With the NHL lockout dragging on, Minnesota hockey fans have been turning their attention to minor league and junior hockey. The United States preliminary roster for the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship was announced today, and there are a number of Minnesota connections, both for players and coaches alike.
Defensemen Mike Reilly of Chanhassen and Brady Skjei of Lakeville have both made the roster, as well as forward Mario Lucia (born in Alaska but raised in Wayzata.)
Reilly and Skjei play for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, while Lucia–drafted by the Minnesota Wild in 2011–skates for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The coaching staff of the USA team has some Minnesota ties as well–head coach Phil Housley is the Stillwater high school coach, and assistant coach Grant Potulny is an assistant at the University of Minnesota.
Last year, Jason Zucker played for team USA, though they failed to medal in the tournament. Zucker has since turned 20 years old and is no longer eligible.
The team will hold a training camp from December 16-18 at MadisonSquare Garden, and then another from December 19-23 in Helsinki, Finland. Games start December 26 and the tournament culminates with the championship game on January 5 in Ufa, Russia.
The United States team faces tough competition this year, as they are in a group with Russia, Canada, Slovakia, and Germany. If they are lucky enough to make it out of the group, they may still have to contend with last year’s champion, team Sweden. Wild prospect Johan Larsson captained that team, but he too has hit age 20.