Photo by Rena Laverty
It seemed like the first international title was a long time coming for Luke Tuch and his USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 teammates. As the final buzzer sounded in a 3-1 win over the Five Nations tournament hosts in Sundsvall, Sweden, on Nov. 10, Team USA finished off a four-game sweep to win the title.
“It was great to earn the win,” said Tuch. “We went through a lot of adversity last year and we put in a lot of work in the off-season just to prepare for this first tournament. Hopefully, we can win our next one.
“Last year, in our first tournament [the Under-17 World Challenge], we came in last which was a huge disappointment. I think that was always in the back of our mind, especially how hard we need to work coming to our next international tournament. We knew we could make something special about it.”
What was even more special was winning the title for his country.
“It’s awesome to represent the USA and everybody who is behind us, rooting for us,” said Tuch. “It’s unbelievable. Putting [the jersey] on, I still get chills. There is no better feeling.”
Tuch credits a big part of the team’s early season success to last year’s May training.
“It’s huge. We were in the weight room, almost 2 ½ hours per day, Monday through Friday,” explained the Baldwinsville, New York, native. “It was a huge grind. It definitely paid off, but we still have more work to do. We made a huge jump physically. Brian [Galivan, NTDP director of sports science] came in and did a great job with us.
“He brought in modern and technological workouts for us. He made our workouts personalized for us. If we were sore in some areas or had strengths or weaknesses in others, he would have us work on those. Not everyone on our team is exactly the same. We have guys that are [5-foot-4] to guys that are [6-foot-4]. He had us focus on areas that we needed the most improvement on.”
Tuch, a 6-foot-2, 203-pound forward, has really learned how to use his strength and size, especially in front of the net.
“I feel that I have always had a knack in front of the net,” he said. “I like to be there but there are guys that are bigger than me. Mentally, knowing that I might be hit with a shot or take a few cross-checks in the back, I love that. At the end of the day, it’s helping out my team. Physically, it does take a toll on your body, but you are doing it for the team.
“I think I have an edge to my game. I think it’s really about incorporating that edge and getting underneath my opponent’s skin. I have grown with my physicality and that is where I’m most successful which is in front of the net and down in the corners.”
Photo: Rena Laverty
In addition to the USA Hockey coaching staff, Tuch has two key people he can turn to for advice, not to mention his own personal cheering section. The first is his older brother, Alex, who played for the NTDP from 2012-14 and currently plays for the Vegas Golden Knights. The other is his twin sister, Leah.
“Alex and I are similar players but not totally the same,” he said. “We worked out together over the summer, but I worked on my speed to help me improve, whether it is down low, or in the corners, or helping me break out the puck. We broke down the little things, from tipping the puck in front of the net or corralling bad passes.
“We did a lot of talking. It’s nice to pick his brain since he has been through the whole process. He would ask me questions, too. He was here so he understands. It’s nice to go to somebody who understands the ups and downs.”
Photo by Rena Laverty
This season marks the third year that Tuch and his sister haven’t lived in the same house. She still is one of his biggest cheerleaders.
“We call each other quite a bit,” he said. “She is a big part of my hockey success, whether it was early on when she would have to go to the hockey rink and sit there for long hours with my mom or dad. She made sacrifices.
“She has definitely toughened me up. She still texts me and critiques my game. She is loving and supportive. She is a huge part of why I’m here.”
Tuch is excited about playing his future college team, the Boston University Terriers, on Jan. 3 at USA Hockey Arena. He knows there are much more than bragging rights on the line.
“I’m really excited to play BU,” he said. “BU has an unbelievable team this year. I think it will be a great test for our team. Playing my future teammates and coaches, it should be exciting. Hopefully, we can come out with a win for some bragging rights.”
When it came time to making his college choice, it was a very easy decision.
“I love the city of Boston,” said Tuch. “The facilities are unbelievable, and I love the coaching staff. David Quinn was there when I verbally committed but he left to coach in the NHL. The person who recruited me was Albie O’Connell and he is an unbelievable coach. I love their playing style and I think it fits my game.”
There might be a little rivalry brewing though with Boston College, as that is his brother’s alma mater and the destination of current U18 teammate, Eamon Powell.
“Eamon is my roommate and we grew up together and my brother went to Boston College,” said Tuch. “That’s a huge thing and they always razz me. We do chirp each other quite a bit about it. It’s all in fun.
“My brother always says that, ‘I hope the game is 4-3 and Boston College wins’ but he hopes I have a hat trick in the game.”
Budding rivalry aside, Tuch always keeps in mind some words of advice from his brother.
“He said not to take any day for granted and to stay positive,” said Tuch. “There are going to be some points throughout the year where you may not be putting up the points or the puck isn’t going your way. He said you need to stay positive and go into every day knowing that you are going to work your hardest and good things are going to come by that.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.