Young Guns Test Skills On National Stage
Incoming Gophers hope to impress USA Hockey: Minnesota's head coach and five current or about-to-be Gophers will be on the roster at the National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid August 3-10. Of the 40 skaters, a total of 29 players are either in college or have committed to an NCAA program. The other 11 players are Americans playing in the Canadian Hockey League.
Gophers ice boss Don Lucia will serve as head coach. St. Cloud State head coach Bob Motzko will be one of his three assistants.
The five current or incoming Gophers include sophomore-to-be defenseman Brady Skjei and four committed freshmen:
Taylor Cammarata (F)
Hudson Fasching (F)
Mike Brodzinski (D)
Tommy Vannelli (D)
Also of interest: forward Jake Guentzel – youngest of UM Associate Head Coach Mike Guentzel's three sons – is on the roster. He's committed to Nebraska-Omaha.
The players will be looking to impress team brass and earn spots on the U.S. National Junior Team that will play in the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Malmo, Sweden. Team USA hopes to defend the gold medal it won in January in Ufa, Russia. One of the top players on that team, Wisconsin's Nic Kerdiles, will also be trying out again in Lake Placid.
Team USA operates a robust junior program that includes U-18 and U-17 teams whose members routinely wind up on the rosters of NCAA Division I programs.
Tournament Name Game: We'll know soon what the new all-Minnesota Division I tournament set for next January will be called. Fan voting has been underway and a panel of coaches that includes Lucia will soon decide the matter.
Fans voting online had the choice of eight possible names:
Herb Brooks Classic
The Hot Dish
Minnesota College Hockey Classic
Northern Lights Cup
Star of the North Classic
10,000 Lakes Classic
North Star Classic/Cup
Of the eight, I see The Hot Dish and Taconite Cup as non-starters. Any of the other five would be solid. I'm on record for North Star Classic although I really like the idea of naming it after Herb Brooks, too.
Some have wondered why John Mariucci's name is not in the field. I suspect it's simply that "Maroosh" is so closely identified with Gophers hockey that naming this particular tournament after him would annoy some of the other schools. Brooks gets in there because, with head coaching positions at both Minnesota and St. Cloud State as well as the North Stars and the 1980 Team USA Olympic gold medal, he's a statewide phenomenon.
Whatever it's called, the new tournament will face off Jan. 24-25 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The inaugural field will include the Gophers, UM-D, St. Cloud State and Minnesota State-Mankato. The state's fifth Division I program, Bemidji State, will replace one of the others for the 2015 tournament.
(Photo courtesy: USA Hockey)