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Now on the other side, Minnesota's USNTDP alums remember facing college teams

Coming off two losses, the Gophers look to get back on track with an exhibition game against the US Under-18 team.

Minnesota freshman defenseman Ryan Collins spent two years playing for the US National Development Program.
Minnesota freshman defenseman Ryan Collins spent two years playing for the US National Development Program.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Hudson Fasching (Buffalo Sabres) believes it will interesting to be on the other side of Minnesota's (7-3-0, 0-0-0-0 Big Ten) exhibition game Friday, though for his sake this time around hopefully goes better.

Fasching, then a Minnesota commit and member of the United States Under-18 team, had his dream of playing against the Gophers before joining them come true in October 2012. Being in his hometown for two games, Fasching's weekend ended midway through the first when future teammate Tom Serratore laid out the then-high school senior with an open ice hit.

"I just saw him coming out of nowhere and then all of a sudden I'm on the ice," said Fasching, adding Serratore apologized to him when he came to Dinkytown. "Just barely made it off to the bench."

Two years later Fasching, now a sophomore, is the one facing some of the best college commits in the country. Friday's game against the United States U-18 team will be a reunion of sorts for five Gopher players. Each spent two years playing at the US National Development Program in Ann Arbor.

"It was a great experience," freshman defenseman Ryan Collins (Columbus Blue Jackets) said about his time there. "A lot of development opportunities, a lot of fun experiences and I met some good teammates and friends."

All five - senior forward Travis Boyd (Washington Capitals), junior defenseman Brady Skjei (New York Rangers), Fasching and freshmen defensemen Jack Glover (Winnipeg Jets) and Collins - left their home state to represent their country in an attempt to further their hockey careers. Some decisions were easier than others.

In Boyd's case, he took the entire two weeks given to him to decide before accepting. The Hopkins native had initially become interested after reading an article. He then did his due diligence.

"It was tough. There was a lot of talking with my parents and some of the support staff that I have, but in the end I've always been interested in being a part of the program," said Boyd, who is missing Friday's game along with Skjei due to lower body injuries, told SB Nation last season. "I got the opportunity. When it came down to it, I didn't want to let the opportunity go."

Once there, he ended up winning both the U-17 and U-18 World Championships.

While the Minnesota players won't face any future teammates this time around, the 2014-15 version of the Under-18 team continues to produce and develop high end talent under head coach Don Granato.

Two players - forward Jordan Greenway (Boston University) and center Colin White (Boston College) - were given an A rating by NHL Central Scouting. Both are expected to be drafted in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft. Minnesota head coach Don Lucia believes as many as four players on the US Under-18 team could hear their name called the first night of the Draft in Sunrise, Florida.

Additionally, Auston Matthews is seen by many scouts to be the top US-born player eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft.

They get the opportunity to play several Division 1 teams like Minnesota. That is in addition to USHL opponents and international tournaments. Collins, along with Glover, knows many of the players he'll be facing. He remembers from his time playing college teams as a way to measure his development.

"That was something last year which was a big learning opportunity for us," he said. "It's obviously different playing against older guys and playing established college teams was something that was full of ups and downs for us.

"It'll be the same for them this year."

This time he, like Fasching, is wearing a maroon and gold "M" sweater. Although it's different in 2014, this opportunity against the red, white and blue is one they don't want to let go.

"The mentality is the same. You want to develop, you want to make progress with your team," Collins said. "Obviously you want to win."


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