By Mick Hatten
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — On Monday, July 1, Evan Bushy admits that there were some tense moments.
The coaching staff for USA Hockey’s Under-18 team that will compete in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup came into a room in Northtown Center in Amherst, New York, to name the team. Bushy was one of 22 players, including one of five high school players from Minnesota, named to the team.
“When the coaches came into the room, I was anxious and a little nervous,” Bushy said. “I thought I had a good camp. There were 188 players there and to make the 22-man roster is a pretty good feeling. I think I was able to show my skill set well.”
Bushy, who turns 18 in March, recently completed his junior year at Thief River Falls High School. The other high school players from Minnesota to make Team USA are Blake Biondi (Hermantown), Louden Hogg (Edina), Wyatt Kaiser (Andover) and Jacob Ratzlaff (Rosemount). Team USA will play in the tournament Aug. 5-11 in Breclav, Czech Republic, and Piestany, Slovakia.
Bushy has had an eventful last 11 months. On Aug. 20, Bushy made a verbal commitment to play college hockey for St. Cloud State after also considering Minnesota and North Dakota.
Bushy, now a three-year letterwinner for the Prowlers, is hoping that he will get a chance to play with his older brother, Brendan, who recently completed his freshman season for the Huskies.
Evan, a 6-foot, 184-pound defenseman, went on to lead Thief River Falls in goals (18) and points (35) in 25 games. The Prowlers were the No. 2 seed in the Section 8A playoffs, but lost 2-1 to Warroad in the section semifinals and finished 15-9-3 overall.
“Obviously, it ended not the way we wanted it to, but I thought it was a good year and I had a great time with my teammates and I love everything in Thief River Falls and all my teammates,” said Bushy, who has 32 goals and 78 points in 80 career high school games. “Then I got called up to Sioux Falls and played some regular season and a couple playoff games. That was an unreal experience because we would go on to win the Clark Cup.”
He played 10 regular season games and four playoff games for the Sioux Falls Stampede in the Tier I United States Hockey League. The Clark Cup is the playoff championship for the USHL.
Bushy may have played more games for Sioux Falls in the playoffs, but something else was more pressing.
“I played in the first two (playoff) rounds, but if I would’ve missed any more school, there would have been trouble, so I had to go back,” he said.
Since the end of the hockey season, Bushy has been an invitee to three camps. He started out being one of 54 players selected to take part in the Minnesota High Performance 17 Spring Festival that took place April 26-28 in Plymouth, Minn.
He then was one of 23 players from Minnesota selected to go to USA Hockey’s camp in New York.
“This was my first year making the national camp and that was pretty cool,” he said. “To make Team USA is an even more surreal feeling.”
Between the High Performance camp and Team USA’s camp, Bushy also took part in the Stampede’s main camp in June 8-11 in South Dakota. He is supposed to take part in Sioux Falls’ main camp at the end of July, but that got happily derailed by making the Team USA roster.
After competing in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup tournament, Bushy plans to come back and begin the 2019-20 season with the Stampede. Then he will have to decide whether or not to return to Thief River Falls for his senior season or play an entire season with Sioux Falls.
That decision will come after more time with the Stampede, where Bushy said he got some eye-opening experiences of the junior level last season.
“The big thing is how much more serious everything is,” he said. “You might be able to make a mistake and keep playing in high school. In juniors, if you make a mistake, you might not be playing.
“You have to fight so much more for your spot, work that much more harder for your spot.”
Before working for that spot, he is planning to work out to get ready for the trip to Europe for international competition. He said that his dad, Jon, and mom, Melissa, are talking about going to watch him play in the tournament.
And he made a call to his brother, Brendan, shortly after getting the news that he had made the roster.
“He was just as pumped as I was that I made it,” Evan said of Brendan. “As a kid, this is something you dream of. To be able to put on a USA sweater is an awesome experience and a great feeling.”
5 Minnesota high school players named to Team USA’s roster
Here are the five players who played high school hockey in Minnesota last season who have been named to the Under-18 Team USA roster that will compete in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup from Aug. 5-11 in Breclav, Czech Republic, and Piestany, Slovakia. The other teams competing in the tournament are Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland.
F — Blake Biondi, Hermantown H.S., Minnesota Duluth commit
D — Evan Bushy, Thief River Falls H.S., St. Cloud State commit
G — Louden Hogg, Edina H.S., uncommitted
D — Wyatt Kaiser, Andover H.S., Minnesota Duluth commit
D — Jacob Ratzlaff, Rosemount H.S., Minnesota commit