Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 12/5/12
MINNEAPOLIS Gophers freshmen Brady Skjei and Mike Reilly will have a big opportunity to represent their country later this month, but the two defensemen insist they're not looking past this weekend's series against Colorado College. Skjei and Reilly were both named to the U.S. National Junior Team's preliminary roster for the upcoming International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Juniors tournament, a rather prestigious event in the junior hockey world. While neither Minnesota freshman has made the final roster yet, just getting the opportunity to go to New York and battle for a spot is an honor, they said Wednesday. "It was one of my goals, for sure," Skjei said. "I'm really excited I've made the preliminary roster, but it's still not for sure yet." Skjei and Reilly will be two of nine defensemen on the preliminary roster, which will be whittled down to seven defensemen before the tournament. Fifteen forwards and three goalies were also invited to the training camp, which runs Dec. 16-18 at Madison Square Garden Training Center in New York. The final roster will be announced Dec. 23 after more training in Helsinki, Finland. Before then, Skjei and Reilly still have two games to play this weekend. "I can't think about that too much right now because I'm still playing here," said Reilly, who has a goal and seven assists in 15 games. "I've just got to worry about the weekend and next week for finals for school as well. I can worry about (world juniors) two weeks from now." Skjei, a Lakeville, Minn., native, was a first-round pick of the New York Rangers in this year's draft (28th overall). He already has some experience representing the United States, as he played for Team USA in the Under-18 Men's World Championships in the Czech Republic. He spent two years as a member of the U.S. National Development Team (USNDTP) in Ann Arbor, Mich., which grooms players for international play and the NHL. Because of his ties to U.S. hockey, Skjei knows pretty much every player on the preliminary roster and has played with a good number of them. Playing with the USNDTP helped Skjei transition better from high school hockey at Lakeville to college hockey at Minnesota. In 14 games this season, Skjei has a goal and an assist, but he's seen his ice time cut recently. "I just need to play better, smarter D and limit the mistakes and I'll be able to get my ice time back up," Skjei said. "I deserved to get my ice time cut because I didn't play well." The World Juniors tournament runs Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Ufa, Russia, which would mean Skjei and Reilly would miss Minnesota's games against Air Force and Boston College in late December. While Gophers coach Don Lucia wouldn't necessarily want to be without two of his defensemen, he knows playing in the tournament would be a big accomplishment. "For these guys that are going right now, there's no guarantee anybody's going to make it. This is still a tryout situation," Lucia said. "I know for our two defensemen, there's nine there and they're only going to keep seven so they're both in a battle for a spot. We don't want them worrying about that right now. We want them to focus on our team and this weekend and their final exams next weekend. We wish them all the best when they head out to New York a week from Sunday." Ready for a high-scoring series: When the No. 4 Gophers head to Colorado Springs this weekend, they'll face a 19th-ranked Tigers team that scores the second-most goals in the WCHA at 3.69 per game. Then again, Colorado College also allows the second-most goals in the conference as it's giving up 3.44 per game. Minnesota is fifth in scoring at 3.27 goals per game and has the top scoring defense in the WCHA, allowing just 1.87 goals per game thanks in large part to freshman goalie Adam Wilcox, recently named the National Division I Rookie of the Month for November. The Gophers' defense will have its hands full this Friday and Saturday against a high-octane Tigers offense. "They're always a good transition team. They're always a speedy, skilled team up front," Lucia said of Colorado College. "We're going to have to make sure we play well defensively. We're not exactly a high-scoring team, so our foundation has been goaltending and defense and special teams. That has to continue, especially when you're on the road." Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Ezekiel Elliott hung out with Jim Brown

Rickie Fowler taunted by fans over his ex-girlfriend

Roger Goodell speaks about future of Pro Bowl in annual address

Mike Krzyzewski provides an update on his health

Sacramento Kings seriously considering firing George Karl

Rick Pitino says school should be penalized, 'but not this team'

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban defends hack-a-player strategy

Jameis Winston awarded Pepsi NFL rookie of the Year

Trade Rumors: Clippers ‘reluctant’ to deal injured Blake Griffin

Bright future for Minnesota Timberwolves

Eli and Archie Manning say Peyton won’t likely leave Denver if he plays in 2016

NCAA mulls changes to graduate transfer and targeting rules

Bruins prospect hit in throat with puck, taken to hospital

WATCH: Mavs rookie laughed at for trash talking Spurs bench

Norris Cole has No. 30 retired with LeBron James, New Orleans Pelicans in attendance

Three keys to victory for the Broncos in Super Bowl 50

Torrey Smith: ‘This is probably the best offense’ for Kaepernick

Byron Scott thought D’Angelo Russell would be further along

Under-the-radar Super Bowl 50 matchups

Is Tim Lincecum's run with the San Francisco Giants done?

$40,000 in Super Bowl tickets stolen from San Francisco hotel

Rams fan makes Super Bowl commercial ripping Stan Kroenke

Panthers LB wants 'clown' Rodney Harrison off the air

Jason Reid: Tom Brady will play at least three more years

Kirk Cousins says he has ‘very good relationship’ with RG3

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Five outrageous predictions for Super Bowl 50

QUIZ: Name the winning starting quarterback from every Super Bowl

The top six matchups that could decide Super Bowl 50

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

10 underrated performances in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in playoff hunt

QUIZ: Name the Super Bowl halftime performers since 1991

Manziel's father fears for QB's life

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker