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Gopher Hockey Notebook: 3 incoming freshmen still playing for juniors titles and More

Hudson Fasching (24) returns for another season.
Hudson Fasching (24) returns for another season.
Matt Christians

Three players likely to come into Minnesota next year are currently still playing for a title.

Some college teams are nearing month number three of the offseason. Minnesota has been done since late March, however, many junior seasons still march onward towards a conclusion throughout North America. Gopher commits Jack Ramsey, Darian Romanko and Eric Schierhorn are each in their respective league championship series.

Minnesota has yet to announce its 2015-16 roster and likely won't until at least the end of the month, but all three have signed Letters of Intent to play for the Gophers.

Ramsey, a Chanhassen, MN native in his second season with the Penticton Vees (BCHL), is 3 games into round robin play at  the RBC Cup (aka the Canadian Junior A championship) where the Vees are tied for first wit a 2-1-0 record. He scored a goal Sunday in the Vees' 4-0 win over Melfort (SJHL) and assisted on the tying goal in yesterday's 4-3 comeback win over Carleton Place (CCHL).

The 6'3", 191 lbs forward is part of the British Columbia team's "USA Line."

The Vees are one of five teams in the 2015 RBC Cup - whittled down from 129- and have already previously won BCHL and Western Canada titles. All five play one another in round-robin play before the top four teams advance to single-elimination semifinals and a championship.

Ramsey, a 2014 7th round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, and Penticton next play Thursday (May 14) afternoon at 2 pm CT against the Soo Thunderbirds. (Link provides a live stream.) The Vees are trying to be the best in Canadian Junior A for the second time since 2012; a squad featured several players presently contributing in college, including all three Reilly brothers.

Romanko, meanwhile, leads all NAHL players in postseason scoring with 18 points (7G-11A) in 10 games. The 20 year-old Shoreview, MN native has scored two goals twice in his past five games as the Minnesota Wilderness advanced to the Robertson Cup Final with a two-game  sweep over Janesville. The Wilderness now go on to the road to face Austin (MN) Bruins in an all-Minnesota final.

Game 1 of the best-of-three series will be Friday (May 15). Games 2 and 3 are Saturday and Sunday (May 17).

After defeating Youngstown (featuring fellow Gopher commit Tyler Sheehy, who was traded mid-season from Waterloo) and Dubuque to reach the USHL final, Schierhorn's Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL) have an uphill climb to win the Clark Cup against Sioux Falls. The Limberjacks are already down 2-0 in the best-of-5 USHL championship series, having lost home games this weekend by 3-2 and 6-1 scores.

The 19 year-old, who committed to Minnesota in January, was pulled in the Game 2 loss after giving up four goals on 20 shots. Being bombarded with shots is nothing new. Schierhorn has faced the most shots of any USHL goalie this postseason. He is 3-1 in games were he made more than 40 saves for Muskegon. The biggest victory was one save short of this mark, however. Schierhorn stopped 39 of 42 shots in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final against Dubuque.

Game 3 of the USHL Clark Cup final is Friday (May 15). The game should be on FastHockey.

Any winners join defenseman Jack Sadek in coming into Dinkytown fresh off a title. Sadek's Lakeville North team went undefeated en route to the Minnesota HS Class AA title in March. (Minnesota verbal commit Ryan Edquist was also a member of the team, helping backstop the Panthers to an undefeated season.)

Other notes:

Because it's the offseason and you may have missed something:

-Gophers forward Hudson Fasching joins Michigan's JT Compher as Big Ten players returning for their Junior seasons rather than sign with Buffalo SabresJason Gonzalez of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has the details about why Fasching is returning in addition to the news he had knee surgery last month.

It's no surprise to see the 6'2", 207 lbs Fasching, who had some struggles during his sophomore season while playing on the team's top line, return to Minnesota. (Same goes for Compher, whose year mirrored much of Fasching's). Buffalo is in the midst of a rebuilding project and Fasching, whose righte were acquired by the Sabres last March from the Los Angeles Kings, can spend another year developing in college.

It's also a win for Minnesota because the team already has to replace four senior forwards that played big minutes during the second half of the season.

-Minnesota's newest verbal commit is Lakeville South (MN) and future USNTDP defenseman Nate Knoepke, a player that is in the mold of upcoming sophomores Ryan Collins and Jack Glover. After a year where the U-18 team did not feature a single Minnesotan, the Gophers have at least four commits in the Ann Arbor (3 U-17 and defenseman Ryan Lindgren on the U-18 team).

Plus Knoepke obviously has an elite first name.

-The previous "newest verbal commit" for Minnesota, Luverne freshman Jaxon Nelson, was selected by the Tri-City Americans in the 7th round of last week's WHL Bantam Draft.

-Future former Gopher Mike Reilly has been playing big minutes at the 2015 World Championships for Team USA. The junior defenseman, who will turn pro but hasn't yet signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets (Reilly can be a free agent since he was drafted by the Blue Jackets in 2011), has been on a pairing with Nashville Predators defenseman Seth Jones. The duo were both on the 2013 USA team that won Gold at the U-20 World Juniors.

Reilly, a two-time All-American that led the Gophers with 42 points this season, has a single assist in 7 games. He did score a goal in Team USA's opening exhibition, however.

The Americans won Group B despite blowing a 3 goal lead against Slovakia on Tuesday thanks to Jack Eichel's overtime winner. So far the young team, made up of 5 players that played college hockey in 2014-15 and several more under-25, has shined beyond its years overseas in Prague and Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Team USA next plays Switzerland in a quarterfinal Thursday (May 14) morning at 8 AM CT. The game can be seen live in the United States on NBCSN.


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 --