Hirsch likely to miss the entire season

Chris Lempesis

Minnesota’s men’s hockey team’s star senior forward Tyler Hirsch is applying for a medical hardship waiver which would put an end to his 2005-06 season. A release from the athletics department listed only personal reasons for the decision.

If granted the waiver, Hirsch would have one year of eligibility left after this season. Hirsch hopes to come back for the 2006-07 season.

“This was not an easy decision, but one that I feel was the best decision for both myself and the team,” Hirsch said in a statement released by the team. “I will use this year to concentrate on other aspects of my life, but I plan on returning to the team next season.”

Hirsch had a well-publicized incident after Minnesota’s semifinal loss to Colorado College in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five in March of last season.

In that incident, which took place after the game, Hirsch immediately took off from center ice at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, fired a shot on net and then flung himself into the open net. Hirsch then skated back to center ice, placed his stick in the face-off circle and left the ice.

Hirsch missed the third-place game of the Final Five and the first two games of the Gophers’ NCAA Tournament run. He did, however, return for the national semifinal loss to North Dakota.

According to a team spokesperson, Hirsch will not apply for the waiver until the end of the season, thus leaving the door open for him to return this season. Hirsch could return and play up to 20 percent of the team’s season and still be eligible to apply for the waiver.

But the spokesperson said the likelihood of him playing anymore this season is small.

“We’re certainly going to miss having Tyler in the lineup this season, but we fully support his decision to take the year off and apply for a medical hardship waiver,” coach Don Lucia said in the same statement. “We look forward to his return next season.”

Hirsch, a native of Bloomington, was the Gophers’ top scorer last season with 11 goals and 33 assists (44 points).

He has two assists in two games this season.

Hirsch’s likely departure now leaves Minnesota without its top two scorers from last season, as forward Danny Irmen is likely out for the next four to six weeks with a broken finger suffered in last weekend’s series with Alaska-Fairbanks.

Gophers to take on Mavs

Coming off last weekend’s disappointing performance against the Nanooks, the seventh-ranked Gophers look to kick their off WCHA schedule with better results.

Minnesota (0-1-1 overall) will host Minnesota State-Mankato (0-2-0) for a two-game series this weekend at Mariucci Arena. Game times are set for 7:07 p.m. today and Saturday.

Junior defensemen Mike Vannelli said the team saw video clips of its performance last weekend before practice Monday and Tuesday.

He said the team saw that it lost a lot of one-on-one battles and that “we didn’t compete as well as we needed to to win.”

Vannelli also said that has led to a different approach in practice this week.

“We haven’t been worried as much about who’s playing with who,” he said. “As much as how hard and smart we’re playing.”

Senior forward Gino Guyer said that coaches have been stopping practice more often in order to do some teaching. The teaching has been paying off, he said.

“We’ve had three real good days of practice this week,” Guyer said.

Minnesota hopes the strong week of preparation will lead to better results this weekend.