It's not every day a student-athlete gets the opportunity to suit up for his country and play on the world stage against some of the best competition hockey has to offer.
So when Minot State University men's club hockey senior goaltender Wyatt Waselenchuk learned in early October that he had been chosen to represent the United States Men's National University Team in the 2013 Winter World University Games in Trentino, Italy, he immediately accepted the offer.
"I was very ecstatic," Waselenchuk said. "They name just 10 names, which was very cool to be a part of that original 10 on the roster. It's kind of indescribable being able to play for your country and just the confidence they had in me to be named one of those first 10."
Minot State University senior goaltender Wyatt Waselenchuk tracks the puck against Lindenwood University (Mo.) in October at Maysa Arena. Waselenchuk recently returned from Italy after playing in the 2013 Winter World University Games for Team USA.
The rest of the 22-man roster composed of American Collegiate Hockey Association student-athletes was announced later that month.
Waselenchuk - a native of Port Moody, British Columbia - was first contacted by USA Hockey last year when members were informed by MSU coach Wade Regier the senior goaltender had dual citizenship in Canada and the United States. Waselenchuk's mother was born in California.
It didn't take long before word reached Beavers fans and they let Waselenchuk know just how excited they were for him.
"We have such a great following of fans," Waselenchuk said. "It was so incredible to get the Facebook and the Twitter messages and emails from everybody involved. The support has been absolutely amazing. I'm still talking to people every day about it. It's an amazing community we have here and it will always have a place in my heart."
The trip to Italy was a first for Waselenchuk and it was made more memorable by his performance on the ice for Team USA. In four games played, Waselenchuk finished 2-1, playing 209 minutes and sporting a 2.30 goals against average and a .895 save percentage. Waselenchuk also picked up a win in a 6-1 exhibition victory against HC Alleghe, stopping 14 of 15 shots faced in 29:23.
"The level of play was that much higher," Waselenchuk said. "We played against a lot of guys that weren't necessarily full-time students. It was guys who were making a living playing hockey and playing in some very good pro leagues in Europe. The experience on the ice was as professional as you're going to get."
Waselenchuk split time between the pipes with Iowa State goaltender Matt Cooper and made his first start in a 3-2 overtime victory against Latvia in Team USA's second preliminary-round contest. He finished with 11 saves to earn the victory.
Waselenchuk also appeared in games against Italy (twice) and Kazakhstan, with the latter matchup with the Italian hosts being his most memorable on-ice experience. Three days removed from a 5-1 loss to Italy in its final game of the preliminary round, Team USA defeated the Italians 5-0 in the quarterfinals to advance to its first semifinal contest. Waselenchuk earned the shutout with 13 saves in front of a hostile environment.
"They sent a couple of buses up of other USA athletes and families to cheer us on and that was an amazing experience," Waselenchuk said. "(Italy) had beaten us pretty well the game before that so to come out and do that well and beat them in front of a packed house of their fans was such an incredible experience. It was the highlight of my trip for sure."
Team USA finished 3-3 overall after losses to Kazakhstan in the semifinals and Russia in the bronze medal game. The fourth-place showing was the team's best in program history.
Waselenchuk was the lone MSU representative on Team USA and 12 other ACHA teams had at least one player on the roster as well. Arizona State had five players on the roster, followed by Adrian College's three.
"I made 21 new friends and it was such a good group of guys and the coaching staff was amazing," Waselenchuk said. "The things I learned in that short time was incredible not only on the ice but how you carry yourself as more so professionally. We were representing our country so we uphold the character of being a U.S. citizen because you can tell when you're walking through the streets there were people that always had eyes on you and it was certainly different wearing that USA crest."
Former MSU captain joins Tauros staff
Nigel Dube knows what it takes to be a champion.
He led the Minot State University men's club hockey team to its first national title last year as a senior captain.
Now, the former defenseman has traded in his hockey sweater for a suit and tie. Dube was named an assistant coach with the Minot Minotauros in December, replacing Mick Berge, who accepted the assistant coach/director of scouting position with the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League in September.
"He's got a good hockey mind," Tauros coach Marty Murray said of Dube. "He studies the game daily. He's a hard-working kid and a guy the players can relate to."
Dube said he worked for Murray a couple summers ago during Minot's training camp and the Tauros coach reached out to the former Beaver when the assistant coaching position became available. Dube officially accepted the offer in December after finishing up an internship during the fall.
In his first stint behind the bench, his coaching philosophy is simple.
"It's coming to work every day as a coach and expecting the same thing from the players," Dube said. "It's buying into the system and buying into what the team needs to do to be successful."
Dube's main responsibility is working with the defense. In his final season with the Beavers, Dube's defensive unit allowed just 1.79 goals per game and pitched nine shutouts.
"He's very composed and he runs our 'D,'" Murray said. "It complements us well and he does a good job teaching the kids and letting them know the good and the bad that we can improve on."
Dube is still looking for that elusive first win as an assistant coach. The Tauros are currently on a seven-game skid and haven't tasted victory in 2014.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.