Jack Parsons coming out of the tunnel (Photo: Rena Laverty)
USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program Under-17 Team has already had success on the international stage this season.
The team went 7-0 at the U17 World Challenge last month on its way to the title.
The U17s are abroad again this week, as it is set to play in the U17 Four Nations Tournament in Romanshorn, Switzerland.
Even with the prior international success, head coach Nick Fohr hasn’t lost focus on the team’s development. He learned a lot during the U17 World Challenge, and he knows it will take another team effort for success in Switzerland.
“They proved to me how talented they are and how they can come together for a common goal,” he said. “In that November event, they all pulled that rope in the same direction, whether it was blocking a shot, or burying a shot, or clearing the puck out of the zone. Everyone did their part to be successful."
Charlie Pardue in action (Photo: Rena Laverty)
Forward Charlie Pardue, who wore the 'C' on his jersey at the World Challenge, echoed his coach’s comments.
“It was one of the greatest things I have done in my hockey career,” the Winnetka, Illinois, native said. “It was the best feeling ever to win that first international tournament with my teammates. It reminded me of my youth hockey days, with how many games we played in a short amount of time.”
That is what Fohr and the U17 coaching staff are looking for in this second international tournament — team cohesion and togetherness. The Four Nations will see the U17s face off against Sweden, Slovakia and host, Switzerland. With three games in three days, it will take a full team effort to bring home a second tournament title.
“We need to build off where we were in November and continue to play fast,” Fohr said. “I think if we can find a way to get to that next level, which is our biggest asset, it makes it hard for teams to adjust to playing at that pace.”
Even the players are excited to go back out and play internationally. Pardue sees it as a chance to show the team’s growth.
“We came off a really good tournament win in Canada,” he said. “We have grown even more, and we need to continue to play to our identity."
More than anything, after several USHL games the past few weeks, it will be a change of pace to play against players in their own age group once again. That’s given goaltender Jack Parsons a chance to play in a slightly more comfortable setting.
“The speed in the USHL is way different than kids our own age,” the Cortland, New York, native said. “Not everyone is 6-foot-6, and that makes it easier for me to see and track pucks.”
Defenseman Cole Hutson, who is currently second on the team with 20 assists, also realizes the difference it makes in his game.
“I feel like it's more of a confidence thing,” the Barrington, Illinois, native said. “You are playing against kids in all age groups [in the USHL]. Right now, when we play against our own group, we play with confidence and that makes a difference.”
“Being able to read the speed is where I have seen my biggest growth,” Parsons said. “I’m facing 30-40 shots per game and I wasn’t used to that. I’m adjusting to the speed. I’m reading the game better and getting to the pucks better. It’s much improved since the first month of the season.”
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For Fohr and the coaching staff, it was time to see the hard work that the players have been putting in since the start of the year. It was the “little things” that made all the difference.
“When you step away from the USHL where it’s big, strong and fast, and play against players in their own age group, they have more time and space,” Fohr said. “To be able to play against kids their own age, and these players are still super talented, the pace drops just enough, and their brains could catch up to the pace of play.
The players will get a bit of a break from the challenges they face against USHL competition for a couple weeks, but they have noticed how those games have helped their development.