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Austin Jouppi of the Bismarck Bobcats will play for Team NAHL in Russia in August.

After being selected to play for Team NAHL, Austin Jouppi’s immediate thoughts turned to logistics.

Jouppi, and 23 of the other best players the NAHL has to offer, will head to Russia next month for the 2019 Sirius Junior World Cup.

“There was a lot of excitement for sure, a lot of nervousness,” the Bismarck Bobcats’ forward said, “and now, what am I going to have to do to get a passport?”

Jouppi will spend a week in Sochi, Russia, home of the 2014 Oympic Winter Games. The first game is set for Aug. 19, an exhibition against a Russian team. When pool play begins they’ll face teams from Finland, Austria and Czech Republic.

“It’s going to be super competitive and I guess that’s what I’m looking forward to the most about it,” Jouppi said. “It was an honor to be picked. I’m going to go over there, work my butt off and hopefully play well.”

Jouppi’s first season of junior hockey with the Bobcats went extremely well. He ranked fourth on the team in points (41), including 14 goals. The 5-foot-8, 170-pounder also proved very durable. Jouppi’s 56 games trailed only Sam Malinski (59), Ryan Taylor (58) and Alex Pollock (57) on Bismarck’s roster.

It took a little while to get comfortable against top-flight competition, but once he saw the puck sail into the back of the net, his confidence grew.

“Once I started scoring, I calmed down a little and started to believe I could play at this level,” he said. “There are so many great players, but you do need to play with confidence and belief that you belong here.”

Jouppi and his Bobcat teammates were in Bismarck July 12-14 for the annual Main Camp, the final open tryout for the team. Coming off a strong season (34-21-3-2), Jouppi sees even bigger things in store for the coming campaign.

“I think we’re all very confident and really excited for the season,” Jouppi said. “We have almost our whole team back. We definitely have high expectations. To me, the final four is our goal no matter what.”

Adjusting from a 25-game high school season to 60-plus game in the NAHL was a big adjustment, but Jouppi enjoyed everything about it from playing in front of a full house most nights to the hospitality of his host families – Heather and Justin Seibel and Amanda and LeRoy Thomas.

“It was just a great experience. I really enjoyed playing in Bismarck and I’m just looking forward to starting the season,” he said.

Jouppi’s future goal is clear.

“I want to play Division I hockey,” he said. “I don’t really care where. It’d be nice to be closer to home, but I’m not too picky about that. I think playing for the Bobcats is a great place for me to be to continue to work hard and improve and play with a great bunch of guys.”

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Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com

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