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Tournament Feature - Day Off Helps Prepare U.S. for Ontario

01/02/2014, 12:45pm EST
By Brian Smith

SYDNEY, Nova Scotia - After traveling over 1,500 miles and playing four games in four nights, the U.S. Men’s National Under-17 Team enjoyed a well-deserved day off from competition in the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge yesterday. Without a game to prepare for, and with three wins to its name, Team USA was able to rest their bodies and recover from the grind of the tournament.

“I like the way our team has maintained focus throughout the tournament and they deserve a mental and physical rest,” said Don Granato, head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Under-17 Team. “The day off is a great way to make sure we stay sharp against Ontario and hopefully in more games to come.”

Playing so many games in such a short time frame is taxing on the young players’ bodies and in an effort to stay as fresh as possible, Granato cancelled the team’s scheduled morning skate yesterday. The players were grateful for complete rest.

“It was great to get a break, with no game and no morning skate,” said Michael Floodstrand (Hinsdale, Ill.), who has netted one goal and added an assist in three tournament games. “The grind is difficult, so a full rest day was just what we needed.”

To avoid an off day spent entirely in the team hotel, the U.S. was treated to a pleasant surprise – a steak lunch with parents that made the trip to Cape Brenton to support the squad.

“Seeing the parents was nice, it’s something different,” said Charlie McAvoy (Long Beach, N.Y.), joined by his parents and three sisters. “Things like that are refreshing and it gets our minds off of the tournament for a little while.”

Team USA spent the rest of its day recuperating, including team walks, light workouts, and stretching. After dinner, the 22 players ventured over to Centre 200 to be spectators during the Russia and Ontario game, preparing for tonight’s match up with Canada's Team Ontario.

“Ontario will be our toughest game yet so we want to be ready,” said Nicholas Boka (Plymouth, Mich.), one of four alternate captains for Team USA. “Our preparation can’t be different from any other game we’ve played.”

Entering the game, the U.S. has outscored its opponents 28-3. Despite such prolific offensive production, Team USA has remained steadfast in its strategy of approaching the game one-day at a time.

“We’re not going to let any past success change the way we play our game,” said Casey Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.), a mainstay on the U.S. power play in the tournament. “We know going into tonight Ontario is going to be a difficult team, but we’ll be ready.”

The American's ability to retain mental intensity through constant new challenges has proved to be a staple of the Under-17 Team. With such a close-knit group of players, they make sure each player stays responsible and accountable to insure they achieve their objective.

“We’ve pulled together as a team during this tournament and it’s helped us a lot to get through a tough schedule with teams we aren’t as familiar with,” said Boka. “We’ll keep pushing ahead and focus solely on tonight’s game over anything else.”

(Cover photo credit: Andy Devlin/Hockey Canada Images)

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