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Gophers Hockey: Fasching, Collins could return to Minnesota lineup Saturday

There is no guarantee the two will play, but both will be options when they come back Saturday.

Minnesota freshman D Ryan Collins, seen here after being drafted by Columbus in the 2014 NHL Draft
Minnesota freshman D Ryan Collins, seen here after being drafted by Columbus in the 2014 NHL Draft
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

MINNEAPOLIS- Neither the University of Minnesota nor Team USA's U-20 team got the result it wanted Friday, however, it may mean that sophomore forward Hudson Fasching and freshman defenseman Ryan Collins will return to the Gophers earlier than expected.

Fasching (Buffalo Sabres draft pick) and Collins (Columbus Blue Jackets) both missed Friday's 3-2 loss to Merrimack playing in the World Junior Championships in Montreal. Their efforts ended earlier this afternoon when the Americans fell by the same score to Russia in the WJC quarterfinals.

It's the second straight year Team USA finished second in its Group only to miss out on an extra two games.

Fasching, named one of Team USA's three best players in the tournament along with Denver defenseman Will Butcher and Michigan forward Dylan Larkin, and Collins coming home early does mean that there is a chance the two will play in Saturday night's Mariucci Classic consolation game, according to Gophers head coach Don Lucia.

"Depending upon when they get back and if they get back in time, I think that's an option for them to get back in our lineup tomorrow," he said.

Both are expected to return around noon Saturday.

Leon Bristedt, the third Gopher in the World Juniors, remains unavailable. The freshman forward's Team Sweden defeated defending gold medalist Finland 6-3 Friday and will play the Russians tomorrow.

In their absence, Lucia was happy with how several players stepped up to fill a void. Junior forward A.J. Michaelson took advantage of an opportunity on the third line and Minnesota's head coach also mentioned the play of freshmen defensemen Jack Glover (Winnipeg Jets) and Steve Johnson (Los Angeles Kings)

"I thought A.J. had a good game tonight. He was noticeable. I thought he had energy," said Lucia. "His play helped lead to the first goal so he was somebody I thought did a really good job."

Minnesota plays RIT Saturday at 7:00 p.m. at Mariucci Arena. The game will not be televised, but can be heard on 1500 ESPN.

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Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter --