Gardiner leaves Gophers to play in USHL

Minnesota freshman forward Max Gardiner will not be back with the Gophers next fall, choosing to leave the program to play junior hockey in the United States Hockey League with the Dubuque Fighting Saints.

Dubuque obtained Gardiner’s rights in this past Monday’s USHL Entry Draft.

“We had a good conversation and he was disappointed in the ice time he received last year and was concerned about playing time in the upcoming season,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said in a statement. “Leaving assures him of the ice time he is looking for. I am disappointed he is leaving, but I understand his decision and wish him all the best.”

“It’s just what’s best for me,” Gardiner said to

Drafted last June in the third round by the St. Louis Blues, Gardiner said the Blues would “support it either way if I stayed or not.”

Gardiner posted a goal and two assists last year in 17 games.

Gardiner’s older brother, Jake, left Wisconsin earlier this offseason to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs and give up his senior year with the Badgers.