Gophers coach Don Lucia expects to lose two forwards from his top line for the Mariucci Classic later this month.
Sophomore center Nick Bjugstad and freshman left winger Kyle Rau will probably get invitations on Monday to participate in a pre-World Juniors Championships camp from Dec. 17-23 in Camrose, Alberta.
There will be about 30 players at the camp. Twenty-two will make the U.S. team roster for the World Junior Championships starting Dec. 26 and running until Jan. 5.
Asked about Gophers likely to make the team, Lucia said, "There are a couple of guys on our team. Obviously, Bjugey played last year. I am sure he will be on the team this year. Kyle has certainly played himself into contention.
"There has been some dialogue with the [USA Hockey] staff. They have been here scouting. I have talked to Tim Taylor about it. He was here for a weekend watching the guys."
Taylor is USA Hockey's director of player development.
Certainly, their statistics alone make a strong case for Bjugstad and Rau. Bjugstad has 15 goals in 16 games and is tied for first in scoring nationally with 25 points. Rau has 10 goals and 18 points, more than any other freshman.
"Kyle is an example of a kid who wasn’t in their junior [evaluation] camp this summer [at Lake Placid, N.Y], but obviously the way he has played, he has played with Bjugey, he is in the conversation," Lucia said.
Sophomore defenseman Justin Holl was at USA Hockey's evaluation camp in August, but did not make the cut when they reduced the number of players there halfway through it. He is more of a longshot to make the U.S. team.
"Whoever we lose, we will only lose [them] for the two games," Lucia said. "They will return the Friday before we play Notre Dame in that hall of fame game. ... We will get our guys back for that."
The No. 4/5 Gophers play the No. 2 Irish (10-3-3) on Saturday, Jan. 7.
WJC players will miss the Mariucci Classic on Dec. 30-31. The Gophers will play Niagara (3-5-4) in their first game and either Northeastern (4-7-2) or Princeton (3-7-1) in their second game.
"Anytime you can wear the USA sweater it is a tremendous honor and it is good for our program to have those kids," Lucia said. "Do we miss them? Yeah. Is it going to hurt us? Yeah. But in the long run for those players to have an opportunity to play in such an event, especially this year in Canada --. I don’t think the people in our country have any idea how big the World Juniors tournament is. If they are going up to Canada, it is every bit as big as the Olympics, or really the Super Bowl."
LINE-UP CHANGE TEMPORARY
Lucia sat two freshman forwards last Saturday, Sam Warning and Seth Ambroz. But by Monday, they were both back in their regular spots, Warning at left wing on the second line and Ambroz at right wing on the third line.
"We took [Sam] and Seth out of our line-up on Saturday," Lucia said. "Sometimes we can take a step back to step forward. I just thought it would be good for them. They were pressing a bit offensively -- that it would be good to sit up and watch a game. And maybe at times the game slows down and you see where you should go and [what] you should do.
"Both of them have done a lot of nice things on our team," Lucia said. "A guy like Seth, he is exactly what our program needs, a big, strong power forward and his best days are going to be ahead of him. [He's] been a little big unlucky. He just needs to get that goal to get untrack, the same with Sam."
Warning had three goals and three assists for six points. He is a plus-4. But he has taken only 17 shots on net and has not had a point in his last nine games.
Ambroz has two goals and one assist for three points. He has taken 31 shots, is a plus-2 but is pointless his past 10 games.
* Warning is the Gophers' first player from Missouri, Chesterfield to be exact. That's a suburb of St. Louis. "There is an example, a lot like Dallas right now or Phoenix where you have guys that went there and played pro hockey," Lucia said. "[Now] they live there, they have kids they coach [on] youth teams.
"Now you have pockets of players that are coming, whether it is St. Louis or whether is is Colorado or Dallas or Phoenix or L.A. It is not just Minnesota, Massachusetts and Michigan anymore. There are a lot of great players from throughout the country."
DORR FOUND NICHE
Midway through his freshman season at Minnesota, Mike Dorr left the program. He wound up at Minnesota State.
"He wasn’t playing a lot and, like a lot of kids, it is a lot of work," Lucia said. "He made a decision that he wanted to try to get more ice time. He ended up going to Minnesota State and it has worked out well for him. He is getting a chance to play on a regular basis.
"He is a senior now and he played junior hockey, he is older, he is experience and he is a guy they count on to score for them."
In 12 games this season, Dorr has one goal and five assists for six points. All of his points have come in the past seven games. Dorr, of Roseville, is a Mavericks co-captain this season. He has 18 goals and 30 assists for 48 points in his college career.
GOALIE SHUFFLE AT MANKATO
Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting played three goalies last weekend in a 5-4 loss and a 5-5 overtime tie with Alaska Anchorage.
Senior Austin Lee play Friday, making 19 saves. He is 3-7-0, with a 3.44 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.
Junior Phil Cook started Saturday, but for the third time in his past three games, was pulled. The Seawolves scored on five of seven shots on Cook. He was gone at 7:26 of the second period.
Cook is 0-3-0 with a 6.68 gaa and a .791 save pct.
Freshman Evan Karambelas replaced Cook and, in his first college game, stopped all six shots he faced.
It will be interesting to see which two goalies the Mavericks bring to Mariucci Arena this weekend. Cook, who beat the Gophers twice last season in one-goal games, might not be on the bus. He is a terrible slump.
So does the goalie shuffle at MSU cause the Gophers scouting problems?
"We don’t spend much time worrying about who the [other team's] goalie is," Lucia said. "You spend a lot of time worrying about who the goalie is and you are shooting over the net and hitting the glass.
"We spend most of our time worrying about ourselves -- [we want to] continue to try to grow and get better. Who the other team's goalie is, really doesn’t make any difference."