University of Minnesota head coach Don Lucia and players Brady Skjei (New York Rangers draft pick) and Hudson Fasching (Los Angeles Kings) will be available for tonight's Mariucci Classic consolation game against RPI.
Minnesota released the news Saturday afternoon.
Update: Coach Lucia will be behind the bench tonight with Hudson Fasching and Brady Skjei expected to play after #USAWJC.— Gopher Hockey (@GopherHockey) January 4, 2014
Lucia, who has spent most of the last month away from the top-ranked Gophers to coach Team USA at the World Juniors, is back early after the Americans were defeated Thursday morning by Russia in the quarterfinals.
Skjei, a sophomore defenseman, and Fasching, a freshman forward, were both members of the team that played in Malmo, Sweden. Skjei finished with an assist playing as a shutdown defenseman while Fasching had 4 points (2G-2A) in 5 games.
The trio were not expected to be available for Minnesota (12-2-3, 3-0-1-0 Big Ten) this weekend and even as soon as yesterday the team was not preparing to have them. That has changed. The Gophers, playing in the consolation game after tying Colgate 2-2 and losing in a shootout, had just 5 defensemen Friday night.
There is always the possibility of jet lag coming off of traveling halfway across the world, but having reinforcements is certainly helpful. It's one thing Associate Head Coach Mike Guentzel, who has been in charge in Lucia's absence, is fine with.
"I hope so," said Guentzel following the Colgate game. "Anytime you're a coach you want to put your best players on the rink and give yourself the best chance and that's our goal."
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Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation and College Hockey News. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate