Irmen another standout Gophers hockey recruit

Danny Irmen, a North Dakota native and the Clark Cup MVP, has all the tools to make an immediate impact for the national champion Gophers hockey team, starting in the 2003-2004 season. One NHL scout even says he might just be the best player to come out of the USHL this season.

The list of the USHL standouts who have committed to the back-to-back national champion Minnesota Gophers hockey team is a who's who of some the best the USHL has to offer.

One of those players who has the ability to make an immediate impact for the Gophers is Danny Irmen, a Grand Forks, N.D., native who was MVP of the Clark Cup for the Lincoln Stars.

Irmen, who teamed with USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year and fellow Gophers recruit Ryan Potulny to lead the Stars to the Clark Cup, the North American Junior A national title, was the leading playoff goal scorer with eight, including two in the Stars' decisive game four win over the River City Lancers this spring.

Irmen was also second in playoff points (14) to Potulny and finished the regular season with 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists) in 45 games. He missed 15 games earlier in the season because of a broken arm suffered in a fight against River City's Jason Dest, who has signed to play for the Michigan Wolverines next season. The feisty Irmen is a sparkplug who will provide the type of scrappy play Gophers fans are accustomed to.

"He's just so competitive," said Stars coach and GM Steve Johnson in USA Junior Hockey Magazine. "The edge that he plays with and the way he battles, it really suits the playoffs. His style of play is what it takes to win."

Irmen has attracted the attention of NHL scouts, and was ranked No. 76 among North American players by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau in its final report heading into this month's NHL entry draft.

While Potulny earned honors as top player during the regular season, one scout told USA Junior Hockey Magazine that "Irmen is probably the best all-around player in the USHL."

Considering the number of talented players in the league, Irmen could be quite a catch for the Gophers. In fact, Irmen already is thinking about what most Gophers fans know is a realistic possibility next season – a third-straight national title.

"There's pressure, but there's lots of excitement," said Irmen about joining a talented Gophers team next season. "They've won back-to-back national championships and are going for their third, and people say we have a chance of doing it."

With players like Irmen and Potulny joining the team, those chances are going to get a heck of a lot better.

USHL-MINNESOTA CONNECTION

Below is a list of USHL players who have committed to play for the Minnesota Gophers:

Derek Peltier, Cedar Rapids Roughriders

Jake Taylor, Green Bay Gamblers

Ben Gordan, Lincoln Stars

Ryan Potulny, Lincoln Stars

Brent Borgen, Lincoln Stars

Danny Irmen, Lincoln Stars

Mike Howe, River City Lancers

Mike Vannelli, Sioux Falls Stampede

Kellen Briggs, Sioux Falls Stampede

Matt Krumrie covers Gophers hockey for GoldenSports.net. He can be reached at gopherhockeyinsider@yahoo.com

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