Two Gophers hope to make U.S. team coached by their UM coach

Two Minnesota players are hoping to make the United States team that will be led by their Gophers coach.

MINNEAPOLIS -- University of Minnesota defenseman Brady Skjei came so close to making the United States roster for last year's World Junior tournament. He's hoping the second time around will be the charm.

Skjei and Gophers teammate Hudson Fasching were both named to the preliminary roster for Team USA. The team's camp begins Dec. 15, with practices starting on the 19th. Both Skjei and Fasching will have to wait until Dec. 23 to find out if they made the roster.

The man in charge of narrowing down that list is Gophers head coach Don Lucia, who will serve as the coach for the United States in this year's tournament. The event takes place in Angelholm, Sweden, from Dec. 26-Jan. 5.

"I think we have a good group," Lucia said Wednesday. "We're still evaluating. We may add another player or two after this weekend, but we're excited about our group. I thought we had a good summer. We improved a lot during the course of the camp."

Skjei, a sophomore defenseman, also made the preliminary roster as a freshman last year, along with fellow freshman Mike Reilly. While Reilly made the cut, Skjei did not.

With a strong start to his sophomore campaign, Skjei hopes he can crack this year's roster.

"It's an honor. It's a team I've always wanted to play on," Skjei said. "I came up a little short last year, so hopefully this year can be a little different. It should be a fun tournament if I make it."

Fasching is currently third on the Gophers in scoring with 14 points in 14 games, tops among all Minnesota freshmen. His six goals are tied for second on the team,

The 6-foot-2, 207-pound freshman from Edina, Minn., has been a big body in front of the net for the Gophers and has been just one of many bright spots during Minnesota's early success. He'll have a chance to add to his impressive freshman season with a spot on the Team USA roster.

"Obviously Hudson, the type of first half he's had from an offensive standpoint, I thought when we came out of camp in Lake Placid that he kind of put himself in a really good position this summer," Lucia said. "He continued to elevate his play during the course of the fall."

Lucia gets to see his Gophers players up close, but he has a number of assistants and other outside help evaluating talent across the country. He will also be traveling to Ann Arbor, Mich., to watch the Wolverines host the U18 team on Thursday night before returning for his own weekend series against Michigan State.

Just because Lucia coaches Fasching and Skjei doesn't mean they'll have any easier -- or more difficult -- of a time making the roster.

"I don't know if it's more difficult or not. I'm not the only one who's watched them," Lucia said. "There's a lot of good players. Just because you don't get picked this year or don't make the final team doesn't mean you're not a good player. Just given the talent pool we have this year and how the proper fit is going to be, that's part of the whole evaluation process."

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