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Sturm lives NHL dream before heading back to campus

Rookie forward will have two NHL games under his belt when he returns to Clarkson University next week

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- Nico Sturm is going to have some stories to tell when he returns to Potsdam, New York next week. 

Less than a week removed from his final game as a collegian, Sturm achieved a lifelong dream on Thursday night by making his NHL debut against the Boston Bruins. He'll play again in Dallas on Saturday, meet with coaches and staff early next week then head back to Clarkson University, where he's set to finish out the semester.

The soon-to-be 24-year-old wants to finish his degree in Financial Information and Analysis, but chances are, there will be a whole group of former teammates with plenty of questions they need answered. 

Just a few days ago, Sturm was on the ice in the NCAA Tournament against Notre Dame. On Thursday, Sturm lined up opposite some of the best players in the world. 

Video: Nico Sturm takes solo lap

"Once I'm back on campus and everything is going to settle in and I realized what happened," Sturm said, "I'm probably going to be a little bit overwhelmed. But for now, you can't get star-struck being out there against the best players in the world. I just tried to stick to my guns and I thought I did a pretty good job of that."

Sturm played 20 shifts and skated 13 minutes, 20 seconds on Thursday and didn't look out of place on any of them. 

With more than a half dozen family and friends in the stands to witness his debut, including his mom, dad and brother in from Germany, Sturm didn't find the scoresheet in his debut, but nearly scored a goal on his very first shift. 

Just how important was this game to his family? They left Nico's older brother, Dennis, behind in Germany because he was graduating from college this weekend.


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His mom Gaby, dad Klaus, as well as his younger brother Timo, are expected to head to Dallas to watch Nico play in game No. 2 on Saturday against the Stars before heading back to Germany.

None of this was lost on Nico, as well-spoken as somebody can be who speaks English as a second language.

"Oh gosh darn. I didn't think of that," Sturm said, with a slight smile crossing his face.

Dennis, graduating with a degree in media and communications, plays semi-pro hockey back home, so he likely understands the importance of Nico's NHL debut. 

"A lot of guys that play that level of hockey, they go to work, have families," Sturm said. "You cant make a living off of it, but he still loves the game."

That passion for the sport was clearly transmitted to the middle of the Sturm boys.
 
There wasn't much glitter to his game, no fancy moves or highlight-reel plays. But there was a steady calmness to his demeanor and a willingness to go to the front of the net and use his 6-foot-3 frame near the blue paint. 

Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame vs. Boston

"He looked like he wanted to play and that the game actually meant something to him," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, who was disappointed with his team's effort in the 3-0 loss. "He played hard and when you play hard your shift lengths are like that."

Short shifts was something Sturm said was a priority for him. He didn't want to get caught on the ice against a Patrice Bergeron or a David Pastrnak and make someone else's highlight package. 

"You try and keep it simple and maybe not to get scored on," Sturm said of his game plan. "But as we move forward and the confidence grows a little bit, instead of just thinking defense-defense, you're gonna get more confidence to make offensive plays and it's gonna come."

After his semester at Clarkson is finished, Sturm said he will be five or six classes short of finishing his degree, something he said is very important to him.

After his playing career is over, Sturm said he'd like to get into management and stay in the game. There was some irony to a player talking about his post-career just minutes after making his NHL debut, but there's a maturity with Sturm that makes it seem almost certain that he'll one day accomplish it.

For now, he'll focus on his second game, enjoying his college team's ECAC championship and finishing up his school work before a summer full of work begins. 

He plans on spending a bulk of it in Minnesota, where his first taste of the NHL has made him hungry for more.

"My goal is to make the team next year and I'm gonna work with the strength coaches here and the coaches," Sturm said. "I think Sunday, Monday, we're gonna work out a plan for me and what is best. But I have a full commitment here, I want to make the team and play in the NHL next year."


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