MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota defenseman Aaron Ness says he will skip his senior season and sign his pro contract with the New York Islanders.

Gophers coach Don Lucia released a statement on Wednesday saying Ness will be missed.

Lucia says Ness “was a terrific leader and you could count on him to be the hardest worker in practice and he competed hard in every game. At 20, he has a bright future ahead of him.”

Ness had two goals and 12 assists in 35 games this season for the Gophers, who were eliminated in the first round of the WCHA tournament.

He was a second-round pick of the Islanders in 2008 after starring in high school at Roseau.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (8)
  1. Mike Bruno says:

    Don has been a great coach for this team. The days of National Championships for the Gophers are well over because the caliber of player has risen to the stage of annual pluckiing from the NHL…..not sure how it would be fixed.

  2. Chuck says:

    Mike very solid post. Most of the D1 programs do not have to deal with this problem. As a recruiter you have to sign the best talent and deal with the possibilities of them leaving later. It is a fine line that the UofM hockey program does not know how to deal with. But you can have success doing it.

    Look at John Calipari for example. I know he has been investigated numerous times but he had the University of Memphis in the Championship game and the next year he had Kentucky as the number 1 overall team and a 1 seed in the tourney. Tough to accomplish but it can be done.

  3. Golden Laughter says:

    Lucia is a great coach? Do you watch the games? Or do you just listen to Woog’s senile rantings? Read some non-biased media, and you’ll read about how many pro scouts, etc., wonder how good Lucia can be to have so many players leave early, and it’s not always premier talents (Jim O’Brien, Kris Chucko, etc.). Lucia doesn’t seem to have a clue. He ignores the idiocy of his star players (Kessel, Okposo), overvalues certain guys (Guyer, Harrington), and never seems to make the right roster tweaks to get the team on track. Most of the defensemen he recruits are offensive minded, hence the reason they get exploited by teams like Anchorage. Of course, it happens, but he doesn’t seem to develop players well, either (which is part of the reason NHL teams come calling so early). Patrick White, who was a first round pick, is the most recent example, as he has made no noticeable improvement in four years. Frankly, I don’t know how Don won any titles, I feel the players won it in spite of him. As for the NHL plucking, what, you don’t think UND, BC, Wisconsin all deal with the same problem? Yet, every year, they manage to avoid embarrassing themselves when it comes crunch time. It’s time for Don to go.

  4. LUCIA's a goner says:

    Okposo’s leaving was pushed on by Mr. Garth (I think I rule the world) Snow… I have first hand knowledge, because I know Kyle’s mother. Kyle wanted to stay here, regardless Lucia has no idea how to let his best players play the way they should and correct G Laughter he always gets offensive minded defensemen who have no cajones to check anyone or play the body.

  5. IsawLouin63 says:

    They havnt had a good coach since Brad Buetow, and he refused to play politics. Get Pinball Wizard Blais in here now!

  6. Joe Mauer says:

    It’s hockey, nobody cares.

  7. John Sherman says:

    better yet just drop the hockey program and all the other sports in the state of losers college and professional so quit losing my tax money on scholarships

  8. Krist says:

    I have a very simple and logical idea. If you leave early for the pro’s in any sport and have played on a scholarship, you should have to pay back that scholarship. If you stay and actually get a degree you have earned the scholarship.

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