UMD's Villila performs at Four Nations Cup

Minnesota Duluth's Tea Villila doesn't know if she will be on Finland's Olympic women's hockey team in Sochi, Russia, next February, but the junior defenseman didn't do herself a disservice by her recent performance at the Four Nations Cup.

Minnesota Duluth's Tea Villila doesn't know if she will be on Finland's Olympic women's hockey team in Sochi, Russia, next February, but the junior defenseman didn't do herself a disservice by her recent performance at the Four Nations Cup.

Villila scored two goals as the Finns earned silver in the four-team tournament at Lake Placid, N.Y., finishing behind the Canadians but defeating the United States.

"I was happy for myself and for the team, too," Villila said Tuesday. "Beating the U.S. was a great confidence boost for our team and showed us that we're doing the right things. It was a great tournament."

Villila won't be with Team Finland during a December tournament and is unsure whether she will be invited to a pre-Olympic tournament in January. The latter comes during a break in the action in UMD's schedule.

"Of course I don't want to miss time playing or practicing with the (UMD) team because that's important for the rest of the season," she said, "but at the same time being with the Finnish team helps to be prepared for the Olympics. We'll see how it works out."


UMD coach Shannon Miller has had several international players miss time over the years for the Four Nations Cup and sees it as a double-edge sword.

"For the individual player, it's a positive thing," she said. "There are some positive benefits for our team, but it's hard to not practice with your proper line combinations, your (defensive) partner -- she's also on the power play. For two weeks, someone else has to stand in there. It's disruptive, but you have to look at the bigger picture."

Miller says Villila, who has no goals and eight assists in 10 games for UMD, is beginning to click for the Bulldogs.

"She started to get in a rhythm two or three weeks before she left for Four Nations," Miller said. "And I understand she played very well for Team Finland, and she was good when she came back. She's matured, so she's starting to play at a level she should be playing at."

  • The Russian women's national team is scheduled to arrive today and train for the next week at Amsoil Arena before playing the Bulldogs in an exhibition game Tuesday. Miller, who was assigned by the International Ice Hockey Federation as a mentor to the team, will work with the Russians during their practices. However, former UMD standout and likely Olympic team member Iya Gavrilova will not be among them. Gavrilova recently signed a contract with a Russian team and the club did not want her gone that long, Miller said. Aleksandra "Sasha" Vafina, who played for UMD last season, will return to Duluth on the national team. UMD men sign four

    Hermantown graduate Jared Thomas was among four recruits whose letters of intent were officially announced by the UMD men's hockey team Tuesday.

    The 19-year-old Thomas, who starred for three seasons at forward with the Hawks, has been among the top scorers in the United States Hockey League. A member of the Sioux City Musketeers, Thomas had 18 goals and 23 assists last season and ranks fourth in USHL scoring this year. Thomas' UMD bloodlines go deep as his father, Mike, was an All-America offensive lineman for the Bulldogs; his mother, Kelli (Ritzer), is a member of the school's hall of fame after being named All-Northern Sun Conference in basketball (four times) and softball (three); and his uncle, Corey Thomas, also lettered in baseball and football.

    Other signees for the 2014-15 season: Sioux City defenseman Blake Heinrich of Cambridge, Minn., who has 20 points this season at Sioux City and was a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. team at the 2012 World Junior A Challenge; 6-foot-3 forward Brett Boehm of Martensville, Saskatchewan, who shares the scoring lead in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League with 20 points on nine goals and 11 assists for the Flin Flon Bombers; and forward Blake Young of Battlefords, Saskatchewan, who has 10 points in his second season in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

    All four recruits were previously profiled in the News Tribune.

    UMD-Minnesota time change

    The Bulldogs have a rare Friday-Sunday nonconference series against top-ranked Minnesota this weekend after Saturday night's contest was pushed to 4 p.m. Sunday to accommodate Big Ten Network coverage.

    UMD coach Scott Sandelin says his team will bus back immediately following Friday night's game and head back to Minneapolis on Sunday.

    "I made the decision a long time ago (if the time change was made) that it was best to let them sleep in their own beds for two nights," he said Tuesday.

    Ex-North Dakota player dies

    Former North Dakota player Chad Johnson of Fargo, N.D., was found dead Monday night from injuries related to being struck by a train, Fargo police said Tuesday.

    Johnson played from 1990-93 and was a teammate of current UMD men's assistant Jason Herter.

    He was an assistant coach with the USHL's Fargo Force and resigned in September as head coach of the Lincoln Stars of the USHL in order to "address health issues," according to a Stars news release.

    Saints to honor military

    St. Scholastica is holding Military Appreciation Night for its 7 p.m. Saturday game against Wisconsin-Superior at Mars Lakeview Arena.

    The Saints will honor a military family before the game and the team will wear blue and gold camouflage jerseys that will be on sale afterward.

    All military members and their families will get in free with military ID.

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