Nearly two weeks after his postgame incident against Colorado College in the WCHA Final Five, Minnesota men’s hockey forward Tyler Hirsch talked to the media for the first time.
Hirsch addressed some of the questions dealing with his three-game absence, while leaving many others unanswered, but said he’ll be ready for Minnesota’s national semifinal game with North Dakota on April 7.
“I’m happy to be back with the team, and I hope it’s behind me now,” he said.
Hirsch declined to say why he fired a slap shot and crashed into the net after the Gophers’ 3-0 loss to the Tigers.
And while he conceded he shouldn’t have been in the lineup in the Final Five third-place game against North Dakota, he declined to comment on the reasons behind the incident, saying he prefers to “let people interpret it as they will.”
Hirsch did say, however, he could have played in the weekend’s NCAA West Regional.
“I was gone for what the doctors thought were personal reasons,” he said. “I thought I was able to play, but people make decisions, and the team pulled it off.”
Coach Don Lucia said he is “cautiously optimistic” Hirsch will be back for the Frozen Four.
Rumors about Hirsch’s health ran rampant on Internet message boards after the incident, but the forward said he wasn’t “even going to entertain those.”
“There’s talk about me being crazy, but I’ll just continue to walk the walk I usually do,” he said. “If there’s any family that can handle being labeled ‘weird,’ it’s my family.”
For the first time in the 58-year history of the NCAA men’s ice hockey championship, the final four teams will all be from one conference.
When Minnesota beat Cornell 2-1 in overtime at the West Regional final on Sunday, it finished an all-WCHA quartet with North Dakota, Colorado College and Denver.
Denver and Colorado College, which tied for the regular-season title and also met in the Final Five championship game, will face each other for the sixth time at 1 p.m. April 7.
Minnesota will take on North Dakota at 6 p.m.
“Obviously, it’s something that is very unique to the Frozen Four and probably explains the WCHA as the dominant hockey conference in the country, at least this year,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. “It sets a new standard for all the conferences.”
Six WCHA teams have opened new arenas since 1993 – including all of the Frozen Four teams – and to Lucia, who coached the first game in Colorado College’s World Arena before coming to Minnesota, the new facilities make all the difference.
“All of these teams have a real strong commitment from their institutions, and the new buildings are evidence of that,” Lucia said. “I think that’s why you’re seeing results.”
For forward Danny Irmen, however, the all-WCHA Frozen Four proves something else – namely, the conference has clawed its way out from underneath Hockey East as the nation’s best league.
“It shows how powerful our league is. They don’t realize how good the WCHA is. (The media) out there think they have the best league,” Irmen said. “It’s fun for us when they’re sitting at home watching us on TV.”
Defenseman Alex Goligoski, who missed both games during the weekend with a broken bone in his left hand, missed practice for the second time this week Wednesday. His status is still undecided for the Frozen Four.
Fellow blueliner Peter Kennedy, who has missed all but six games this year with a hip injury, practiced for the second-straight day – although Lucia said Kennedy won’t see action until next season.