Gophers men’s hockey set to play national team

Minnesota has one U-18 alum on its current roster in Ryan Collins.

Sophomore forward Connor Reilly celebrates with teammate Ryan Collins after scoring a goal during the Gopher Men's Hockey game against St. Cloud State University on Saturday, Nov. 1 at Mariucci Arena.

Liam James Doyle

Sophomore forward Connor Reilly celebrates with teammate Ryan Collins after scoring a goal during the Gopher Men’s Hockey game against St. Cloud State University on Saturday, Nov. 1 at Mariucci Arena.

Drew Cove

No. 9 Minnesota will see some soon-to-be familiar faces when it plays against the U.S. Under-18 team at Mariucci Arena Friday.

Nate Knoepke and Scott Reedy of the U-18 team are currently committed to play for the University of Minnesota. Through nine games played, Knoepke has two points, and Reedy has four points.

Minnesota junior defenseman Ryan Collins — another tie to the team — played in over 50 games with the U-17 and U-18 teams.

“Being able to put on the USA sweater and represent your country [was special to me],” Collins said.

Collins played 18 games with the U-17 club in the 2012-2013 season and 33 games with the U-18 team in 2013-2014. Collins won gold with the U-18 squad at the 2014 IIHF Under-18 World Championships in Finland.

He said he found one simple takeaway from that team.

“A quote on the door walking into the rink said ‘Take responsibility for your own development,’” Collins said. “That was something they taught us each and every day.”

Former Minnesota forward Hudson Fasching may be under the bright lights of the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres, but he said he still remembers his U-18 team days.

Fasching, like Collins, said that being on the team is bigger than just playing with any other group of guys.

“Being able to represent your country is one of the things that I really hold dear to me,” Fasching said. “It’s such a cool experience to be able to do that.”

Fasching had 34 points in his first season with the National Team Development Program and 36 points in his second season.

The Sabres forward also said that physical development at the NTDP was key in preparing him for the college and pro game. The program introduces the concept of living like a hockey player with nutrition, lifting and on-ice practice.

Minnesota has played the Under-18 Team every other year since 2007. The National Development Program has graduated many Gophers over the years such as Jordan Schroeder, Phil Kessel and Travis Boyd.

The Gophers come into this game Friday with a positive start of 2-0-0, but to head coach Don Lucia, Minnesota isn’t perfect yet.

“We’re still trying to get our team,” Lucia said. “We’ve only played two games. [Friday’s game] is the only game we have this weekend. We’re going to try to keep some continuity for our guys as well.”