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WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Rare Indiana recruit working out well for UND

Not many college coaches venture to Indiana to recruit. Even so, UND coach Brian Idalski and his staff didn't have many worries about offering a scholarship to a defenseman from Fort Wayne named Gracen Hirschy. "She was extremely solid when we sa...

Gracen Hirschy

Not many college coaches venture to Indiana to recruit.

Even so, UND coach Brian Idalski and his staff didn't have many worries about offering a scholarship to a defenseman from Fort Wayne named Gracen Hirschy.

"She was extremely solid when we saw her," Idalski said. "And she continues to improve."

Hirschy, the only Division I player from the state of Indiana, is off to an outstanding start in her rookie season, giving UND a big-time scoring threat from the blue line that the program has lacked for most years of its existence.

With one series left before Christmas break, Hirschy has nine points in 16 games for UND. She's UND's top defenseman scorer and only one rookie blue liner in the nation has more points than her.

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Hirschy also has a plus-15 rating, best on the team. She has not registered a minus rating in any game yet this season.

"Gracen is one of those kids who can create offense from the blue line," Idalski said. "She's very aggressive jumping in the play. Really, the thing about her that's really special is that she's one of the few 'D' that can beat a player one-on-one with a toe drag. Quite honestly, her hands are probably better than about half of our forwards. That's pretty rare.

"Gracen continues to develop in practice. As she continues to improve, she's going to be a very special player for us."

Early exposure

Hirschy said her family had season tickets to the Fort Wayne Komets, a minor league team that has switched leagues a few times in the last decade.

When she was 3 years old, her parents put her on skates. Soon after that, she started playing boys hockey.

"The people that were around -- the coaches and my teammates -- were really supportive," she said.

As a freshman in high school, she started playing for a boarding school in Culver, Ind., about an hour and a half drive from her hometown. That was her first experience playing girls hockey.

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Hirschy eventually caught the eye of several college recruiters. She chose UND over Northeastern, Boston College and Boston University.

"I just fell in love with it the first time I came here," Hirschy said of UND. "It was my first college visit, which was probably a mistake. You see the Ralph and then you compare everything else to it, and nothing compares. It was a pretty easy decision."

Hirschy said she has enjoyed her freshman season so far. UND holds a 10-4-2 overall record and is ranked in the top five nationally.

Idalski said that he's very pleased with Hirschy's start, but he thinks the best is yet to come.

"Quite frankly, I think she has potential to be a future All-American defenseman," he said. "Her instincts are excellent.

"She was a special kid when we recruited her. We knew she had the potential to be special."

Schlossman reports on sports. Call him at (701) 780-1129, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1129 or send e-mail to bschlossman@gfherald.com .

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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