Most people didn’t know who made the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team until Monday, when the roster was announced.
That meant St. Cloud State defenseman Will Borgen had to keep a secret from everyone except his family for two long weeks.
“I wanted to tell a couple of my friends, but I couldn’t,” the junior from Moorhead said. “I was pretty surprised and excited. It’s pretty crazy to wrap your head around this.”
Borgen was among four college players named to the 25-man roster for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in the first Olympics without NHL players since 1994.
Four other players with Minnesota ties also made the team: Bloomington native and former Gopher Ryan Stoa, Wild prospect Jordan Greenway of Boston College, former Wild defenseman Jonathon Blum and former St. Cloud State forward Garrett Roe.
In addition to Borgen and Greenway, two other college players — Troy Terry of Denver and Ryan Donato of Harvard — were chosen. The bulk of the team is composed of Americans playing pro hockey in European leagues or the American Hockey League, including 15 with NHL experience.
Former NHL forward Brian Gionta, an unsigned free agent, is the team’s captain and its oldest player at age 38. Gionta, a veteran of 15 NHL seasons who played in the 2006 Olympics, is the only player on the U.S. team with Olympic experience.
Former St. Cloud State forward Ryan Malone, who signed a professional tryout contract with the Wild last fall in hopes of playing in the Olympics, did not make the team.
Malone had been playing with the Iowa Wild, but a team spokesman said Saturday he is no longer with the organization.
Borgen still had a hard time believing he was going to Pyeongchang, even as his phone was flooded Monday with congratulatory texts and calls. He said he communicated with USA Hockey via e-mail last fall and knew he was being considered. Two weeks ago, he got the news, delivered by Huskies coach Bob Motzko and USA Hockey officials.
“I knew there was a chance, but I didn’t know if it would happen,” said Borgen, who played for the U.S. at the 2016 world junior championships. “Now we’re here.
“I don’t really know what to expect, but I’m really looking forward to it. It’s one of those dreams you have. It’s overwhelming.”
The NHL has participated in the past five Olympics, dating to 1998. Though players wanted to continue, league officials decided the potential rewards of playing in Pyeongchang did not justify the disruption caused by a 17-day break in the league schedule.
That left USA Hockey to assemble a team from college players, Europe-based pros and players on AHL-only contracts.
Its network of scouts evaluated about 100 players throughout the fall. Coach Tony Granato expected the core of the team to come from those who played in the Americans’ only pre-Olympic tournament, the Deutschland Cup in November.
The Olympic roster includes 15 players from that team, which went 0-3 and scored only four goals in losses to Russia, Slovakia and Germany. USA Hockey named only one goaltender, Ryan Zapolski, and will select two more in the coming weeks.
Granato, who will take a short break from his job as Wisconsin coach to lead the Olympic team, promised a roster that would play with passion. Gionta echoed that Monday.
“You’ve got to go over there with a goal, and that goal is to come away with a gold medal, said Gionta, who has been practicing with Rochester of the AHL to prepare for the Olympics.
“The world stops to watch the Olympic Games. And to be able to be at that level representing your country, it’s a dream come true.
“I’m loving the opportunity to be able to do it again, especially at my age. I’m extremely excited about the prospect of going over there and winning gold.’’