Gophers' Pohl has emergency surgery after hitting head on boards

Minnesota Gophers senior forward Tom Pohl was transferred out of the intensive care unit but still listed in fair condition Tuesday after having surgery Sunday night to stabilize a skull fracture and stop bleeding on his brain.

Pohl was injured Sunday when his head hit the boards in front of the Minnesota bench during the second period of the Gophers' 3-2 double-overtime men's hockey victory at Minnesota State-Mankato.

Pohl had been knocked off his feet on a hit from Minnesota State-Mankato's Jason Wiley, who also elbowed Pohl in the head. As Pohl fell, his helmet flew off, leaving his head exposed as it made contact with the edge of the boards.

He fell face-first onto the ice, and was unconscious, bleeding from his nose and with a large gash on his forehead. The game was delayed 13 minutes as he was immobilized and wheeled off the ice on a gurney.

Pohl, 23, was airlifted to St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester, about 90 minutes' drive away. Wiley was given a major penalty and ejected from the game.

Minnesota coach Don Lucia drove to visit Pohl on Monday, not knowing what to expect. He found his player with eyes swollen shut and head in bandages; Pohl, however, wanted to know the outcome of the game.

"He was happy that we won," Lucia told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "He was concerned about that."

On Tuesday, Lucia said the biggest worry was there might be more bleeding on the brain, but that has not happened, according to the Pioneer Press.

The hope, in fact, is that Pohl would be released in the next "three to four days," Lucia told the Pioneer Press, and if the Gophers receive a berth in the NCAA tournament, Pohl will have improved enough to accompany the team to the first-round game March 28.

Pohl is a member of a prominent Minnesota hockey family. His father, Jim, is a former coach at Red Wing (Minn.) High School. His brother, John, is a former Gophers All-American and now plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs. His sister-in-law is Krissy Wendell, also a former Gophers All-American, as well as a former Olympian and women's hockey player of the year.

John Pohl was given permission by the Maple Leafs to leave the team and flew to Rochester to join his brother.

"Basically, they've done the surgery and if things go the way they're supposed to, Tom will improve daily," Jim Pohl told the Red Wing (Minn.) Republican Eagle on Monday. "It's all positive right now. It's positive in the sense that he's with us and they feel they successfully completed the surgery."

In a statement, Minnesota State-Mankato athletic director Kevin Buisman said: "... We want to express our deepest care and concern for Tom Pohl and his family. They will be in our thoughts and prayers as we continue to monitor his medical progress, and we want to extend our best wishes for a complete and full recovery."

WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said Tuesday, "Our concerns are very high, and we hope for the best for Tom and his whole family."

Tom Pohl is not as gifted as his older brother John, but accepted his role on the team as a fourth-liner and penalty-killer, and is noted for his attitude and energy.

"Tommy is a positive kid and a tremendous student, everything you want in a student-athlete," Lucia said in the Pioneer Press. "I've told kids to stay close to Tommy, because some day you're going to be working for him."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.