Upstart St. Thomas defenseman Jack Dougherty will play for Team USA in the Five Nations Cup.
Jack Dougherty is heating up faster than a fried egg on Interstate Hwy. 35E.
Dougherty, who helped St. Thomas Academy to the 2012 Class 1A state championship this past season, was nominated by his coaches to attend the Minnesota Hockey Reebok High Performance Boys 16 camps in the spring. He excelled, advancing through different phases and ultimately earning a trip to the final stage -- the national USA Hockey's Boys' Select 16 Player Development Camp, which was held in early July in Rochester, N.Y.
He went out east with an open mind. He had never played in any of the select camps and is one of the relatively lesser-known pieces to the Cadets' recent title run.
"To tell you the truth, I was just kind of happy to make it to New York," Dougherty said the night before embarking on an international journey. "I was just going to see what happens."
He didn't just "make it" to New York. On the last day following the All-Star game, for which he was chosen to play, a group of players were selected to represent Team USA at the Five Nations Cup, which will be held in Czech Republic this week.
Dougherty was among the seven defenseman and 20 players selected, prompting many folks to say, "Who?"
It even surprised his high school coach, Greg Vannelli.
"We knew he was good. We were seeing him develop each year. But I guess you never know when it's going to kick in and they're going to move on to the next level," Vannelli said. "He just happened to do it over the summer here."
Dougherty's stock has markedly risen in recent months after he posted nine assists during the high school regular season. He scored his first varsity goal in the state tournament quarterfinal against Little Falls.
For the bulk of the season, Dougherty played the role of a sure-handed, stay-at-home defenseman for the Cadets. He gradually started to make more offensive-minded decisions -- utilizing his strong puck-handling skills, beating the first guy in the defensive zone and making strong outlet passes out of his own end.
It opened up a new world for the budding blue-liner.
"Such a noticeable difference in how I'm playing. And my confidence -- I feel amazing," he said. "When you try it out and your confidence builds and realize that you can make a lot of these plays that you didn't think you could."
Dougherty has the skills and toolset to execute these plays. The 6-foot-2 soon-to-be junior is also asserting himself physically on the ice. He's not afraid to use his size and step up to make checks.
And now that Dougherty has been selected to represent Team USA, he has raised some eyebrows in the college hockey realm. Several Division I schools have since inquired.
All things considered, Dougherty has only thing on his mind right now.
"Win the gold medal," said Dougherty, who will don the red, white and blue along with four other Minnesotans -- Holy Family's Shane Gersich, St. Cloud Cathedral's Austin Poganksi and Edina's Cullen Munson and Jack Walker. "We got a good group of guys. I think it's possible."
Team USA will play the Czech Republic in an exhibition game Sunday before beginning tournament play vs. Germany on Wednesday.