The Gophers and the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program tied 2-2 tonight in an exhibition game at Mariucci. Vinni Lettieri, the former Minnetonka player, grandson of Lou Nanne and son of Tino Lettieri, was an injury replacement for the Under-18s. He scored a goal, was plus-2 and had four shots, while Tyler Motte also scored and Thatcher Demko was sensational with 39 saves.
For the Gophers, Tom Serratore and Nick Bjugstad scored and Michael Shibrowski made 27 saves.
Hudson Fasching was injured tonight. The future Gopher was creamed with a clean hit at center ice late in the second by Serratore. He looked dazed and coach Don Granato said they are worried about an injury.
For the Gophers, Jake Parenteau took a puck to the knee in the third and didn’t return. Coach Don Lucia thinks it’s a bruise but won’t know if he can play against Canisius in Sunday’s 1 p.m. game until he wakes up in the morning. Lucia said Kyle Rau and Mark Alt will return, while Brady Skjei, who is getting close, won’t play.
The Under-18 will play at St. Thomas University at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Hunter Miska from North Branch will start in goal.
University of Wisconsin freshman Nic Kerdiles, serving a 10-game suspension from the NCAA for violating his amateur code, played tonight for the Under-18 team. He had three shots and was minus-1. USA Hockey’s Jim Johannson made the request last week.
“It was awesome. I was obviously a little rusty out there. I haven’t played a game since the Under-18 world championships, the gold-medal game, in April. It’s been awhile. It was nice of USA Hockey to figure this out and get me out here to play a game and get the rust off, especially against a team like Minnesota.”
When did you find out: “To be honest, I did that press conference at UW, announced that I was going to stay, and the next day I found out. We talked to the Big Ten and got it cleared, and from there, I was ecstatic. Everybody is still shocked I was able to come out here and play.”
How tough has the last few weeks been? “It’s been pretty tough, for my family, too. We didn’t expect this to happen. We’re just trying to get through it, and I think we have. I want to put it in the past. Now I can just look forward to a good season, I’ve got world juniors, and then a big season for my team. I’m just excited for the future.”
Some more quotes:
Under-18 coach Don Granato
“Very determined effort. Thatcher, without question, the key was the first eight to 10 minutes because if he doesn’t make a couple miraculous saves there, it’s probably quite a different game. What you saw tonight, on his best nights, you saw the competitiveness he brings to the table.”
On Kerdiles being able to play: “Found out just yesterday. He’s been a big part of USA Hockey the last couple years, has a chance to be on the world junior team, it wasn’t clear you could do something like this until yesterday.”
How is it possible? “I don’t ask those questions. I don’t want to entertain them.”
On Lettieri: “We had him on our Hlinka team over the summer. We want competitive people, and he’s a competitive person.”
On Demko and the game: “He made some nice saves. I thought they played probably at times worked a little bit harder than we did. We had an opportunity to play some different guys. I thought [Shibrowski] did a good job in net. He got a little victimized by the first couple goals. We got caught up the rink, our defenseman should have supported underneath. The second one hit the linesman and bounced back.”
On Under-18s: “You can tell they played some college games. They tied Notre Dame, they tied us. I’m sure they’re probably a little more excited to play than we are in a situation like that, but for me, the most important thing was just to continue the evaluation process with some of our guys.”
On Serratore’s hit on Fasching: “It was a good, hard hit. That’s part of the game. We talked about, ‘Play the game.’ Physicality is a part of it, and that’s part of Tom’s game. I thought Tom had a good game, too. He made a couple hits and also scored a goal.
On Parenteau: Don’t think it’s serious. Puck to the knee. Think it’s a bruise. We’ll get Mark Alt back Sunday. Brady won’t play Sunday, but he’s close. He practiced. We’ll see how Parenteau wakes up tomorrow.
On Kerdiles: It’s good for him to get an opportunity to play. I know he’s a candidate for the world junior team. I thought it was a good move on USA Hockey’s part.
Wilcox plays Sunday, and Rau will be back, too.
In other news, Niklas Backstrom played in that "Champs for Charity" game at Allstate Arena tonight outside Chicago. I tried to pay attention on Twitter, but apparently he went top shelf and scored a goal. Jake Dowell and Ryan Suter played in the game, too.
Also, Wild prospect Tyler Graovac of the Ottawa 67s scored three goals and two assists tonight and leads the Ontario Hockey League with 14 goals.
The Houston Aeros won at Oklahoma City, 6-4
, and have 20 goals in their last four games. As John Torchetti told me in that feature before the season, the Aeros have skill upon skill.
Justin Fontaine had two goals and an assist, Carson McMillan had a goal and assist and Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Chad Rau scored. Brian Connelly and Marco Scandella had two assists each, and Darcy Kuemper won in relief of Matt Hackett.
Lastly, Sunday night at 7 at Mariucci, the Defending the Blue Line charity game will take place consisting of a horde of locked-out NHLers, including off the top of my head Backstrom, Suter, Zach Parise, Cal Clutterbuck, James van Riemsdyk, Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien, George Parros and others.
In a humorous note, the locked-out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra will play the National Anthem for the locked-out NHL game.