Warroad's Hampton Slukynsky, left, and Wayzata's Will Ingemann, right, are competing for Team USA this week at the U-18 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in Alberta. Photos by LegacyHockeyPhotography.com
While Minnesota has produced an array of elite goaltenders over the years, many of whom have gone on to NHL stardom, the State of Hockey hasn’t been a consistent producer of the world’s best puckstoppers in recent decades.
That might be changing starting this week in Red Deer, Alberta, with the start of the star-studded Hlinka Getzky Cup and the inclusion of Wayzata’s Will Ingemann and Warroad’s Hampton Slukynsky on Team USA’s roster.
Minnesotans competing in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, an annual under-18 international tournament typically featuring numerous future NHL stars, is hardly a new phenomenon. But before this year Minnesota goaltenders appearing on the United States roster was a rarity.
Since the current incarnation of the event featuring the world’s top national programs began in 2007, only five Minnesota goaltenders had been selected to represent the U.S. before this year. And one of those goaltenders, Louden Hogg, is a Cheyenne, Wyoming, native who spent just two seasons in Minnesota, starring as a high schooler for Edina (winning a state Class 2A title in 2019.)
Hogg, the most recent Minnesota goalie representative before this year, played in the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. The four previous goalies with Minnesota ties to compete in the tournament are Holy Family Catholic’s Dayton Rasmussen in 2015, Thief River Falls’ Zane McIntyre in 2009 and the duo of International Falls’ Brady Hjelle and St. Thomas Academy’s Aaron Crandall in 2007.
|Dayton Rasmussen||Holy Family Catholic||2015|
|Zane McIntyre||Thief River Falls||2009|
|Brady Hjelle||International Falls||2007|
|Aaron Crandall||St. Thomas Academy||2007|
Note: The list includes players selected from 2007, when the current incarnation of the tournament began, to this year.
The recognition of Ingemann and Slukynsky as two of the nation’s best at their position could be a momentary blip of Minnesota excellence or the start of a more lasting trend thanks to the vast array of goalie development opportunities that have sprung up in the state in the last 20 or so years.
Wayzata coach Pat O’Leary sees this week’s inclusion of two Minnesota goaltenders at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup as more trend than blip.
“I just think the times have changed so much the majority of goalies now, in Minnesota specifically, they are so well trained,” O’Leary said. “There’s just as much goalie training as there is skating training. There are at least 10 really good, reputable goalie training companies in the Twin Cities alone.”
Add in the involvement of highly respected goalie coaching veterans such as Steve Carroll and Steve Hogue, among numerous others, with Minnesota Hockey’s Dave Peterson CCM High Performance goalie camps and there’s no shortage of consistent, high-level instruction.
Competition outside the high school season is plentiful, too. Among the options for top players is the Upper Midwest High School Elite League. Both Ingemann and Slukynsky played in the league that attracted dozens of NHL, college and junior scouts last year and are expected to return as seniors this fall.
“What has changed since I have started coaching is all these goalies now are doing more and more goalie-specific things, whether that’s goalie camps or individualized instruction,” said Warroad coach Jay Hardwick, who is entering his 11th season as Warriors’ head coach. “There are opportunities for kids to go through the High Performance process, to go to USHL camps and NAHL camps.
“Now Minnesota kids are seeing there a lot of really good players across the country. And I think the kids are better preparing themselves for that.”
The Hlinka Gretzy Tournament began Saturday with exhibition games and Sunday and Monday with the first waves of preliminary round games. The U.S. beat Germany 8-1 Sunday and lost 4-1 to Finland on Monday. The goaltending duties in both those games were handled by Calvin Vachon of Shattuck-St. Mary’s.
Slukynsky saw action in a preliminary round game on Friday, stopping all 10 shots he faced in 28 minutes of playing time in an 8-0 triumph over Slovakia.
The U.S. plays Czechia Wednesday. Championship round play begins Friday and the tournament concludes Saturday.
The other Minnesota high school players on the U.S. roster are defensemen Joe Gramer of Moorhead and Ty Hanson of Hermantown.