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U17s are Set for First USHL Playoff Run in Four Years

By Becky Olsen, 04/20/23, 1:15PM EDT


The U17s have one more series this weekend that will decide if they get a first-round bye

Photo by Rena Laverty

For the first time since 2019, the U.S. National Under-17 Team is headed to the USHL’s Clark Cup Playoffs.

This marks just the fifth trip to the playoffs since joining the USHL in the 2009-2010 season.

“This is a really driven group,” said U17 head coach Nick Fohr. “The guys have had to earn their way into the playoffs. It was good for them to go through it, come together and earn that reward. I’m very proud of our efforts and I know it will only help us moving forward.”

Since early March, the U17s have posted a 6-5 record in USHL play, which includes series splits with Youngstown, Cedar Rapids, Green Bay and Dubuque, all teams that were fighting for a spot in the playoffs.

“Every weekend mattered for our team and most of the games had playoff implications,” Fohr said. “We were playing teams that we could see in the first or second round. It was good for our guys to go through it and get that taste of playoff hockey. It’s so rewarding to see.”

Photo by Rena Laverty

There are still a few question marks as the NTDP heads into their final weekend of play — a two-game series at Youngstown. If the U17s can earn a win in regulation, then they will earn the No. 2 seed, a first-round bye and will host the winner of the No. 3 vs. the No. 6 seed. It they don’t pick up a win this weekend, they will be the No. 3 seed and host the No. 6 seed in a best of three series April 24-26 at USA Hockey Arena.

Fohr knows that it will be a tough task, but he believes that his team has been playing its best hockey over the last month of the season. One of the benefits has been a change in philosophy for practice.

“Over the last three weeks, we have focused practice on the week’s opponent,” Fohr said. “It’s good to be able to focus on those things and make it a focal point for the players. We don’t usually do that; rather, it’s bigger picture. It’s been nice to change it up.”

Photo by Rena Laverty

That buy in comes from the whole team, and it could be a big reason why the players can see the growth in their games since they arrived in Plymouth in late August.

“For us, we are working on hammering out the little details and making sure that we are doing all the little things right,” said Brodie Ziemer (Hutchinson, Minn.), who has 16 goals and 25 assists this year. “We have to do everything at a gold-medal standard.”

As a first-year head coach, Fohr is still learning lessons as the season has gone on.

“It’s trying to find that balance between driving the kids and pushing them hard but not driving them too hard and too fast,” he said. “It was something that [former NTDP coach] Don Granato said when I worked with him here. The players are overwhelmed when they first arrive with the schedule and daily grind. You need to have a good pulse on how much you can push them, and they need to feel that support from the coaching staff.”

Knowing not a lot of NTDP teams have made the playoffs before, defenseman Logan Hensler (Woodbury, Minn.) has taken to heart what Fohr told him when he arrived in Plymouth.

“You have to make sacrifices,” he said. “It was tough to start here and leave my family. That was probably the toughest part. I have two younger brothers and it has been tough on them. I’m so happy that I came here. It has been one of the best experiences.”

That sacrifice is the driving force for the U17s as they head into the USHL playoffs.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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