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Rivalry reversal as Cruz Lucius, once bound for the Gophers, picks Wisconsin instead

Committing to the Gophers alongside his older brother when they were 13 and 14, Cruz Lucius formally announced his change in plans this week, opting to head to Wisconsin instead.

Lucius Family.jpg
Cruz Lucius, left, along with his parents, Chuck and Tami, older brother Chaz and their dog Kobi.
Contributed / Lucius Family photo

GRANT, Minn. — If — as John Lennon once sang — life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans, then Cruz Lucius has done plenty of living in the past half-decade.

On Wednesday night, June 15, Lucius announced via Instagram that his college plans have hopped to the other side of the Border Battle, and the former Minnesota Gophers commit is headed to the Wisconsin Badgers for the coming season.

"It's a great college campus, great coaches and a great culture," Lucius told The Rink Live via text message. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity to grow as a player and a person."

The younger of the highly skilled hockey-playing Lucius brothers followed big brother Chaz’s lead and committed to Minnesota when the boys were 14 and 13, respectively. Chaz spent last season with the Gophers and put up 19 points in 24 games, but battled injuries that caused him to miss the final nine games of his freshman campaign.

Eighty-five of the top young hockey players in the world will gather in Buffalo for fitness testing and interviews prior to the 2022 NHL Draft, coming in July. Among that group are four who are committed to play for the Minnesota Gophers as soon as next season.

Roughly a month after the Gophers bowed out in the Frozen Four semifinals, Chaz had surgery to fix the lower leg injury that cut his college career short, and signed an entry-level contract with the Winnipeg Jets, who had picked him in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft.

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Around that same time Cruz, who had played for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in Michigan the past two seasons, announced that he was decommitting from the Gophers and reconsidering his college choices. There was speculation that he would end up at Michigan State, as he had played for new Spartans head coach Adam Nightingale with USA Hockey. Instead he chose another of the Gophers’ Big Ten rivals.

Cruz said that his older brother has been supportive of the decision to make his own way, even if this puts them on opposite sides of the Border Battle.

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Cruz also battled injuries last season, suffering a broken wrist that required surgery, but played in 33 games for USA Hockey with 14 goals and 11 assists. He also skated for Team USA at the U18 World Championships in the spring, posting eight points in six games.

He joins a Badgers program that won its first modern era Big Ten title in 2021, then dropped off sharply last season. Wisconsin was 10-24-3 overall, finishing fifth in the conference and bowing out in round one of the playoffs.

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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