Photo by Rena Laverty
For the first time since December 2018, international hockey returns to USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan.
The 2022 U18 Five Nations Tournament, which runs from Nov. 8-12, features the best hockey players under the age of 18 from Czechia, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. The teams will compete in a round-robin schedule to face each opposing country.
Augustine in his crease (Photo: Michael Caples)
“Any time you get to wear the USA jersey, it’s special,” said Dan Muse, head coach of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program Under-18 Team. “Any time you get to wear the USA jersey in international competition, it makes if even more special.
“The fact that we are playing on our home ice, it is something that everyone will remember. We know that not everyone gets the opportunity.”
The players share Muse’s excitement for playing on their home ice. Netminder Trey Augustine from South Lyon, Michigan, is looking forward to this special experience.
“It should be super fun and hopefully, it will be a good environment in the rink,” he said. “It’s really a special opportunity for all of us. We have taken the experiences from last year and are using it as motivation this season.”
Meanwhile, forward Danny Nelson from Maple Grove, Minnesota, can’t wait for his parents, grandparents, aunt and uncle along with the fans to watch Team USA in action.
“I’m so excited for the games,” he said. “It’s always cool to play the other countries. It makes it more special to play here on our home turf.”
The U18s open play against Czechia on Nov. 8, followed by a Nov. 9 game against Finland. The squad closes out the round robin with contests against Switzerland (Nov. 11) and Sweden (Nov. 12).
“There is preparation that leads up to the tournament,” said Muse on what the U18s need to do for success. “We need to factor in what we are doing on the ice, in practices, in training sessions and in the weight room. We are going to play four games in five days, so we definitely need to vary our routine since we normally would play our games on the weekend.”
Defenseman Kai Janviriya from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, understands the importance of having that right mindset in each game of the Five Nations.
“Our team’s mindset is that we are going to do the same thing every game,” he said. “We need to play to our identity — relentless and united. Every day, we set the standard higher. We push to be better. That is the way we have to play our game and control our actions. It means everything to wear the jersey.”
Just one year ago, while playing for the U17s, the NTDP played in two Four Nations Tournaments in two months. The U.S. placed first at the competition in Finland in November and placed second in Slovakia in December. Janviriya can see how last year's experience carries over into this year.
“It really helps us,” he said. “All the teams we played last year have a lot of great players. We have seen them. It really helps us to know what to expect at the Five Nations. The teams will be skilled, and it should be high-paced hockey. It really fits with our group.”
Meanwhile, Nelson, who is in his first full season with the NTDP, played for the U17s last year in Finland. He carries cherished memories from that first international event.
“It was an amazing experience,” he said. “It was something I dreamed of growing up, especially after watching Miracle. We get to live our own experiences, playing international teams.”
Nelson at last year's Four Nations in Finland
Muse understands that the team learned lessons last year that they will carry into their preparation for the Five Nations.
“You learn that every country you play will have their own unique identity,” he said. “The games are different, different than the USHL and then, college. That is one of the things that is special we have here. We get to see different types of opponents — week to week — and even more so when in international play.”
The U18s bring a 13-1-1 record into the tournament, including four wins over their past five games. The team has had a challenging schedule to date, including playing eight college games. More than anything, the players understand just how helpful that experience will be as they transition back into playing their own age group.
Janviriya knows he can use the lessons they have learned early on.
“Obviously, the college guys are bigger and stronger,” he said. “We need to play to our strengths and use our speed. I think it will help when we play our own age group. It gives us some added confidence.”
Meanwhile, Nelson not only appreciates the college games but also all the resources that are available to him and his NTDP teammates.
“Playing the college games shows us what it is like to play against players who have more experience and are bigger and stronger than us,” he said. “It shows us the level of play and pushes us every day.”
Janviriya against Lake Superior State (Photo: Rena Laverty)
Augustine looks forward to fans coming out to USA Hockey Arena to watch the future stars of tomorrow. He knows what Team USA can bring to the table.
“We like to play a fast, hard game,” he said. “We will do everything we can do to win. It’s all about doing the little things to make it easier for us to win. It’s what the coaches have spoken to us about.
“It means everything to represent the United States of America. Not everyone has that privilege, and you have to earn it.”
Tickets for the Five Nations are currently on sale. For the full tournament schedule and ticket information, please visit: www.usahockeyntdp.com/u18fivenations2022.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.