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Gopher Hockey Notebook: Idle weekend, 3 recruits playing in World Junior A Challenge

Minnesota fell in the polls while several players and commits spend their holidays representing Team USA.

Minnesota sophomore forward Taylor Cammarata (13)
Minnesota sophomore forward Taylor Cammarata (13)
Matt Christians

Minnesota went down in all the rankings despite being off from playing hockey last weekend.

Besides dropping a spot in the SBN Power Rankings, the Gophers fell from 7th to 8th in the USCHO poll and 6th to 8th in the USA Hockey/USA Today poll.

In the Pairwise, the only "poll" that matters at the end of the season (as it mimics the criteria which the NCAA uses to decide the 16 team NCAA Tournament field), Minnesota (9-4-1, 1-0-1-0 Big Ten) fell from 9th to 11th. Part of the drop has to do with the volatile nature and changes a single game/weekend can make. That will lessen throughout the year although other factors will also come up over time.

(For example, Friday's win by Denver over UND by itself moved the Gophers up 2 spots (from 10 to 8) and dropped North Dakota from 6 to 11. UND then moved back up to 8 with a win Saturday.)

Polls-wise, the off weekend gave time for perception to catch up to the numbers.

The Gophers don't have the same issues that Chris Dilks pointed out for Penn State in terms of quality competition, but, like the Nittany Lions, conference play will not help as much as Minnesota would like.

World Junior A Challenge

Three Minnesota commits are in Saskatchewan this week in the World Junior A Challenge. Forwards Tommy Novak (River Falls, WI/Waterloo - USHL), Tyler Sheehy (Burnsville, MN/Waterloo - USHL) and defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf (Edina, MN/Sioux City - USHL) are each suiting up for Team USA, which is looking for its third consecutive World Junior A Challenge gold.

The Americans opened up by shutting out Switzerland 7-0 Monday. Novak, listed as an "A" prospect (projected to go in the first round) by NHL Central Scouting, went five hole in the period to score Team USA's second goal of the game. He nearly added a second goal with a second period tip before settling for an assist.

Sheehy had the other one.

Novak, Sheehy, Zuhlsdorf and Team USA will face Canada East today (December 16, 2014) at 3:30 p.m. CT. If the US wins, it will then play Thursday in the semifinals. If the US loses, it will play Wednesday.

Novak and Sheehy, who had three points (1G-2A) in USA's 6-3 exhibition win over Canada West, signed letters of intent to play at Minnesota last month. Both are expected to come to Dinkytown for 2015-16. Zuhlsdorf, eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, is at least a year later.

In addition to the three future Gophers, there are 7 more Minnesotans on the Team USA roster: Forwards Brock Boeser (Burnsville/uncommitted), Shane Gersich (Chaska/North Dakota commit) and Mason Bergh (Eden Prairie/Colorado College); and defensemen  Mitch Reinke (Stillwater/Michigan Tech), Blake Hilman (Elk River/Denver), Charles Curti (Mound/Yale) and Hayden Shaw (Woodbury/North Dakota).

The World Junior A Challenge runs in Kindersley, SK, CAN until December 20th and features six different teams (including two separate Canadian ones). Team USA's roster is comprised solely of players in the USHL. The tournament gives many players eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft (mixed with some 2014 draftees) a chance to shine on the international level.

Waterloo forward Brock Boeser has Minnesota among finalists

Boeser, a teammate of Novak (who he called "one of most skilled guys I know") & Sheehy and also playing in the World Junior A Challenge, is down to three schools - Wisconsin, North Dakota and Minnesota - after re-opening his college commitment last month. The Burnsville native previously was committed to the Badgers.

Boeser was on The Pipeline Show out of Edmonton on Saturday. You can listen to the whole interview (and I recommend you do), but here are his own words about where he is with the recruiting process.

The Pipeline Show: I've seen reports that you are going to Wisconsin. I've also been texted that you are currently uncommitted, but can you update me on that? Are you in fact a Wisconsin recruit?

Brock Boeser: No, I actually de-committed about I'd say 3-4 weeks ago. I just wanted to take a step back and open up my options and just make the right decision for me.

TPS: Interesting. I know one of the options - I don't know if you're considering it - but the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL hold your CHL rights. Is that one of the options you're considering?

BB: It is not.

TPS: Okay. Very good. Can you explain what your situation is then? You're still going the college route, not necessarily to Wisconsin, but are the Badgers still a possibility?

BB: Yep. They are. I'm looking at the Badgers, North Dakota and Minnesota.

TPS: I don't know if you can share your thoughts on it, but what would be the tipping point? What's going to be the deciding factor for you?

BB: I'd say just the best campus because I'm a school guy and also the best development for me that's going to get me to the next level and be successful.

Like his teammate Novak, Boeser was rated an "A" prospect by NHL Central Scouting.

It's rare for a player of Boeser's caliber to not be committed to a school at this point in time. Even rarer is one that has de-committed the season before hitting campus and isn't using the CHL as a negotiating ploy.

Several people have asked to compare college hockey recruiting to football and basketball and it's not that easy to do. Players come in at different times and different ages (one reason why in hockey players go by their birth year rather than graduation year - i.e. Robin Höglund and Jack Glover are both in the same year of college yet Glover is nearly three years younger). There are various leagues and countries. US high school isn't a large factor outside Minnesota and New England.

For the most part the best players in an age group commit early. Just look at the number of teams which have '99 and '00 birth dates in the pipeline. But if you want a comparison, the good people at Over the Boards gave one.

The 6'0.5", 193 lbs Boeser leads the Black Hawks and is tied for eighth in the USHL in goals with 12 in 21 games.

He had a hat trick off PP goals in exhibition, goal in Switzerland game right after a PP expired (assisted by his Waterloo teammates playing on same PP unit).

U17 4 Nations with Lindgren

The World Junior A Challenge isn't the only international tournament going on right now. Minnesota commit Ryan Lindgren is among the players suiting up this week for the United States in the U17 4 Nations tournament, which begins with a game today against Russia.

Lindgren, a 5'11", 194 lbs defenseman from Minneapolis, is one of 4 Minnesotans on the team.

The 4 Nations tournament runs through December 20th in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Team USA is made up of 20 full time members, including Lindgren, of the US Under-17 team from the National Development Program.

WJC camps starting up

As mentioned in the last notebook, World Junior camps are beginning in preparation for the December 26-January 5 tournament in Toronto and Montreal, Canada. Hockey Canada has already been going to the point where players have been sent home.

Tuesday is opening day of Team USA's WJC preliminary camp in Boston. 30 players, including Gophers Hudson Fasching (Buffalo Sabres draft pick) and Ryan Collins (Columbus Blue Jackets), are there as head coach Mark Osiecki has to cut down to 23 before the tournament begins. The Americans will practice at Walter Brown Arena and play an exhibition Fruday against BU before heading north to Canada.

(Our own Josh Kummins is in Boston covering the camp - here's his Day 1 report.)

If you want to watch the US WJC team versus Boston University, the game will be streamed online for free.

Freshman forward Leon Bristedt will partake in defending silver medalist Sweden's camp in Canada.


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