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University of North Dakota men's hockey players Nick Schmaltz, Brock Boeser selected to prelim U.S. World Junior roster

GRAND FORKS -- Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser have teamed together to form one of the University of North Dakota's most explosive lines in recent history.Now, they may have a chance to show the rest of the world their magic.Schmaltz and Boeser ar...

GRAND FORKS - Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser have teamed together to form one of the University of North Dakota’s most explosive lines in recent history.
Now, they may have a chance to show the rest of the world their magic.
Schmaltz and Boeser are among 29 players selected to the preliminary U.S. World Junior Championship roster. Crookston’s Paul Bittner, a forward who plays in the Western Hockey League, and Moorhead’s Will Borgen, a defenseman who plays at St. Cloud State, also are on the preliminary roster.
All of them will travel to Boston on Sunday to participate in the final camp, which is slated to be held next Monday through Friday. USA Hockey will cut three forwards, two defensemen and two goalies before heading to Finland for the World Junior Championship.
The event, which features the best under-20 hockey players in the world, will run from Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Helsinki.
“I’m very happy and excited for them,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “Obviously, any time you get an opportunity to represent your country, it’s special. They have some work to do to make the team, but they have put themselves in position to have a great chance to do that. I think both of them have tremendously grown their game.”
Boeser and Schmaltz put themselves in position to make the squad with a huge first half at UND. They have combined for 29 points in the last eight games. Schmaltz is on a nine-game point streak. Boeser’s run is at eight games as North Dakota prepares to head to Minnesota-Duluth this weekend for the final action of 2015.
Schmaltz leads the country with 21 assists, while Boeser’s 11 goals are most among college hockey’s rookies.
“I think Nick is one of the best players in college hockey,” Berry said. “It’s not only his offensive abilities, it’s his play away from the puck. I think his plus-minus reflects that. Brock has transformed his game from the USHL to college, which isn’t an easy thing to do.”
If they both make the final roster, they will miss UND’s nonconference series against Alabama-Huntsville on Jan. 1-2. They also would likely be held out of the exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 team on Jan. 9, before returning to action against Nebraska-Omaha on Jan. 15-16.
Bittner, a second-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets, is the biggest forward on the preliminary roster at 6-foot-4, 202 pounds. That could give him an edge to make the Ron Wilson-coached team.
Bittner has 20 points in 24 games this season for the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL.
Borgen’s stock has been steadily rising since his strong senior season with Moorhead last year. He also played for Omaha in the United States Hockey League at the end of the high school season.
Borgen has provided a steady presence on the back end for St. Cloud State, while chipping in six assists in 14 games.
UND has had at least one World Junior participant in 11 of the past 13 years, including gold-medal winners Rocco Grimaldi, Danny Kristo, Jonathan Toews (twice), Drew Stafford, Brady Murray and Zach Parise.

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