Hockey team receives verbal from top 2007-2008 forward

by Chris Lempesis

Mike Hoeffel, considered one of the top recruits available for the 2007-2008 season, verbally committed to play for Minnesota’s men’s hockey team.

Hoeffel is a 6-foot-2-inch, 180-pound forward currently playing for Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood. He is in his junior year.

Hoeffel ” who originally hails from North Oaks ” said he called coach Don Lucia on Friday to inform him of his decision.

While he said he was also considering North Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota-Duluth, Hoeffel said he felt “really comfortable” when he visited Minnesota.

“It was just where my heart was, and I always wanted to be a Gopher,” he said. “Everybody dreams of being a Gopher. It was just the right thing for me.”

Kessel honored

Minnesota men’s hockey forward Phil Kessel was named WCHA Co-Rookie of the Week on Monday for his play in this weekend’s College Hockey Showcase.

In the Gophers’ 6-3 win at No. 3 Michigan on Friday, Kessel had two goals and one assist to go along with five shots. His three points against the Wolverines represented his third game this season with at least three points.

Kessel tallied two assists in Saturday’s 2-2 tie against Michigan State.

The Co-Rookie of the Week honor is the freshman forward’s second this season.

Hockey to No. 4

Minnesota’s men’s hockey team moved up to the No. 4 ranking in the country in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll released Monday. The Gophers were ranked seventh last week.

Minnesota is one of three WCHA teams in the top five. Wisconsin received all 34 first-place votes in this week’s poll, and Colorado College is ranked second this week.

North Dakota is ranked ninth, and Denver is 15th to give the WCHA five teams in the top 15.

Volleyball steady

Minnesota’s volleyball team stayed at 17th in this week’s volleyball coaches’ poll, released Monday.

The Gophers swept two home matches this weekend, beating Illinois in straight games Friday night and defeating No. 21 Purdue in four games Saturday.

Minnesota and Purdue are two of the five Big Ten teams ranked in the top 25 this week. Penn State is second, Wisconsin is 13th, and Ohio State is 19th.

The Gophers open NCAA Tournament play against Winthrop on Friday.

Two gymnastics signees

Minnesota’s women’s gymnastics team announced Monday it received two letters of intent.

Jamie Bullock of Eden Prairie and Alexis Russell of Oakdale will join the Gophers program next season.

Bullock has qualified for the Junior Olympic National Championships six times.

“(Bullock) is a consistent national-level competitor who has made her mark repeatedly at the Junior Olympic National Championships,” co-coach Meg Stephenson said in a news release. “And it is a thrill for us to be able to keep her at home.”

Russell was an all-conference, all-section and all-state honoree in 2005, her junior year at Tartan High School. She set the state high school league record last season with a 38.65 score in the all-around competition at the state meet.

“At a very young age, Alexis impressed the entire Minnesota gymnastics community, appearing early on to be one of the most gifted gymnasts in Minnesota history,” co-coach Jim Stephenson said in a news release. “Alexis left the state to train in one of the most intense and prestigious programs in the country.”