USA Hockey hasn't yet revealed its men's roster for the Beijing Olympics, but the team will have several Minnesota connections, starting with the coaching staff.
Mike Hastings of Minnesota State Mankato and Brett Larson of St. Cloud State were named Thursday as assistant coaches for the U.S. men's hockey team at next month's Winter Games.
Both will coach at the Olympics for the first time. Last month, former New York Rangers and Boston University coach David Quinn was named the Olympic head coach as USA Hockey shifted gears in the wake of the NHL's withdrawal from the Winter Games. The U.S. men's team was set to be composed of NHL players and coaches until the league pulled out of the Olympics because of concerns about COVID-19.
The U.S. team now will be made up of players from European leagues, the American Hockey League and colleges.
Fifteen current or former college players, including several with Minnesota ties and five natives of the state, have already been invited to join Team USA, according to a report in Daily Faceoff.
The group includes Gophers players Matthew Knies and Brock Faber, who were on the American junior national team, and Ben Meyers. Also on the list of invitees are Minnesota Duluth captain Noah Cates, Minnesota State forward Nathan Smith and North Dakota defenseman Jake Sanderson.
Boston College defenseman Drew Helleson, who is from Farmington, and former Gophers defenseman Aaron Ness, now with Providence of the AHL, were also on the Daily Faceoff list.
Faber is from Maple Grove, Meyers from Delano, Cates from Stillwater and Ness from Roseau. Knies is from Phoenix; Smith from Tampa, Fla.; and Sanderson, who was born in Montana and captained the U.S. junior team, is from Calgary.
Hastings is in his 10th season as Mavericks coach. He guided the team to the NCAA men's Frozen Four last season in its sixth NCAA tournament appearance. A St. Cloud State graduate, Hastings has a long record of success in college and junior hockey and has coached USA Hockey junior teams on six occasions, including a stint as head coach of the 2019 team that won the silver medal at the world junior championships.
Larson also has coached USA Hockey junior teams, serving as head coach of the squad that won the 2012 World Junior A Challenge. A Duluth native who played hockey at Minnesota Duluth, he is in his fourth season at St. Cloud State. During his time with the Huskies, Larson has led the team to two NCAA tournament appearances, including a runner-up finish in last season's Frozen Four.
Scott Young, David Lassonde and Alex Dawes also were named to the coaching staff Thursday.
The U.S. roster will be chosen by general manager John Vanbiesbrouck and Quinn.
Other players who got invites, according to the Daily Faceoff report, were Michigan forward Matty Berniers; four players who are in the Kontinental Hockey League — Ken Agostino (Yale), Andy Miele (Miami), Brian O'Neill (Yale) and Steven Kampfer (Michigan); ex-Boston U and NHL defenseman David Warsofsky, who is playing in Germany; and ex-Michigan goalie Strauss Mann, who is in the Swedish hockey league.
Kampfer played 13 games for the Wild in 2011-12. Ness has played in 72 NHL games, including 23 over the past two seasons with Arizona before signing a minor league deal with Boston in September.
Vanbiesbrouck, when asked in December about recruiting college players for the Games, said: "You're going to be playing for your country, and I believe everybody's going to be happy with that, even though players will be lost for a period of time during the NCAA period. But stepping up to play for your country in the Olympics is a great opportunity, and we believe they're going to see it that way.''