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Zach Stepan healthy, ready for camp

by Dan Myers

MINNEAPOLIS -- Zach Stepan, who is at the United States National Junior Team selection camp this week, is fully healthy for the camp that got underway Sunday evening at Mariucci Arena.

Stepan, a freshman at Minnesota State University, was injured in Game 2 of a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series Saturday against the University of Alabama-Huntsville in Huntsville, Ala.

With the Mavericks leading 2-1 late in the third period, Stepan was hit high and from behind into the boards behind the UAH net. Stepan lay on the ice for several moments before being brought back to the locker room.

Stepan did not return to the bench over the final minutes, a move he said was precautionary.

"I'm fine," Stepan said. "They just wanted to make sure everything was intact, and it was, so we're good to go."

The hit drew a five-minute major penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct, a power play MSU capitalized twice on to win 4-1, capping a series sweep of the Chargers. Stepan's Mavericks are winners of seven straight games.

"I didn't see it. My back was turned, but a lot of the guys said it was pretty bad and unnecessary," Stepan said.

Initial concern was high because Stepan missed four games earlier this season with an upper-body injury after he and a player from Bemidji State University collided during a game in October.

That injury was one of the main reasons why he was a late addition to the U.S.' preliminary roster, added five days after the team's initial roster was released. Stepan, along with forward Vince Hinostroza (University of Notre Dame) and defenseman Jaccob Slavin (Colorado College) were all added late because of lingering injury concerns.

"I've talked to the players individually, they're not player 16, player 17 and defenseman nine," U.S. general manager Jim Johannson said. "They all had injuries they needed to come back from we wanted to make sure this was good for Zach and he was healthy and ready to go."

The U.S. currently has 29 players on its roster, a number which Johannson and coach Don Lucia said will likely go down following an exhibition game against Minnesota State on Tuesday.

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