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Published July 11 2012

ND hockey team breaks through in Canada

FARGO – History showed North Dakotans weren’t good in this tournament.

That is until a group of players made some history and, in the process, heightened their profiles.

“I didn’t think we’d win a game to be quite honest with you,” said North Dakota Prospects coach Ryan Gottbreht. “Previous history, North Dakota teams haven’t won in the last 10 years.”

The Triple A Challenge is said to be one of the biggest youth hockey tournaments in western Canada and is used to determine who are the next great prospects to come from the Canadian heartland.

As it turns out, they might be Americans. The North Dakota Prospects team took first place in the tournament held last week.

It was the first time an American team had won the event, and the victory came in convincing fashion, outscoring opponents 45-10.

“It is the kind of thing that is a chance for scouts of the WHL and various leagues to see what players have got,” said Gottbreht, who is from western North Dakota.

The Western Hockey League (WHL) is one of three major junior leagues in Canada.

It is a league that has produced several stars and had six players taken in the NHL Entry Draft in June.

Two of the teams in the tournament featured players that were either WHL draft picks or are expected to be drafted by WHL teams next year.

“The first team we beat has eight guys that are going to the WHL next year,” Gottbreht said. “The second team had some of the top picks for next year’s WHL Draft. There are some big name players.”

Gottbreht’s team won the first game 4-1 and won the second game 15-1.

He said several players from the North Dakota Prospects team benefitted from the experience.

No one may have benefitted more from it than Fargo’s Cole Wild.

Wild dominated the tournament, scoring 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points in just five games.

Dave Wild called it a “breakthrough weekend” for his son.

“You have these WHL scouts there watching the kids they just drafted get schooled,” Dave Wild said. “It was the tournament of a lifetime. They probably just saw us as a bunch of farmers just coming there to play hockey.”

Dave Wild said his son will be a sophomore this year and will attend Fargo Davies.

Gottbreht said he has received phone calls from several WHL scouts about his players.

But Wild has received the most interest given his strong tournament.

“The guy who runs the tournament is Darryl Wolski, and I had him talk to these guys,” Gottbreht said. “He was telling them they could be the next (United States Hockey League standouts like) Keaton Thompson or Luke Johnson and their jaw just dropped. When they found out he’s also the agent for (NHL players) Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Penner … some of them realized they might have a chance.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com