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Published July 10 2012

Force's Guertler named to USA Hockey team

FARGO – Even if it is only July, Gabe Guertler knows what lies ahead could have a significant impact on his life.

The 17-year-old Fargo Force forward has been the subject of a busy summer, which has been highlighted with his interactions with USA Hockey.

Guertler was named to USA Hockey’s team for the Ivan Hlinka Tournament next month in the Czech Republic.

“It is an honor,” said Guertler, who represented the USA at the Five Nations Tournament last season. “Last year was a really fun tournament. I knew most of the guys on the team, and it is always an honor to represent your country.”

But here is where Guertler’s summer has also been a bit trying.

USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program is considered to be the best system in the nation to develop future NHL stars.

It has developed current players such as Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.

The program, which recruited Devils Lake defenseman Keaton Thompson from the Force in 2011, asked Guertler if he was interested.

He told them, “no.”

Twice.

“They called about Gabe probably close to a month ago and asked for permission to speak with him,” said Force assistant and director of player personnel Jesse Davis. “They offered him the chance. … Gabe told them again he wasn’t interested and he wanted to go back to Fargo.”

Guertler, who is committed to Minnesota, said he wanted to return because he likes head coach John Marks’ philosophies, he enjoys playing at Scheels Arena and because he knows his surroundings.

That could lead to NHL teams trying to surround Guertler leading up to next year’s draft.

He comes into his second and final season with the Force as one of the United States Hockey League’s players to watch.

Guertler scored 28 points in 57 games last year and was the team’s best player in the postseason, scoring five points in six games.

His linemates – Ohio State commit Dave Gust and Minnesota-Duluth commit Alex Iafallo – are also returning.

The three are part of 13 players the Force have returning from last year’s team, which reached the playoffs for a fourth straight season.

Second-year players often make a significant improvement, and if Guertler falls in line with the trend, it could be a special year for the Florida native.

“I know this year I can work hard, be a leader and help this team in a championship,” Guertler said. “It was a better fit for me to stay in Fargo. I know the area, I know the kids on my team and I just think it is a good fit coming back there.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.