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Notebook (Dec. 30) - U17s, U18s Back in Action for Busy Week

12/30/2013, 1:00pm EST
By Becky Olsen

It’s a hectic week for the U.S. National Under-17 and Under-18 Teams, as the squads will combine to play at least seven games. The U17s will face international competition at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge while the U18s play three college contests.

WORLD CHALLENGE UNDERWAY: The U.S. National Under-17 Team has begun play at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, which runs from Dec. 28 - Jan. 4. Team USA is in Group B along with Atlantic, Germany, Ontario and Russia. The other side of the bracket features the Czech Republic, Pacific, Quebec, Sweden and West.

After a 6-2 exhibition win over Quebec on Saturday, the U17s began a stretch of four games in five days when they opened the tournament with a 5-1 win over Russia on Sunday. Brendan Warren (Carleton, Mich.), Noah Hanifin (Norwood, Mass.), Auston Matthews (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Colin White (Hanover, Mass.) and Michael Floodstrand (Hinsdale, Ill.) tallied the goals. Goalie Michael Lackey (Washington, D.C.) stopped 17 of 18 shots for the win.

“This was a great start for our team and something positive to build from,” head coach Don Granato said after the Russia game. “Russia is a big rival, and to get a win over them to open the tournament is huge. But it's right back to work on our next opponent.”

The squad’s second game will be against Germany on Monday. Team USA plays Atlantic on Tuesday before closing out round robin-play Thursday against Ontario.

The playoffs begin on Friday, followed by the third place game at 11 a.m. EST and the gold-medal game at 4 p.m. Both games will be held Saturday.

BACK TO COLLEGE SCHEDULE: After a 16-day holiday break from competition, the U.S. National Under-18 Team returns to action with three college games. The U18s head to Oxford, Ohio, to face Miami University on Tuesday before traveling to Minnesota to face the University of Minnesota-Duluth on Friday and St. Cloud State University on Saturday.

“We had seven full days off without skating and practicing,” said head coach Danton Cole, whose squad last played on Dec. 15. “We really wanted our players to get away from the game and get their minds and bodies right. We knew they might be a little rusty coming back.

“The main thing for us was on Saturday, we just wanted to move a lot of pucks and get our hands and feet under us. On Sunday in practice, we battled a little bit and had a refresher on our systems and we looked pretty good. We should have a lot of energy; we have one more practice before we play Miami. We have to be ready to compete and play at the level.”
 
WORLD JUNIOR UPDATE: Former National Team Development Program forward Riley Barber (Livonia, Mich./2011-12/Miami) was named the captain of the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team. Barber earned a gold medal as a member of Team USA at the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia.

The alternate captains for Team USA are former NTDP forward Andrew Copp (Ann Arbor, Mich./2010-12/Michigan) and defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (Charlestown, Mass./2010-12/Boston U.). Barber, Copp and Grzelcyk were teammates on the U.S. squad that won the gold medal at the 2012 IIHF Under-18 Men's World Championship in Brno, Czech Republic.

All told, 15 former NTDP players made the final cut for the U.S. National Junior Team. Current U18 forward Jack Eichel (North Chelmsford, Mass.) is the youngest member of the World Juniors squad with a 1996 birthday.

Former NTDP players who made the roster include goaltender Thatcher Demko (San Diego, Calif./2012-13); forwards Thomas Di Pauli (Woodridge, Ill./2010-12), Hudson Fasching (Burnsville, Minn./2011-13), Ryan Hartman (West Dundee, Ill./2010-12), Nic Kerdiles (Irvine, Calif./2010-12), Stefan Matteau (Chicago, Ill./2010-12), and Quentin Shore (Denver, Colo./2010-12); along with defensemen Will Butcher (Sun Prairie, Wis./2011-13), Connor Carrick (Orland Park, Ill./2010-12), Steven Santini (Mahopac, N.Y./2011-13), and Brady Skjei (Lakeville, Minn./2010-12).

The U.S. has medaled in three of the last four World Junior Championships, including gold in 2010 and 2013, and bronze in 2011.

(Cover photo by Bob MacEachern)

Notebook

• The U17s claimed third place in last year's World Under-17 Hockey Challenge after earning back-to-back second-place finishes in 2011 and 2012. The U.S. won the tournament in 2010 and has placed in the top three for seven consecutive years, in 2006 and from 2008-13. No tournament was held in 2007.

• All told, Team USA has brought home the title from the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge three times (2001-02, 2010) and placed second four times (1998, 2008, 2011, 2012).

• Four former NTDP players currently skate for the Miami RedHawks, including Riley Barber, Austin Czarnik (Washington, Mich./2008-10), Trevor Hamilton (Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich./2011-13) and Anthony Louis (Winfield, Ill./2011-13). However, Barber is away from the Miami squad playing for Team USA at the World Junior Championship.

• The Minnesota-Duluth roster features two former NTDP players in Matt McNeely (Burnsville, Minn./2009-11) and Kyle Osterberg (Lakeville, Minn./2010-12).

• The U17s carry a 16-11-0 (W-L-OTL) into this week’s action at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

• The U17s are paced by Jeremy Bracco (Freeport, N.Y./10-25), who has accumulated 35 points in 27 games. Colin White (16-15) is second with 31 points, while Luke Kirwan (Dewitt, N.Y./12-14) is third with 26 points. Noah Hanifin (5-16) sits fourth with 21 points. Rounding out the top-five are: Luke Kunin (Chesterfield, Mo./10-10), Brendan Warren (9-11), Christian Fischer (Wayne, Ill./8-12) and Jordan Greenway (Potsdam, N.Y./8-12), who have each tallied 20 points apiece.

• In net for the U17s, Michael Lackey and Luke Opilka (St. Louis, Mo.) split time. Lackey is 8-6-0 with a 3.23 goals-against average and an .883 save percentage. Opilka is 8-5-0 with a 4.15 GAA and an .857 save percentage.

• The U18s have a record of 18-8-1 (W-L-OTL), including a 3-5-0 mark against college competition.

Sonny Milano (Massapequa, N.Y./14-32) leads the U18s with 46 points in 27 games. Jack Eichel (19-20) ranks second with 39 points, while Alex Tuch (Baldwinsville, N.Y./19-16) is third with 35 points. Rounding out the top-five are: Dylan Larkin (Waterford, Mich./15-9) and Ryan Hitchcock (Manhasset, N.Y./5-19) who are tied for fourth with 24 points each.

• In goal for the U18s, Edwin Minney (Wind Gap, Pa.) holds a 10-5-1 mark along with a 2.70 GAA and a .904 save percentage.  Blake Weyrick (Ojai, Calif.) is 3-1-0 with a 2.00 GAA and a .925 save percentage.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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