Sanderson plays for the USA; College Stars See Olympic Opportunity | Sports

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Jake Sanderson felt bad that he was missing a handful of North Dakota games to play in the Olympics.

When he expressed this opinion to his college teammates and coaches, the star defender was greeted with support. It was already an easy decision for Sanderson to apply for the United States in Beijing, and that made it even easier.

“It was a breeze,” he says. “You can’t really leave that out. It’s the Olympics. You don’t know if you will ever be able to play in the Olympics in your life. “

After the NHL decided to pull out of the 2022 Games, Michigan-based Sanderson, Owen Power, and Matty Beniers, and other players in the U.S. college ranks suddenly had a golden opportunity while USA Hockey and Hockey Canada sought the NCAA after top talent were filling up their rosters. College players deciding whether to leave school for a few weeks to go to Beijing can look for some strong evidence in the yes column for only the 2018 Olympics.

Anaheim’s Troy Terry, Minnesota’s Jordan Greenway and Seattle’s Ryan Donato all ran for the US in Pyeongchang on a team that consisted mostly of senior professionals playing in Europe. Since then, they have played 611 NHL games together.

“I would tell these guys if they had the chance to appreciate it, enjoy it and make the most of it,” said Donato. “When I got out of college it was obviously a little nerve-wracking because you have all of these guys who played in the NHL and I think it is really good for your confidence to realize that you can hang out with these guys. “

Sanderson, a Whitefish, Montana, native of Ottawa with the fifth selection in the 2020 design, has already accepted his invitation. The top two NHL picks of 2021 – Power, who went to Buffalo first and Beniers, who went to Seattle – were invited to play for Canada and the US, respectively. Teammates from Michigan, Brendan Brisson (USA) and Kent Johnson (Canada), are also Olympic candidates.

Greenway and Terry were US contenders when it looked like the NHL was hitting its season for nearly three weeks to bring the world’s best hockey players to the Olympics for the first time since 2018.

Greenway said he would likely have left if he had been elected, especially if virus testing and quarantine restrictions were changed, as that, like many potential attendees, was his biggest concern. That is the main difference to 2018.

“Because of the circumstances and the situation, there are other factors at play now that I understand,” said Greenway. “I think maybe it’s a little more of a question. It’s not a sure-fire success, we say, maybe now. It could be a little different with the boys. You take the hockey part alone and the experience and everything that goes with it, it’s a special, special experience. “

U.S. Director General John Vanbiesbrouck and trainer David Quinn believed the Olympic experience was a strong selling point, even considering pandemic and college assignments. Another motivation is that the Junior World Championship was canceled last month for fear of a virus outbreak and the Olympics could serve as some sort of touch-up on this tournament for several players under the age of 20.

However, Quinn realized that trying to convince active college players to go to Beijing is not the same as his time as a recruiting at Boston University.

“These circumstances are very different,” said Quinn. “Leaving the team in the middle of the season and with the COVID situation there are many hurdles, many obstacles. But I think everyone wants to play in the Olympics. “

Mel Pearson, who coaches Michigan with a strong squad and a legitimate chance at a national championship, has told players that he supports them in going to the Olympics.

“Such opportunities are not that common,” Pearson told reporters last weekend. “We will fully support you and look forward to bringing you back as soon as you come home with a medal.”

Seeing that he would only miss four games in North Dakota and that the quarantine requirements were nowhere near as long as rumored to be, allayed Sanderson’s concerns. He’s hoping to be in the NHL soon too, and seeing Terry, Greenway and Donato play there now is an added incentive.

“If you look at these guys, they do very well in the NHL,” said Sanderson. “I think being with the guys and living there in the moment and taking it all in, having fun in the Olympic village, I think the whole experience will be breathtaking, it will be fun.”

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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