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SCSU's Josh Luedtke had one thing on his mind after suffering season-opening concussion

Sophomore from Minnetonka suffered a concussion on a hit in a game against St. Thomas on Oct. 1. He returned to play in his first game Saturday at Denver

Minnesota Duluth faces St. Cloud State in final conference series of the season
St. Cloud State defenseman Josh Luedtke (21) skates with the puck against Minnesota Duluth forward Quinn Olson (15) on Friday, March 4, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Josh Luedtke remembers his first shift of the game, but the next thing he remembers is waking up in an ambulance.

Luedtke's head hit the Plexiglass on a legal hit in a game against St. Thomas on Oct. 1 and had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher. Some of what he said to the people attending to him can make him laugh now.

"I kept asking the paramedics 'who hit me?' and (said) that I had a game the next day and I needed to get back home so I could play again, which is pretty funny," Luedtke said. "I guess the only thing on my mind at the time was the next game and getting ready to play hockey."

His parents (Angie and Joel) and his older brother (Mason) were at the game.

"They were able to meet me at the hospital and, obviously, it was pretty scary," Luedtke said. "When you wake up in a completely different place than where you were last, you get pretty thrown off. I was a little confused.

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"I just wanted to get back on the ice right away, which, obviously, I couldn't do."

21_JOSHLUEDTKE.jpg
Josh Luedtke
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Amazingly, after some tests, Luedtke went home later that night and then would spend a week at his parents' home recuperating.

Of course, with concussions, there is protocol in place to protect the players from doing too much too soon. Luedtke was finally cleared for contact late last week and ended up playing against Denver on Saturday, Nov. 5. Luedtke ended up playing 14 minutes, 27 seconds over 14 shifts in a 3-2 loss to Denver.

"We decided that we only wanted him to play one game on the weekend and ease him in a little bit," Huskies coach Brett Larson said. "But gosh, he jumped in and looked like he'd been playing every game. He defended well and his speed was a factor in the game. Having him back is a big shot in the arm for us."

Freshman defenseman played the last 2 seasons for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League.

"It was super awesome and I was excited to be able to join the guys again," said Luedtke, a sophomore defenseman from Minnetonka. "Taking the ice, I just felt so thankful that I was able to play hockey again. It was, obviously, a scary hit. I had to take time to heal ... but I was just so happy to be skating again and playing with the guys."

Luedtke is expected to play this weekend for the fourth-ranked Huskies (8-2), who play host to No. 17 Western Michigan (7-4) this weekend at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. The teams play at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday (both on FOX 9+).

Hearing from lots of people, the player who checked him

Luedtke is thought so highly of in the St. Cloud State locker room that he received some votes to be a captain on this season's team, which is unusual for an underclassman. He was captain for the Des Moines Buccaneers in his last season of junior hockey in the United States Hockey League. And he was the captain of the Minnetonka High School team when he was a senior.

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After people found out that Luedtke was recovering, he said that he received a barrage of get well wishes.

"It was extremely generous of so many people to reach out," Luedtke said. "A lot of people sending their thoughts and prayers. I'm just so blessed to have so many people connect with me and my family. I was super appreciative of everyone who reached out. I'm really thankful for that."

Among the people who reached out included St. Thomas freshman forward Josh Eernisse, who was the player who checked him into the boards.

"He did reach out, which I really appreciated," Luedtke said. "He sent me a nice message to make sure I was OK."

To show you how small the hockey world is, Luedtke and Eernisse have worked out together during the offseason. Luedtke said that there was nothing dirty about the hit.

"It was just an unlucky hit," Luedtke said. "It was a clean hit, but my head just hit the glass in an unfortunate way. It was one of those freak accidents that are a part of hockey. It was unfortunate and I'm just glad to be better now."

The Huskies are, of course, glad he is feeling better and Luedtke is an important player in their lineup. He had nine points and tied for the team lead in plus/minus (plus-17) in 33 games last season.

"He's an unbelievable teammate and he brings leadership qualities," said Larson of Luedtke, who earned AHCA All-American Scholar honors last season. "The guys in the (locker) room really respect him because his work ethic in the weight room and away from the rink is off the charts and it is on the rink as well.

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"In games, he can defend against top lines, he can jump in a play and help create offense. He's great on the penalty kill. He's a guy you can use in almost any situation."

Being able to breathe properly

Luedtke was excited to start this season because he had a good offseason of preparation. Not only was he in good shape, but he also got some help in June for a problem.

"My endurance, I wanted to be able to stay out there as long as I can and be able to reset on the bench and be able to hop back out there and be ready," he said. "One of the things that actually helped with that was I was able to have surgery on my tonsils, which helped a lot with my respiratory breathing a lot.

"I was actually out for two weeks with my tonsil surgery. I think that was super helpful. I used to snore and now I don't snore," he said. "I've been able to sleep better and there's a night and day difference in how I was able to breathe better. They said my tonsils were one of the biggest pair they'd ever seen. Good thing I got those suckers out."

Once he got done recovering from surgery, Luedtke was able to work on some other areas that he felt like he needed to improve upon.

"I just wanted to come into this year and play with more confidence," he said. "I think every year under your belt, you are more comfortable with the systems or making certain plays. You just know a lot more of what college hockey is like.

"Offensively, one thing I wanted to work on was being able to shoot the puck more on net and find more sticks in front of the net, create some more offense," said Luedtke, who had 44 shots on goal as a freshman. "Defensively, I wanted to work on my box outs and my compete down low, to break the puck out as quick as we can and spend as little time in our end as possible."

And he is grateful to be back on the ice and working on everything.

READ MORE ST. CLOUD STATE HUSKIES COVERAGE:
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Senior from Finland is up for National Player of the Month
Freshman forward from Calgary picked up his first college goal last weekend against Minnesota Duluth.
Huskies will be looking to rebound this weekend with a home NCHC series against Miami
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Mick Hatten is a reporter and editor for Forum News Service and helps manage TheRinkLive.com, a website dedicated to hockey. He began working for Forum Communications in November 2018 and has covered St. Cloud State University hockey since 2010. A graduate of St. Cloud State, he has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and has been a youth hockey coach since 2014. mhatten@forumcomm.com
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