UMD men's hockey: Bulldogs' captain Noah Cates named to college-heavy United States Olympic team
The U.S. Olympic men's hockey team will feature 15 NCAA players and four from the NCHC, including Minnesota Duluth captain Noah Cates.
The University of Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey team has celebrated six of its current and former players selections to Olympic teams this month.
On Thursday, it was time for the Bulldogs men’s squad to celebrate an Olympian as senior captain Noah Cates of Stillwater, Minnesota, was officially named to the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing next month.
With the NHL not taking part in this year’s Olympics due to COVID-19 concerns, USA Hockey pulled players from college and European professional leagues. They could also take American Hockey League players who were not on NHL contracts.
Cates is one of 15 current NCAA players named to Team USA, and one of four from the NCHC along with North Dakota defenseman Jake Sanderson, St. Cloud State defenseman Nick Perbix and SCSU forward Sam Hentges.
Three Minnesota Gophers were selected — forwards Matthew Knies and Ben Meyers and defenseman Brock Faber — as well as Minnesota State forward Nathan Smith.
Former Boston University and New York Rangers coach David Quinn will coach the U.S. at the Olympics. He’ll be assisted by St. Cloud State coach Brett Larson — the former UMD Bulldog and Duluth Denfeld Hunter — and Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings.
They’ll coach a U.S. Olympic team with an average age of 25.1 years old, making it the youngest American roster since 1994 (22.4), the last Olympics before NHL players began participating in 1998.
“We obviously were a little bit more aware of maybe going a little bit younger, but we want to take the best team possible to compete for a gold medal,” Quinn said. “When we looked at the player pool that was available to us, we thought speed, skill, pace, tempo was going to be the strength of our team. It's kind of like putting a band together. You don't pick five lead singers when you’re putting a band together. You're trying to put a team together and that certainly was our mindset when we're going through this process.”
Cates, who turns 23 on Feb. 5, is one of 13 NHL prospects on the Team USA roster, while six others have NHL experience. Cates could have signed an NHL contract with the Philadelphia Flyers in the offseason — like his older brother, Jackson, did as an undrafted free agent — but the 2017 fifth-round draft pick instead decided to return to Duluth to captain the Bulldogs for a second-straight season.
Now he’s heading to the Olympics with Team USA to compete for a gold medal.
“It's the Olympics, it's the pinnacle,” Cates said last week about getting the invitation to play in the Olympics, noting it was an opportunity he had to take. “I know how well we will be treated and how professionally COVID and other concerns will be taken — really no concerns for me with any of that stuff. I’m just excited to get there and hopefully everything works out well for all the players and we can play.”
Cates will be the ninth Bulldog to skate for the United States in the Olympics and 15th Bulldogs to skate in the Winter Games.
Cates enters this weekend’s series against Miami with six goals and eight assists in 20 games to share the team high of 14 points with sophomore wing Blake Biondi. Cates had five goals and 14 assists in 28 games last season.
The 2022 Olympics will be Cates’ second time representing the United States, after winning a silver medal with Team USA at the 2019 World Junior Championship in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin was also an assistant coach on the U.S. National Junior Team at the 2019 World Juniors. He said Cates came back to UMD from the World Juniors a better player, and its likely Cates could get the same boost from the Olympics.
“He came back and played great for us in the second half of that year,” Sandelin said of Cates, who finished with nine goals and 14 assists en route to winning an NCAA title in 2018-19 as a freshman. Cates then had 14 goals and 19 assists in 34 games in 2019-20 as a sophomore. “For him, his next step is to move on and sign when he’s done (at UMD). They’re all going to come back better players. It’s the experience playing with the players they are going to play with and against some of the players they are going to play against. Like the World Juniors, I think they’re all going to come back better for it and hopefully that helps our team when he gets back.”
Cates will depart for Los Angeles after the Bulldogs’ scheduled NCHC series against Western Michigan on Jan. 28-29 at Amsoil Arena. Team USA is scheduled to arrive at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing when they get underway on Feb. 3, however, the U.S. doesn’t begin preliminary round play until Feb. 10 against China. Knockout rounds begin Feb. 15 with the gold medal game scheduled for Feb. 20.
The Bulldogs currently have four games scheduled during the Olympics — two at Denver Feb. 11-12 and two at home Feb. 18-19 against North Dakota — though makeup dates against St. Cloud State have not been announced following the postponement of that series due to COVID-19.
This article was updated at 6:58 p.m. with comments from U.S. Olympic team head coach David Quinn. It was originally posted at 5:08 p.m.