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(From left) West Fargo hockey players Nick Turner, Tyler Berginski, Conor Jonasson and Brandon Tendeland were all chosen to participate in the National Hockey Festival July 8-14 in Rochester, N.Y. The event, which is hosted by USA Hockey, brings together top players from across the U.S. to strut their stuff in front of scouts looking for talent, as well as a chance to try out for the National U18 team. David Samson/The Forum

West Fargo's Fantastic Four

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Unless a person is inherently gifted with athletic ability, becoming prevalent at a given sport requires endless hours of practice and dedication well past a given season.

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But even after all that sweat and toil, some athletes just aren't quite good enough.

At least four West Fargo hockey players have proven they definitely are not in that category.

In fact, Brandon Tendeland, Conor Jonasson, Tyler Berginski and Nick Turner are so talented, they've caught national attention. The four recently were chosen to participate in USA Hockey's Select Development Camps in Rochester, N.Y. The camps run July 7-14, depending on the age bracket.

"It's a big deal," West Fargo varsity boys hockey co-coach Tim Capouch said.

Considering roughly 220 hockey players from across the entire United States are chosen to attend the camps, "big deal" is right. And the fact that scouts from across the collegiate and professional gamut will be in attendance, also speaks to the events' importance.

"You can bet someone from (the University of North Dakota) will be there," said Brad Schlossman, UND hockey reporter at the Grand Forks Herald. "Scouts from every hockey college will be there."

According to the USA Hockey website, the camps are designed to discover and develop the next generation of U.S. skaters. Each summer, USA Hockey puts on Select Player Development Camps for young athletes from throughout the country. The athletes are chosen from tryouts conducted within USA Hockey Districts. The West Fargo athletes, for example, participated in tryouts in Fargo and Minot. The goal of the camps is to attract the best players, in their specific age group, to the national program. Once advanced to the weeklong camp, players are evaluated by national scouts, college and junior recruiters and professional scouts.

However, players cannot be actively recruited until their junior year of high school, Tendeland said. This will be his first opportunity to be approached by scouts.

Packer pride

The West Fargo foursome is separated by age, but not by much else. Tendeland and Jonasson are seasoned veterans with the Packers, and both will take part in the Select 17 camp July 7-13. Tendeland will play defense and wear No. 3 for the Red team, while forward Jonasson is No. 18 with team Orange.

As two incoming freshmen, Berginski and Turner will play in the Select 14 camps. Berginski is expected to wear No. 12 on the White team as a forward, while Turner will don No. 2 as a defenseman with the Gold team. Fans can keep track of all the statistics and results by visiting the USA Hockey website at www.usahockey.com. Once at the home page, simply follow the "Development Camps" hyperlink to view scores and other results.

Leading the West Fargo troop is Tendelend, who will be participating in his third camp.

"I probably won't be as nervous," he said. "I think it will be pretty fun."

As the only returning captain from last season's Packer hockey team, Tendeland stands to be a veteran presence on the ice this season. He said this camp will be a good experience for all four of the West Fargo skaters, and shows just how strong its hockey program is.

"It will be a fun year. We all get along really well," he said. "Losing the seniors will be different, but we'll just have to go out there and play hockey, and show the younger kids what we can do."

Jonasson also will return some needed veteran leadership to the Packers lineup. The incoming junior isn't new to the offseason competition, either, and looks forward to this week's Festival.

"It'll be nice just to see the competition. I've never been there before, so it will be kind of a surprise to see who's out there," he said.

As for having four West Fargo players chosen to go to the event, Jonasson sees it as direct evidence for how far the program has come.

"It should help to have four kids with this experience," he said.

Jonasson and Tendeland also made a splash earlier this year in April, as the two participated with the North Dakota Starz 16U team at the National Tier II 3A championship in West Chester, Pa. Jonasson finished No. 1 in points overall after accumulating nine goals and seven assists. Tendeland put up a goal and five assists. It was the North Dakota team's second title in four years.

Berginski and Turner both said they are very excited to participate at the development camps. The two are longtime friends, and plan to give it their all against some of the best youth hockey players in the country.

"It's a chance to get noticed, and work hard. That's what I want to do," Turner said. "It's like a speechless feeling, you know? I'm not nervous though. Nerve-racking things don't really get to me."

"I've done selects before, but this is my first time to New York," Berginski said. "It's going to be hard, but it's also going to be a good experience."

Looking ahead

For elders Jonasson and Tendelend, it's a bit easier to look past the competition and to their future, though neither wants to count chickens before they hatch.

"Out of the camps, they take like 40 kids to try out for the (National) Under 18 team," Tendeland said. Making the cut "would be awesome."

But for the younger Berginski and Turner, thinking about college or amateur hockey now when they're just about to start high school may be a bit presumptive.

"I'm just looking forward to trying out for high school (hockey)," Turner said.

"I'm just taking it one year at a time," Berginski said.

Still, it's OK to dream, and playing in collegiate hockey, especially the WCHA, wouldn't be a bad gig.

"I definitely want to play Division I," Turner said. "I'm a Sioux fan, but I'll play anywhere."

The future would be entirely different had it not been for good influences in the past. Tendeland, Jonasson, Berginski and Turner all cited the coaching in West Fargo as the reason they are at where they are now.

"We have good coaching," Berginski said. "I'd like to thank all the coaches I've had."

Now, its just up to the four to take everything they've learned and apply it to the ice. If this small sampling has anything to say about West Fargo hockey overall, the future is bright.

"I think it proves how far we've come," Tendeland said.

"It helps West Fargo a ton," Turner said. "West Fargo is kind of at the bottom compared to the (other Fargo programs), so this definitely shows what we're capable of."

Tyler Shoberg is Sports Editor of the Pioneer, and can be reached at 701-451-5717 or tshoberg@westfargopioneer.com.

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