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Jake Sanderson selected to preliminary U.S. World Junior roster

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UND freshman defenseman Jake Sanderson played for the U.S. Under-18 Team last season. Photo by Rena Laverty / USA Hockey's NTDP

UND fans may want to take a close look at Jake Sanderson during the first few games of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Pod, because he won't be there for long.

Sanderson will soon be heading to play on the world stage.

Sanderson, the UND's star freshman defenseman, was one of 29 players named to the preliminary U.S. World Junior Championship roster Monday afternoon.

That means Sanderson will most likely play three of UND's 10 games in the NCHC Pod in Omaha's Baxter Arena before departing to join the American squad.

If he makes the final 25-man roster, which he is expected to do, he won't be back until UND's Jan. 8-9 series against Omaha in Ralph Engelstad Arena. That means he'll miss eight or nine of UND's 26 regular-season games.

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The World Juniors, a 10-team international tournament that features the top under-20 hockey players in the world, are scheduled to last from Dec. 25-Jan. 5 in Edmonton. USA's camp will run from Dec. 6-13.

Only one other NCHC player made the U.S. squad -- Denver forward Bobby Brink.

UND freshman defenseman Tyler Kleven and sophomore forward Judd Caulfield were considered candidates to make the team -- both participated in this summer's U.S. World Junior camp in Plymouth, Mich. -- but neither were picked.

UND has a long history of sending players to the World Juniors dating back to 1974, when Dave Geving was on the American team. UND head coach Brad Berry participated in the event in 1985, winning gold for Canada.

Most recently, Fighting Hawks defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker won gold for Canada a year ago, while forward Shane Pinto participated on the American team.

Traditionally, players only miss a couple of regular-season games, at most, to participate in the World Juniors. Many college hockey leagues schedule conference games around it, leaving it up to each individual team if they want to play nonconference during that time.

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Last year, Bernard-Docker and Pinto missed just two games -- a home series against Alabama Huntsville.

But because the coronavirus pandemic pushed the season back, the NCHC is playing 38 league games from Dec. 1-21. And because Canada requires a quarantine period for travelers, the U.S. team pushed its camp dates earlier than normal. That means an unusual overlap between conference games and the World Juniors.

Without Sanderson, UND's depth on the blue line will be tested.

The Fighting Hawks will have seven remaining defenseman. They'll be led by senior Matt Kiersted and Bernard-Docker, a junior. Their other returning defensemen are seniors Gabe Bast and Josh Rieger and sophomore Ethan Frisch.

The newcomers are Kleven and Cooper Moore.

Sanderson is expected to be one of the best freshmen in the country.

He was picked No. 5 overall in October's NHL Draft, making him the second-highest drafted UND player ever, sitting just behind Jonathan Toews (No. 3, 2006).

Sanderson, the son of 17-year NHL veteran Geoff Sanderson, is able to impact games on both ends of the rink. His skating ability makes him a threat in the offensive zone and a shut down defender with strong gap control in the defensive zone.

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Sanderson, who is from Whitefish, Mont., played for the U.S. National Team Development Program the last two years.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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