Sophomore Bobby Brink and the University of Denver Pioneers are scheduled to move to Omaha, Neb. To travel, finally opening the 2020-21 season on December 2 against two-time defending NCAA champions Minnesota-Duluth.
But Brink will likely have a relatively short stay in Omaha.
The Minnesota native will join the US World Junior team in Plymouth, Michigan on December 10, while the Pioneers will stay in Omaha through December 21 – one day after their last National Collegiate Hockey Conference game at the Baxter Arena ” pod.”
DU is scheduled to play 10 games in 18 days while calling the Hilton Garden Inn home. Brink, 19, was able to play in as many as four NCHC games before turning his attention to the prestigious World Under-20 Championship, which runs from December 25 to January 5 in a fan-free bubble in Red Deer, Alberta. Pioneer freshman defender Antti Tuomisto could also leave the Omaha pod to join Finland, which has yet to complete its pre-camp roster. Brink isn’t guaranteed a spot in Team USA, but he played a big part in last year’s team and is one of only three forwards.
Brink and Tuomisto were selected early in the second round (34th and 35th overall) of the 2019 draft by the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings, respectively.
“It’s hard to leave while (the Pioneers) are playing. You don’t want to miss any games with Denver. But World Juniors is just so special, ”said Brink. “It’s worth playing in those games. I thought I had a lot of responsibility last year. I want to do similar things and try to take my game to another level. “
DU coach David Carle hopes Brink will return to Denver with a gold medal, and he will also draw for Tuomisto to play for Team Finland.
“It’s a great opportunity (for) ‘Bob’ to measure himself against the best players in our country and the best players in the world at his age, and they are usually very good confident boosters for them,” said Carle. ‘We expect the same for Bob. Last year he played a big part for that team, on the power play and five-on-five. I expect he will be an all-rounder this year as he is one of the few returnees in the ’01 birth years. ‘
Tuomisto, 19, could be bypassed by Finland as DU doesn’t have to play any games yet, while his colleagues in Finland are well into their junior and pro seasons.
‘Do I think he should be on the team? I do. I think he is probably one of the top six defenders in the country of Finland for his age group, ”said Carle of Tuomisto. Will he be on the team? I do not know yet. It’s good for us if he isn’t, but every time a kid can play for their country it’s a great experience for them. I hope he makes it, but the silver lining is that we will be very excited that he is still with us. “
The defending WJC champion and perennial gold medal favorite, Team Canada is made up of predominantly great junior players already preparing together. Avalanche draft picks Bo Byram, Alex Newhook and Justin Barron reported to the Canadian bubble in Red Deer on Nov. 16.
The Americans, including Boston College’s Avalanche draft pick Drew Helleson and mostly NCAA players, will have to catch up with Canada in the chemistry department.
“It’s always an advantage if you practice together a few months earlier, but a lot of us (Americans) have played together in the past and we have a lot of returning guys,” said Brink. “So I think we’ll all be pretty much on the same page when we go in.”