3 Gophers relish chance to play for USA men’s hockey at Beijing Olympics – FOX 9

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Ben Meyers leads the Gophers men’s hockey team in scoring and will join Brock Faber and Matthew Knies on the U.S. Olympic team at the Winter Olympics in Beijing. ((credit: University of Minnesota Athletics))

MINNEAPOLISMatthew Knies was out to lunch when his phone rang. Brock Faber was pulled aside by John Vanbiesbrouck just before the World Junior Championships got canceled. Ben Meyers had to tell his immediate family when he got the call.

The three University of Minnesota hockey players have all seen the move “Miracle,” have watched the “Miracle on Ice” and probably all dreamed of playing for the U.S. Olympic hockey team since they first put on skates. It’s now a reality. When the NHL opted out of sending players to the Olympics for the second straight time, that opened the door for college players and others not playing professionally.

Knies, Meyers and Faber are among nine with Minnesota connections that will head to Beijing next month with Team USA to try and bring home a gold medal for the first time since 1980. Meyers, a Delano native and currently the Gophers’ leading scorer, will play internationally for the first time and might be the first Olympian from his small town of about 6,000, west of the Twin Cities.

“It’s an incredible honor. Growing up in this state, it’s just iconic to see the red, white and blue. It’s a dream come true for every hockey player and something I probably won’t be able to put into words until I try it for the first time,” Meyers said.

The three were told earlier this month, but could only share the news with family until it became official on Jan. 13.

“A lot of biting the tongue because you just want to yell in happiness, share it with friends and teammates. When we found out those two were going, it was a pretty special moment with the guys,” Faber said.

Players will travel to the L.A. at the end of January to practice, quarantine and go through COVID-19 testing before heading to the Olympics. Once they get to Beijing, they’ll be tested daily.

The pandemic put a halt to sports in 2020, they resumed with extra precautions after several months and now they’ll do whatever it takes to make the Olympics happen. Faber recalled having the conversation with Vanbiesbrouck about a week before the World Junior Tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.

There’s plenty of risk traveling, but Faber won’t let a virus stop him from an experience he might not get again. 

“As soon as he (Vanbiesbrouck) said Olympics, your heart almost drops with excitement. It wasn’t a question, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we’re going to get over there and represent this country as best we can,” Faber said.

Meyers has 23 points in 20 games this season, including nine goals, and is a team captain for the Gophers. Faber, a Maple Grove native, has 11 points in 20 games this season and 23 points in 47 career games with Minnesota. He also won a god medal with Team USA at the World Juniors last year, and was an assistant captain on that team.

Knies, an Arizona native, has 20 points in his freshman season and is second for the Gophers in scoring. Joining Faber and Meyers as fellow Minnesotans on Team USA are Drew Helleson of Farmington, Nick Perbix of Elk River, Sam Hentges of New Brighton, Aaron Ness of Roseau and Noah Cates of Stillwater.

Knies will get to play at his first Olympics with two Gophers’ teammates, Meyers and Faber.

“It’s a pretty indescribable feeling. I got to do it at World Juniors for a game and it’s pretty special to play for something much bigger than myself,” Knies said. “To play for those colors and play for a country, it’s pretty surreal. I’m just really thankful that I get this opportunity to do it again.”

The Gophers have had players on Team USA for 21 straight Winter Olympics, going back to 1936. Team USA hasn’t won a medal at the Olympics since getting a silver in 2010. The last gold came at Lake Placid in 1980.

Meyers, Faber and Knies will also be away from the Gophers for about three weeks, with the Olympics going from Feb. 4-20 in Beijing. They’ll stay in contact with their Minnesota teammates, between texting and FaceTime, and try to watch them if the time change allows.