Michigan hockey players Mike Komisarek and Dwight Helminen gained at least one thing from their experience with the U.S. Junior National Team at the Summer Challenge confidence.

Paul Wong
Mike Komisarek was one of six returning players on the U.S. Junior Natioal Team that competed against Finland at the Summer Challenge in New York.<br><br>BRENDAN O”DONNELL/Daily

As part of the team”s off-ice bonding, Komisarek took the squad to a 55-foot cliff near Whiteface Mountain in New York.

“It”s pretty scary,” Komisarek said. “You have to gather up all your courage and take that step and the next thing you know you are in the water screaming. It”s a rush.”

In addition to the cliff, the players were also given a chance to build up some confidence during a four-game series against Finland”s Junior National Team.

The two teams split the series 2-2. The U.S. won the first two games easily, 6-1 and 4-1. But Finland pulled it together after that winning game three handily by the score of 7-3.

The Fins took the final game 3-2 in a shootout.

“It”s great to go against the top players in the world,” Komisarek said. “It”s kind of a measuring stick for us. (Playing those games) is great for our confidence heading into this season.”

The experience should prove especially helpful for Helminen. The incoming freshman scored one of Team USA”s shootout goals in game four after garnering an assist earlier in the game.

“I”ve been in a lot of shoot-outs, so I wasn”t too nervous for that one,” Helminen said. “I had one just like that in Finland during the World (Under-18) Championships.”

When his turn came, Helminen didn”t have any idea what move he would use to score.

“I was just thinking “shoot.” ”

Playing a four-game series is a unique and interesting experience for the players, as the college hockey season is made up of just two-game series.

“There”s definitely a hate there,” Komisarek said. “You see the same guys, the same faces. You learn to hate them.”

As one of only six returning players from last year”s Junior National Team that traveled to Russia, Komisarek was recognized by his teammates as a leader.

“He was one of the guys we looked to,” Helminen said. “He”d show us the ropes.”

Both Michigan representatives hope to continue their international experience when the Junior National team travels to Prague, Czech Republic for the World Championships.

“The Summer Challenge was kind of like a tryout for us,” Helminen said.

The final roster will be selected in early December. The U.S. will have representatives following the progress and play of all the candidates during the upcoming season.

“We basically just concentrate on what we have to do here (at Michigan),” Komisarek said. “Then if we make the team they give us a call, we take our exams early and we”re off.”

When and if that call comes, both players will be eager to go.

“Anytime you put on that U.S. sweater, it”s a tremendous feeling,” Komisarek said. “You get a rush going through your body. There are thousands of kids that would love to wear that jersey. You need to play hard for them and your country.”

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