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BEIJING — Matt Knies is part of the Team USA cause as it tries to win a gold medal in men's hockey for the first time since 1980. Eventually, the forward will return to Bob Motzko's team at the University of Minnesota and see if the Gophers can make a run in the NCAA tournament.

That's if he's allowed back.

The Gophers are winning without him, defenseman Brock Faber and forward Ben Meyers. About 22% of Minnesota's scoring is in China.

"I'm really happy for them," Knies said with a chuckle when asked if he worried about job security with the Gophers. "They definitely have been keeping us in it and I'm really happy that they are doing well."

Knies mentioned Rhett Pitlick, Aaron Huglen and Tristan Broz as underclassmen who have stepped up to keep the Gophers near the top of the conference standings.

The Gophers are 19-11 and have won four straight games without their key players. After sweeping Michigan State two weeks ago, the Gophers took a pair from Ohio State last weekend, enabling them to jump into second place in the Big Ten with 43 points. They are two points behind first-place Michigan and one ahead of the Buckeyes, who have two conference games remaining while Minnesota and Michigan each have four.

"The boys are definitely rolling," Knies said.

An informal poll taken among many of the college players on Team USA revealed that few have done any homework while in China. Many said their instructors will let them catch up upon their return.

The players have been focusing on hockey and getting to know one another away from the ice. Michigan forward Matty Beniers, for instance, has become the unofficial DJ of the team. Head coach David Quinn is a fan of Maxine Nightingale's "Right Back Where We Started From," which apparently is on Beniers' playlist. It was featured in the movie "Slap Shot."

"I said to [Beniers], 'You are a hell of a player, but you are a better DJ,'" Quinn said. "I love the music they play."

When the computers are opened, or smartphones used, the Gophers on Team USA are checking on things back home, like the success of their other team.

"Once we wake up, they are usually in the second period, so we'll follow pretty closely then," Faber said. "It's been huge that they are winning."

Meyers said he's been FaceTiming and texting his teammates for updates and to check in on them while he's away. The Gophers will have to endure one more weekend without the trio when they head to Penn State for a weekend series. Team USA should be back in the country by the final week of the Gophers' regular season, when they play host to Wisconsin.

Whether the Gophers' Olympians will play in that series will be determined at that time.

Whether the Gophers' Olympians will have medals with them upon their return will be determined this week — starting when they play Slovakia in a quarterfinal game Tuesday night Minnesota time (10:10 p.m. USA Network).

Until they return, the Gophers Olympians will keep an eye on their college team from afar.

"Not surprised at all," Meyers said of their success. "We have a lot of great hockey players on that team. They have taken the right attitude, the next man up mentality. And they have, obviously, played really well."