Bjugstad, Rau Back With Gophers

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Nick Bjugstad (video highlights) and Kyle Rau (video highlights) played for the United States at the recent World Junior Championship. Bjustad had six points (4g-2a), while Rau had five points (3g-2a) for Team USA. Both are now back with the Gophers and will be in the Minnesota lineup tonight against Notre Dame. We caught up with them upon their return to the Twin Cities.

Nick Bjugstad

Go Gophers! Bjugstad
Go Gophers!
Nick Bjugstad
Go Gophers!

GopherSports: It always has to be an honor to play for your country.

Nick Bjugstad: It was an honor making the team and playing, but it did not go as well as we wanted it to. But it was still a great experience to play and to play in Canada.

GS: How nice was it to have Kyle there with you?

NB: It was good. He was my roommate most of the time and we hung out a lot. We got to play with each other a little bit as well, so that was nice.

GS: You said it did not go as well as you wanted it to, but you still had six points and four goals and were up there in the team lead in both categories.

NB: I thought I played average. We were looked as leaders, the returning guys, and we did not really come through when we needed to so it was disappointing. It is a quick tournament and they are all good teams.

GS: Can you talk about how big the event is. You have played in the state high school tournament and for the Gophers, but the World Juniors is on a totally different level.

NB: Gopher hockey and high school hockey are huge here in Minnesota, but when you get in Canada everyone knows what the World Juniors is and everyone is in town for that tournament. It is great to be in that setting and is a little different. The fans are hostile as well and that makes it fun too.

GS: How nice is it to be back in Minnesota?

NB: It is great. We were really excited to get back and to be with the Gophers again. Hopefully we can have a good second half, like we had in the first.

GS: You got back on Thursday and practiced Friday. How did it feel?

NB: I was a little rusty and people were making fun of me, asking me if I left my mitts in Edmonton. But we will be ready to go against Notre Dame.

GS: You played with T.J. Tynan and Stephen Johns from Notre Dame on Team USA, but now you face them in a big game. What will that be like for you after being their teammates for three weeks?

NB: We are pretty close with them now after that trip. We were together for almost three weeks. They are great guys and good players and it should be a good matchup. But now we are playing them, and Johns is a big boy and said he is going to come after me. We will see what happens.

GS: You just played two weeks of intense games, but it is going to be another intense game against Notre Dame.

NB: Obviously this game is huge for us in all the rankings. It is good to come back to a good game like this.

Kyle Rau


GopherSports: It had to be an honor to play for Team USA.
Go Gophers! Rau
Go Gophers!
Kyle Rau
Go Gophers!

Kyle Rau: It was fun and was a great honor to play for the United States. But it is good to be back and I cannot wait to play Notre Dame.

GS: Can you talk about the overall experience?

KR: It was a lot of fun. You get off the airplane when you first get there and there are people taking photos of you. It was such a big deal there. There were people waiting outside the hotel asking for your autograph. It was on SportsCentre every night and was such a big deal there. It was an awesome experience.

GS: You have played in the high school tournament here and for the Gophers, so you have been in some big-time settings, but how did playing in the World Juniors compare to those?

KR: It was just such a big deal. It was like their Super Bowl. It was on the front page of every paper and there were huge billboards everywhere with Go Canada on them. It was a bigger deal there than anything else I have played in.

GS: How does it feel to be back and see all the guys?

KR: It was fun to see all the guys and listen to all their stories about break and practice and all the gag gifts everyone got. It was fun to see all the guys again and will be fun to play with them again.

GS: Is it nice to come back and have to play in a big game against Notre Dame after playing in a big game for two straight weeks?

KR: It is nice to not have a break and to get back into it right away. We had one day off, then one practice and a game. That is perfect.

GS: You played with Stephen Johns and T.J. Tynan on Team USA, but now will be facing them. How is that going to feel?

KR: We were with them for three weeks, so you become friends with them, but things change when you are back home.

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