Pohl in good spirits as he recovers from season-ending brain surgery

>RED WING ñ Senior forward Tom Pohl spoke for the first time yesterday since suffering a severe head injury in Minnesota’s 3-2 double overtime win against Minnesota State on March 16.

From his family’s home in Red Wing, a stitched-up and bruised Pohl talked about his traumatic experience.

“I’ve got the Tommy Lee Jones look going from that one ‘Batman’ movie,” Pohl said.

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The senior suffered a skull fracture and bleeding on the brain when he crashed headfirst into the Gophers bench after losing his helmet.

“For me playing hockey and me getting back on the ice, that’s far from my mind. I’m ready to move on in my life,” Pohl said. “But as far as being with the guys, I wish I was there every day. That’s probably the hardest thing more so than any physical pain.”

“You’re used to going with your best friends to the rink every day and working as a team towards a common goal,” Pohl said. “To have it all end Ö that’s the toughest thing.”

Pohl expressed thanks for the outpouring of support he and his family have received since the accident, especially from Mavericks sophomore forward Jason Wiley, the player whose hit would eventually put Pohl on a gurney in the operating room at St. Mary’s Hospital.

“I could tell he felt terrible about it and I had felt terrible for him because it was just a fluke accident,” Pohl said. “He came down with one of their assistant coaches and we spent about an hour together just talking.”

“It was a lot of fun. It was an escape from the whole, ‘I’m in a hospital trying to recover,’ ” Pohl said. “It was a good experience for me and I hope that for him it helped.”

Pohl added that he would not be traveling to the games this weekend but was optimistic that he’d be in Denver if the Gophers make it to the Frozen Four.

WCHA sets berth record

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association will be well represented at the 2008 NCAA Div. I Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament – sending a conference record six teams into the field of 16.

In addition to Minnesota in the Northeast Regional, regular-season champion Colorado College will host the West Regional as the second seed.

The Tigers will face defending national champion Michigan State in the first round of action.

St. Cloud State is also a No. 2 seed – the Huskies will battle Clarkson in the East Regional, which will take place in Albany, N.Y.

The remaining three WCHA competitors – Wisconsin, North Dakota and Denver – will make up the majority of the Midwest Regional.

The Badgers will host the regional and take on the Pioneers, who won the Final Five last weekend, in the WCHA’s only interconference match-up.

The Sioux drew the conference’s lone No. 1 seeding and will play Princeton, which drew an automatic bid by winning the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship.

State left behind

Six teams may be a record, but there is some debate as to whether the right six WCHA teams got in.

Minnesota State won’t be making its second tournament appearance in program history even though the team is tied for 13th in the Pairwise rankings.

“I feel bad for the kids,” Mavericks coach Troy Jutting told the Mankato Free Press. “That system, it takes a computer to run it. You put in all the numbers and we came out a little bit short this time.”

Minnesota State might have garnered an at-large bid if not for conference upsets by Air Force, Niagara and Princeton.

The Mavericks also lost a tie-breaker for the final at-large bid to both Wisconsin and Notre Dame.

“There’s a formula and we were ranked 12th, so that’s tough to argue,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said.

“If you take a look at two factors that are the reason that we’re even in the ballpark is the fact that the strength of our schedule and the strength of our league schedule were the reasons that, in the formula, that we were able, even though we’re sub-par .500, that we’re able to be there.”

Minnesota State’s biggest argument could be that unlike the Badgers, they actually having a winning record.

Paul Cordes contributed to this report.