Hagemo’s return a short one as injury forces him to quit

by Chris Lempesis

At last Thursday’s media day, Nate Hagemo, sophomore defenseman for Minnesota’s men’s hockey team, was in high spirits, to say the least.

After missing all but three games last season with a shoulder/neck injury, Hagemo was just a couple days away from being allowed to finally practice with the team again.

But, after a couple of days practicing with the team, it was announced Hagemo will never practice or play with the team again.

Coach Don Lucia said Tuesday that Hagemo will no longer play for the Gophers because of the injury, suffered during the 2004-2005 season. Lucia made the announcement during the 2006-2007 WCHA season-opening teleconference.

“It’s disappointing,” Lucia said. “I feel bad for Nate. He was an outstanding player and it’s been a big hole certainly in our lineup the last year, not having him and (he was) somebody that we were hoping we could get back to where he was before.”

Hagemo could not be reached for comment. Through a team release he said he was disappointed his career has to come to an end but that he felt he had made the right choice for both the team and himself.

“We did everything we could to get back to 100 percent,” Hagemo also said in the release. “But my shoulder just wasn’t getting any better.”

The injury was originally suffered during a late-October 2004 series with Minnesota State-Mankato. Things only got worse, Hagemo said last Thursday, during the World Junior Championships later that season.

Playing against Belarus in the preliminary round, Hagemo said he got cross checked over the same spot on his shoulder where the injury first occurred, making the original injury even worse. Hagemo missed 10 games with the injury that year.

Three games into the 2005-2006 season, Hagemo, still dealing with the injury, applied for and was granted a medical redshirt.

Lucia said Hagemo tried as hard as he could to get back for this season, but that he was still in a lot of pain and “he just didn’t want to battle it anymore.”

To the other defensemen who would’ve helped Hagemo man the blueline, Tuesday’s news caught them a bit off-guard.

“For me it was a surprise,” said junior defenseman Alex Goligoski. “He’s been struggling with it for almost two years now, so when I saw him back out on the ice (recently), it was really encouraging for us and for him.”

Hagemo – known for having a strong combination of quickness and grit – figured to be a big part of the Gophers’ blueline corps this season.

Now that he’s gone, Minnesota has just one extra defenseman in its group of seven.

“It leaves us thin,” Lucia said.

“This is one of those years where we’re not going to be able to withstand a whole lot of injuries because we just don’t have the depth with the amount of players that we lost over the course of the summer.”

Assistant coach Mike Guentzel, who works primarily with the defensemen, said he wasn’t worried about game injuries so much as what can happen in practice.

“When you have seven

defensemen in practice, it’s taxing; it’s zapping their energy,” Guentzel said. “You don’t have a lot of guys. You’re trying to practice for an hour and a half, two hours, those guys get fatigued and get worn down and that’s when injuries happen.”

In 33 career games at Minnesota, Hagemo recorded two goals and eight assists (10 points). He was a second-round selection of the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.