Gophers head east for U.S. National tryouts

Okposo and Carman played on the 2007 squad that finished third in last year’s World Juniors.

Nick Gerhardt

Members of the University’s hockey teams will invade the state of New York throughout August to take part in USA Hockey tryouts for slots on the national team’s roster.

The men’s hockey team will send six athletes to Lake Placid, N.Y., on Aug. 3 through 11 to compete in the 2007 National Junior Evaluation Camp, while four women’s hockey players will take part in the 2007 USA Women’s National Festival Aug. 14 through 21.

The six participants from the men’s team include sophomores Kyle Okposo, Mike Carman, Ryan Flynn and David Fischer and incoming players Cade Fairchild and Patrick White.

“It’s always nice to put the U.S. on your chest,” Okposo said.

The Gophers contingent will fight against 39 other players to win a spot on the 2008 USA Junior National squad that will travel to the Czech Republic in December to compete in the 2008 World Junior Championship.

Minnesota, with its six players, has the strongest school representation at the event.

“We’re always in the midst of recruiting great Minnesota talent,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said.

Fischer cited the trend of Minnesota players selected in the first round as another sign of hockey excellence.

“Minnesota hockey has been cropping some really good hockey players the last couple of years,” he said.

Okposo said playing at the camp is always a lot of fun because many of the players know each other from past years and it gives them the opportunity to reconnect.

“Everybody kind of already knows each other,” he said. “There are not too many strangers.”

All of the Gophers players making the trip have played on a national team at some point in their careers.

Okposo and Carman played on the 2007 U.S. National Junior squad, finishing third in last year’s World Juniors Championship in Sweden.

Flynn played on the United States under-18 team in 2006 and participated in the 2006 Junior Evaluation Camp.

Fischer also played in the 2006 Junior Evaluation Camp.

Fairchild and White played on the under-18 team that played earlier in the year.

In the week following the men’s camp, the Minnesota women’s hockey team will send some of its finest out east for similar competition on the ice.

Juniors Rachael Drazan and Gigi Marvin will travel to Lake Placid along with seniors Erica McKenzie and Anya Miller. Former Minnesota standout Natalie Darwitz will also play on the team.

“It’s a great experience and I felt lucky just to be invited,” Miller said.

Miller played in the event last summer and said adjusting to the international pace of play was a change she had to adapt to quickly.

“It’s really cool to play at that level, and it’s a lot quicker,” she said. “There were a couple of times out there when my head was spinning.”

Miller said the opportunity to play with her college teammates elicits a sense of pride while playing with and against some of the country’s top talent.

The Minnesota players will compete for one of the 22 open spots on the roster. During the week the participants will be divided into three different teams to help decide the under-22 national team.

“Wearing the USA is always a great experience,” Miller said.