Tommy Vannelli walks away from Gophers before hockey season


Weeks before the University of Minnesota men’s hockey team is set to open its 2013-14 season, first year defenseman Tommy Vannelli announced on Tuesday that he is leaving the Gophers.

The decision seems to have come in response to Vannelli’s ability to balance his academics and his commitment to the team.

“After a few weeks of trying to balance academics and athletics, Tommy made the decision this morning that college hockey was not the best route for him at this time,” Lucia said. “We accept his decision and will move on as a team.”

With his absence from the Golden Gophers roster, the squad is now left with seven defensemen to lead Minnesota into their first year in the Big Ten Hockey Conference.

Vannelli was expected to be a major contributor to the Gophers this season, especially on the offensive end.

A true freshmen, the young defender skipped junior hockey and enrolled directly into college for his freshman season.

A second round pick of the St. Louis Blues over the summer, Vannelli will likely take the route of the Western Hockey League and lose his collegiate eligibility. His WHL rights are owned by the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Canadian Hockey League.

If he intends to still play college hockey at some time in the next couple years, Vannelli may choose to go the USHL route and recommit to Minnesota or another institution, but that scenario is unlikely at this point.

It’s hard to say what a player’s impact would be at the Division-I college level without ever skating a shift, but the loss of Vannelli from the program is one that seems ill timed in comparison to most. It’s not very often that a player enrolls early in the summer after high school and leaves the university before the season starts.

With time, more information may come out about Vannelli making the decision to leave the Maroon and Gold. If it was a pure hockey decision, best of luck to him at the next level.

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