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Gopher Hockey Notebook: Summer Hockey Travels Edition

Several Minnesota players have represented their countries over the last couple weeks. That total includes eight current Gopher women's players going against each other in a series of games and two men's recruits standing out at the Ivan Hlinka tournament.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In the never-ending 52 weeks a year soccer schedule - seriously, the time between the Premier League ending and beginning anew is a week or two more than the how far away the NHL year is from beginning and that's a never-ending season - there are occasional breaks for international play. All domestic leagues shut down for a week or two. Players are released to their countries to play international friendlies or qualifying games for an upcoming tournament.

Hockey doesn't have this at the professional level short of every fourth year for the Olympics. College certainly doesn't. Players take off time and redshirt years if needed.

If there is a hockey equivalent of an international break, however, this might be the closest.

Over the first couple weeks in August several Gophers and players with verbal commitments to Minnesota have or will represent their countries. There's the red, white and blue of America; the red and white of Canada; heck, there's even a Tre Kronor in there for good measure.

Having several camps for  and international tournaments this time of year makes sense. Late July and early August, in the middle of an offseason, is the closest to shared down time anyone has on the schedule. Players are working to get in game shape while not being taken away from beginning to work with their team.

(Hockey isn't alone in going overseas this time of year. Minnesota men's basketball team is currently in Spain.)

Below is a recap of players participating over what is being dubbed an international break. In case you were wondering, opening night is 45 days away for the women, who begin play at Penn State, and under eight weeks from today from the men's first game.

U-20 National Junior Evaluation Camp

Sophomore defenseman Ryan Collins (Bloomington, MN/2014 2nd round Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick) was the only Gopher player participating at the August 1-8 NJEC in Lake Placid, New York. The camp featured 39 Americans trying to make Team USA for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships. Also there were teams from Sweden and Finland.

Collins, who was a member of Team USA's 2015 World Junior squad, survived the initial cut of six players and played in five games. As one of 4 returning players on the blue line, it's a good bet that the 19 year-old and US National Development Program alum represents his country for a second consecutive year. Team USA has finished fifth in each of the last two tournaments. That includes the 2014 team coached by Minnesota head coach Don Lucia.

The Gophers have had at least one player participate in the World Junior Championships every year since 1993.

The 2016 WJC will be played from December 26, 2015 to January 5, 2016 in Helsinki, Finland. Minnesota had 3 representatives - Collins, Hudson Fasching (USA) and Leon Bristedt (Sweden) - in the 2015 tournament, which was won by Canada.

USA Women's National Festival Camp

This past week Lake Placid hosted 83 players for the United States National Festival Camp, which included 7 current Minnesota players and 3 alumni. The large number of players are there to help select two different teams - a U-22 and U-18 squad - for an international series of games against Canada. Those three games are scheduled to be played in Lake Placid August 19-22.

Sophomore defenseman Sydney Baldwin, senior forward Hannah Brandt, junior forward Dani Cameranesi, senior defenseman Milica McMillen, sophomore forwards Kelly Panek and Cara Piazza, and redshirt junior defenseman Lee Stecklein are the current Gophers in camp. All except McMillen made the 23 person U-22 roster that will play the Canadians.

Brandt, Cameranesi and Stecklein were members of Team USA's gold-medal winning 2015 World Championships squad.

Alumni Megan Bozek (2009-2013/currently with Toronto Furies - CWHL), Gigi Marvin (2005-2009/no team) and Anne Schleper (2008-2012/no team) were also in camp.

In addition to the ten that have worn a Gopher sweater, six commits in camp made the 23 player U-18 team. The six are defenseman Emily Brown, goalie Alex Gulstene, defenseman Patti Marshall and forwards Taylor Wente, Alex Wolken and Grace Zumwinkle.

Canada's Camp Showcase

On the other side of the ice and US/Canada border, incoming freshman forward Sarah Potomak and senior goalie Amanda Leveille were among the players in Canada's showcase camp. Both players were named to Canada's team for the US-Canada series this week. Potomak, who captained the Canadian U-18 tournament team last January, is the youngest player on the roster.

Gopher recruits Lindsay Agnew and Amy Potomak were named to the U-18 team.

Ivan Hlinka Tournament

Several Minnesota commits were in Europe this past week participating in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.The tournament, which features U-18 players entering their draft year, takes place every August in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Incoming freshmen Tommy Novak and Brent Gates participated in the 2014 tournament while there are four Gopher commits in this year's edition.

A few have shined.

Swedish forward William Fallstrom (Djurgarden/ 2017-18) scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period Friday in a 2-1 semifinal win against Finland. Fallstrom was able to redirect a puck shot past Finnish goalie Severi Isokangas for his second goal of the tournament. Sweden then withstood a late charge to hold off Finland and advance to the championship, where the Swedes fell to Canada 7-3. Fallstrom did have a goal and an assist, however.

Fallstrom tied for the Swedish team lead with six points (3G-3A) in five games. Along with linemate Alex Nylander, the 17 year-old utilizes his speed and teammates well. From the little I watched, I was also impressed with his ability to get into traffic and the dirty areas of the ice down low.

Here's an earlier goal against Switzerland:

fallstrom goal gif

He also set up this goal against the Czech Republic. (s/t to Chris Dilks for the GIFs)

sweden hlinka goal

Historically the Canadians have dominated the tournament, having won the past 8 tournaments. While the United States normally sends a team comprised of USHLers and players outside the US National Development Program - the U-18 tournament on the other hand is almost exclusively USNDTP players - the Canadian team is comprised of its A squad; its top players not hindered by CHL playoffs.

Speaking of the US, Minnesota commit Casey Mittelstadt ended up being one of the point leaders at the Hlinka Memorial Tournament. The Eden Prairie (MN-HS) junior forward finished with 7 points (3G-4A) in 4 games as the Americans finished fifth in the 8 team tournament after dropping its first two games to Finland and Russia.

Two other players which have committed to the Gophers, Garrett Wait (Edina HS/expected to come in for 2016-17) and Sam Rossini (Waterloo - USHL/2016-17), also wore the red, white and blue. Wait was held scoreless while Rossini, who served as an alternate captain, had an assist.


U-17 5 Nations Tounament

Lastly, 1999-born Minnesota commit Brannon McManus (Shattuck-St. Mary's/Omaha Lancers - USHL) finished the 5 Nations tournament in Switzerland leading the United States in goals with 5 in four games. Team USA ended the tournament winning gold.

McManus, a native of Newport Beach, California, was tendered by the Lancers earlier this year.

Other quick hits (AKA stuff you may have missed because hey it's summer and there are much, much better things to do than follow college hockey on a daily basis)

I'm going to assume that no one has missed Norwood Teague's resigination as Athletic DirectorEven martians living on Mars rightfully know. (And in case you don't, read Ameilia Rayno's first-person account.)

Hockey single-game tickets are on sale.

Justin Kloos will captain the Gophers in 2015-16.

Minnesota won the Mike Szmatula sweepstakes over Denver, Arizona State and others. Szmatula previously spent two seasons at Northeastern where he averaged nearly a point per game, being one of the Huskies' top two offensive options along with Kevin Roy. The 22 year-old Commerce, Michigan native - Minnesota has gone from zero Michiganders in its history to two on the roster in a span of nine months - will sit out 2015-16 and have two years of eligibility left beginning in 2016-17.

New Freshmen Numbers

1 - Brock Kautz, G (last worn by Michael Shibrowksi in 2013-14)

2 - Jack Sadek, D (replacing his cousin Brady Skjei)

10 - Brent Gates Jr., F (replacing Ben Marshall)

14 - Curt Simonson, D (last worn by Tom Serratore in 2013-14)

16 - Jack Ramsey, F (last worn by Nate Condon in 2013-14)

17 - Tommy Novak, F (replacing Seth Ambroz)

22 - Tyler Sheehy, F (replacing Travis Boyd and continuing #17 and #22 being together. Sheehy and Novak previously played together at Waterloo - USHL and during international tournaments.)

23 - Ryan Norman, F (last worn by Jared Larson in 2012-13)

26 - Darian Romanko (replacing Christian Isackson)

37 - Eric Schierhorn (last worn one. Schierhorn is wearing the highest number since the 1950s.)

In addition, Nick Seeler has changed numbers from 12 to 11, replacing Sam Warning. There should be little confusion. Seeler sat out last season after transferring from Nebraska-Omaha so for all intents and purposes this is his new number. Or old number. Seeler wore #11 with the Mavericks. (Szmatula, for what it's worth, wore #19 at Northeastern.)

Although it would have been more surprising if Amanda Kessel returned to Minnesota as a sixth-year redshirt senior, the news that she is still dealing with post-concussion syndrome is sad and disappointing to say the least. Nicole Haase, who also writes over at Bucky's Fifth Quarter had a good piece on Kessel's collegiate impact.


Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter --