Minnesota Duluth will start 2010-11 with one less goalie than expected after sophomore Brady Hjelle of International Falls told coaches Sunday night he wasn’t returning to the men’s hockey program.
Hjelle, 20, split time with sophomore Kenny Reiter of Pittsburgh in 2009-10 in the first extensive duty for both goaltenders. Reiter, 23, played in 25 games and Hjelle in 19.
“Brady did well for us, although I think he could’ve done better, but he’s young and still improving,” UMD head coach Scott Sandelin said Wednesday. “I looked for him to come back.
“It’s unfortunate he left and I’m disappointed that things didn’t work out, but we’ve got two capable goalies for next season.”
Reiter will open 2010-11 as the team’s top goalie, backed up by Aaron Crandall of Lakeville, Minn., a freshman in 2009-10, who didn’t see any playing time.
Sandelin said Hjelle is expected to return to Cedar Rapids (Iowa) in the U.S. Hockey League, where he played in 2007-08. The junior age limit is 20. Hjelle, who would have two years of Division I eligibility remaining, didn’t immediately return phone calls Wednesday.
Last season, Hjelle had a .898 save percentage and 2.85 goals-against average. He started five of the first six games, including the season opener. He played in two games as a freshman in 2008-09 and had career stats of 10-7-1 with a .901 save percentage and 2.75 goals-against average.
Reiter’s first varsity start was in last season’s second game. He started 16 of UMD’s final 20 games, including all four Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff games.
“When you’re competing for a position you try to persevere. You work hard and make the best of your opportunities, and I thought Brady and I pushed each other,” said Reiter, a Hjelle roommate. “We talked a lot, but I never once got an indication from him that he wanted to leave.
“In practice last season, Aaron Crandall was right there with us. He was in a tough spot as the third goalie, knowing that he probably wouldn’t play, but he’s very capable and has great technique. I know he will be pushing me for playing time.”
Reiter’s marks in 2009-10 were 13-10 with a .912 save percentage and 2.36 goals-against average.
Crandall, 20, played two seasons in the U.S. Hockey League after three years at St. Thomas Academy. His younger, Justin, is a UMD recruit at forward for 2011-12. Also in UMD’s 2011-12 freshman recruiting class is goalie Matt McNeely Burnsville, Minn., who is with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., playing with the U17 team in 2009-10. In looking for a third goal for next season, Sandelin said he may hold tryouts in the fall from among UMD students.
Also, UMD has chosen defenseman Mike Montgomery of Lino Lakes, Minn., as captain for 2010-11 as a senior. Assistant captains are junior forwards Jack Connolly of Duluth and Mike Connolly of Calgary, Alberta.
Sandelin said the open position of assistant coach was posted on UMD’s website Monday and will be listed for two weeks. Two or three candidates will then be interviewed by a search committee the first week of June. Assistant Steve Rohlik has taken the position of associate head coach at Ohio State.