Everything “hockey” is shrouded in red, white and blue these days – south of the 49th, of course.
That’s a pretty good collection of former WCHA players representing Uncle Sam in Vancouver. Ten were originally named and it’s a shame Paul Martin had to withdraw due to a broken arm that, after four months, hasn’t healed. He skated a bit with the Golden Gophers on Wednesday but couldn’t handle a stick and puck. Martin was also on the sidelines in Torino four years ago as an extra, just-in-case player. He deserves better luck.
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Martin left the U in 2003 with two national championship rings but no team awards. Amazing – no post season team awards, just the rings and a 2nd Team All-America honor. He deserves more.
We’re hoping he’ll join Doug Woog and me in the TV booth Saturday afternoon during the Gophers’ tilt against Colorado College.
Kyle Okposo also skated with the team this week and Don Lucia is hoping a few other Gophers alums will work out with the team next week as the NHLers stay loose during the Olympic break. Hoping, I’m sure, they’ll inspire the boys to a strong finish.
General Manager Brian Burke already had several Iraq war veterans visit Vancouver to inspire Team USA. Perhaps the players would also be inspired by a visit from the U-18 team that yanked a gold medal out from under Canadian noses north of the 49th last month in Saskatoon.
And how about David Backes? Nine years ago he was struggling to get noticed at Spring Lake Park High School. In 2003 Troy Jutting took a calculated chance and brought him to Minnesota State as a 19-year-old with two years of USHL experience. The same year the St. Louis Blues took a chance and drafted him in the second round. Poof. Now he’s an Olympian already with a game-winning goal and an assist in the first two games. A great competitor. Can’t wait to see Backes and Blues teammate (former Gopher) Erik Johnson against Canada Sunday night.
And, no, I haven’t forgotten about Phil Kessel, Ryan Malone or Zach Parise. We also shouldn’t forget about the triumvirate representing Minnesota on the women’s team: Natalie Darwitz, Gigi Marvin and Jenny Potter, who is now a four-time Olympian.
Saturday: Minnesota and Colorado College
Three To Watch:
Will the Cepis-Schroeder-Budish line come back to life after getting exactly zero points at Denver and skating a minus-4 as a line for the weekend?
Will freshman goalie Joe Howe (Plymouth, Minn.) be another goalie great for Coach Scott Owens, a former goalie himself?
Can the Gophers stop the No. 3 power play (23.8%) in the nation?