoring every year, from 11 points as a freshman to 16 as a sophomore to 17 last season. Through 11 games this season, five of Vannelli's 16 career goals have been game-winners, including three last season against Niagara, North Dakota and Michigan Tech. Prior to Minnesota, he played with the USHL's Sioux Falls Stampede, where he got some early practice protecting classmate and Minnesota goaltender Kellen Briggs. Vannelli was a First Team All-USHL defenseman and led the league in defenseman scoring.

Vannelli was a fourth-round draft pick (136th overall) of the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He is a business and marketing education major at Minnesota.

** GET YOUR QUESTIONS IN NOW!!: Mike won't be stopping by until 2:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday, November 21st, and his time will be limited, so feel free to submit your questions now and we'll save them for his arrival!
CSTV.com Moderator: Hello, and welcome to the first of today's "Tuesday @ the Rink" chats, presented by CSTV.com and USCHO. We're joined now by Minnesota defenseman and team captain Mike Vannelli.
Mike Vannelli: Hi, it's nice to be here.

Dave (Menomonie, WI): Mike, the WCHA was the league that was hit the hardest with players leaving for the pros and it shows in the national rankings. The Gophers were hit just as hard as anyone else in the WCHA but manage to stay on top of the rankings. How have you managed to accomplish this?
Mike Vannelli: I think we have done a good job of rebuilding in a short period of time with a lot of talented freshmen, as well as returning players, stepping into new roles. Also, the work ethic has been great.

Woodbury: Congrats on the week-end sweep over the Badgers. With all the players lost from last years team due to graduation and underclassmen leaving early, did you ever expect the freshmen to come in and play as well as they have so early in the year? Pretty impressive to see the hustle and intensity-something that was missing a little bit last year. Keep up the good play Mike. Long time season ticket holder Steve Stepaniak
Mike Vannelli: Thanks. I knew that we had a talented group of freshmen coming in this year, but I think many of them have exceeded some people's expectations. It's working well for us right now because we are finding scoring throughout our lineup instead of having it all fall on one or two guys' shoulders.

Terry, St. Paul: Compare the locker room atmosphere from last year to this year. What is the biggest challenge in leading the Maroon and Gold on and off the ice?
Mike Vannelli: Every year, it is a different atmosphere, and especially with us having so many new faces on our team this year. The chemistry has been great for us so far, and I think that has shown in our performance. The guys have made my job pretty easy so far this year, and I just want to provide good leadership and make sure we don't let our emotions get too high or too low. It's a long season.

Chris Matson (Thief River Falls, MN): The last four games against St. Cloud and Wisconsin the team looks like they are relying too much on skill to win the games. Will the team (freshman) be ready to play against the top scoring team, Michigan, and the best Spartan team of the last decade, or will it turn out like last year's St. Cloud game in the Final Five? How hard is it to get through to the freshman who make it look so easy like Okposo, Johnson, and Barriball that the quality of teams they have played is not in the same class as what is coming?
Mike Vannelli: I think that we did a good job of playing a patient style of hockey vs Wisconsin last weekend. When you play a team like that, you can't try to force things or you will end up turning the puck over all weekend long. I also think anytime you can give up only two goals on the weekend, you can look at that as a positive. I think that St. Cloud and Wisconsin were both good hockey teams. We haven't played Michigan or Michigan State yet this year, but it looks like both of them will be very good again as usual. The biggest thing for us is to focus on how hard and how smart we play regardless of who our opponent is.

Dan V. Hibbing: Mike, Congrats on the great start. I am most impressed with the grit, dicipline and work ethic displayed by this team and your leadership in this area. It is good to see you guys winning the one on one battles. Do you notice a difference from the coaching staff this year vs last when it comes to discipline throughout the lineup (first liners through roll players)?
Mike Vannelli: Thank you. I think that the coaching staff has done a great job emphasizing the importance of the little things so far this year. With the makeup of our lineup, we need to focus on winning one-on-one battles and playing solid defensively in order to have success. Coach has really gone back to stressing the importance of the little things both on and off the ice.

Ron: Every yr I've seen you grow leaps and bounds from the last (reminds me of John Pohl). You look like a well seasoned Sr out there. Talk about being a captain this yr and work you do in the off season to get here.
Mike Vannelli: Thank you. Every year in the off season, I have tried to work hard to do anything i can to improve myself as a hockey player. Being an upperclassmen and a captain, I have tried to lead by example in the off-season in order to put myself and the team in a position to have success this year.

John (Minneapolis): Great weekend vs. Wisconsin! What do you feel is your team's greatest strength? Weakness?
Mike Vannelli: I think that our work ethic has been our greatest strength so far this year. It is really something that we have taken pride in this year, and I think it has shown in the third period of some of our comebacks. Right now I would say that our weakness is inexperience due to the number of young players on our team.

Eveleth, MN: Hey Mike, what do you find more rewarding...winning a game in overtime at home and hearing your fans going wild or shuting out one of your biggest rivals on the road and hearing their fans go quiet? Don
Mike Vannelli: I love hearing our fans go crazy at Mariucci, but because I am a defenseman I would have to say that it would be shutting out a rival on the road. Anytime you can shut a team out it is a great feeling, and it feels great to see the opposing fans leaving the rink quietly.

Sarah (St. Paul): What's your favorite thing about being a Golden Gopher?
Mike Vannelli: Well, there are a lot of things that I love about being a Gopher, but I would have to say that it would be the friendships that you make while playing here. I have made so many great friendships with these guys that it has been unbelievable. I would do anything for them and I know they would say the same thing. That is what makes it so great to wear the "M" with these guys every weekend.
CSTV.com Moderator: That is all the time we have with Mike this afternoon.
Mike Vannelli: Thanks for having me.
CSTV.com Moderator: Be sure to check in on our 3 p.m. chat, in just a few minutes, with RPI head coach Seth Appert. Also, be sure to check out Minnesota's weekend opponents, Michigan and Michigan State, when they face off tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET on CSTV.

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