By JAMES COOK firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — BUFFALO, N.Y. — It’s not exactly the time of year when hockey is probably on your mind.
The Stanley Cup is over, Detroit’s development camp is weeks away and most hockey players are busy playing golf.
But not Marcus Russell and Brandon Halvorsen.
The two Traverse City natives are in Buffalo, N.Y., ready to begin today in a string of five straight days of practice in the morning and scrimmages later in the day at the Select 17 Festival in order to try to make the United States’ Five Nation team that will compete in Europe later this summer.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” Russell said. “It’s my first time. This has been going for about four years, but it’s my first.”
Russell played this year for Honeybaked, which placed third in nationals, losing in overtime to the St. Louis Junior Blues. He had a goal and four assists in five games.
The Select Festival splits some of the country’s top 1996 birth year players into 10 teams. Russell plays for Columbia in the American division, while Halvorsen is on Red in National section.
Those two teams play against each other July 1 at 1 p.m.
“It’s going to be different,” Russell said. “You’re going to be on teams with ... just random kids. You really don’t know who you’re going to be playing with. It’s going to be a different experience, for sure.”
The pair traveled together to Buffalo and will stay at the University of Buffalo while there, but the two seniors-to-be haven’t played on the same team since Pee Wee hockey four years ago.
For next season, Russell said he has a tryout in August for a Junior team, and also may return to Honeybaked.
Halvorsen, meanwhile is recovering from a broken toe sustained when a weight was dropped on his foot during a workout.
“I skated on it a couple times the past week,” Halvorsen said. “It hurts a little bit, but I’ve just got to fight through it. I’m not too worried about it.”
He is one of two Red squad goalies, along with Massachusetts’ Erik Wurman. Last year, he didn’t make it out of the Michigan round of selections, but that wasn’t an issue this year.
“I didn’t really have the best tryout at the Michigan tryout,” Halvorsen said. “I’m just trying to come in and do the best I can and hopefully turn a lot of heads and impress some people.”
Halvorsen said it still looks like he’ll be playing for the Soo Greyhounds next season in some capacity, although their goalie situation is a little unclear.
“Whatever the case, I’m going to work my hardest to get the first spot,” he said.
He finished up hi junior year at Detroit Henry Ford and plans on attending Superior Heights in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario next school year.
The Select Festival — which has the Team USA U-17 mixed in among the squads — starts today and continues through July 2.
TC Central forward Jon Russell is slated to take part in the same Select Festival for 98s in mid-July. Traverse City’s Delaney Drake is in the girls’ festival.