U.S. Under-20 National Team snags four Gophers to compete in international play

Minnesota will be without four pivotal skaters for a tournament and non-conference series.

Brian Deutsch

Four members of the Minnesota men’s hockey team earned roster spots on the U.S. Under-20 National Team earlier this week.

Three sophomore forwards, Ryan Flynn, Mike Carman and Kyle Okposo, along with freshman defenseman Cade Fairchild, made the team from Minnesota while the Western Collegiate Hockey Association as a whole has nine roster spots locked up.

“I’m happy for all four of those four guys that they’re getting an opportunity to play,” coach Don Lucia said. “Getting a chance to play for your country is a tremendous opportunity.”

This year will mark the first appearance in the tournament by Flynn and Fairchild. Carman and Okposo both played on last year’s squad that won the bronze medal.

Carman, who has yet to dress this year for Minnesota due to academic ineligibility, is more than ready to get back on the ice.

“I’m excited about it. It’s been a while since I’ve been on the ice playing some games,” Carman said. “I’m looking forward to that and getting a chance to compete with the U.S. once again.”

The foursome will miss the Dodge Holiday Classic in December as well as the Wayne State series, which will give other players a chance to make a bigger impact in some areas for the Gophers, according to Lucia.

“It’s an opportunity for guys to play on the power play that haven’t and (they’ll) have an increased load over a four-game period,” Lucia said of what could possibly be a very thin Gophers roster. “The guys that are here, their roles will expand and hopefully that will get them ready for the second half of the WCHA season.”

Also of note, Gophers recruit and Prior Lake native Jordan Schroeder earned a roster spot on this year’s squad.

Weekly awards recap

The Wisconsin Badgers seem to be earning it in pairs this week.

Not only did Wisconsin sweep St. Cloud State last weekend with wins of 3-2 and 4-3, but the team also garnered two conference awards for its effort.

Sophomore forward Blake Geoffrion earned the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week after notching four points during the weekend.

Geoffrion’s performance has come as a pleasant surprise to Badgers coach Mike Eaves as the Brentwood, Tenn. native is praised as much for his defensive skills as his prowess on offense.

“I think it’s interesting that now (Blake’s) being productive on an offensive scale when really he’s been asked to play against the other team’s best line and shut them down,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “He’s looking forward to that challenge, and so he’s not worried about getting points, and yet they’re coming.”

The Badgers also took home the WCHA Rookie of the Week award, which was given to freshman defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

The Arden Hills, Minn., native recorded an assist on both the game-tying and game-winning goals of Friday night’s contest.

Meanwhile, North Dakota senior net-minder Jean-Philippe Lamoureux earned the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Lamoureux gave up just two goals all weekend as the Sioux split with Denver.

Big Ten connection

It appears that Michigan’s kryptonite may be playing other Big Ten schools this season.

Michigan (14-2-0, 9-1-0 CCHA) lost to Minnesota 4-3 at the Ice Breaker Invitational earlier this year before coming into this weekend on a 12-game winning streak that included a win over both the Gophers and fellow Big Ten competitor Wisconsin.

But the ever-unlikely Ohio State Buckeyes derailed the Wolverines’ streak with a 3-2 win that also gave Michigan its first conference loss of the year.

“Any time you lose a game, you have to regroup and refocus,” Wolverines coach Red Berenson said. “I think sometimes when teams are winning like we have been winning, and there are people telling us how good we are, that starts to go to our heads.”