It will be another busy weekend for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program as the U.S. National Under-17 Team continues its home-stand with a pair of United States Hockey League contests, while the Under-18 squad heads out to New York for two college games.
STAYING AT HOME: The U17s host the Tri-City Storm at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube on Friday and Saturday, with the puck dropping at 7 p.m. ET each night. Head coach Danton Cole said his team has plenty to work on this weekend.
“Our D-zone has been pretty good, especially when we execute,” said Cole, whose squad is looking for its first conference victory. “A few times when we make the wrong read and leave a spot open, it hurts us. I still think our play off the rush is average. We need to work on finding that fourth guy and the entry pass. We will work on a few items, and special teams is always big, plus we want to get some time in the weight room.”
Over the weekend, the U17s dropped a pair of USHL games to Des Moines. On Saturday, James Sanchez (Northbrook, Ill.), Clayton Keller (Swansea, Ill.) and Nick Pastujov (Bradenton, Fla.) scored while Joseph Woll (Dardenne Prairie, Mo.) finished with 27 stops in net in a 5-3 loss. Pastujov tallied the lone goal in Sunday’s game while Jake Oettinger (Lakeville, Minn.) finished with 33 stops in a 3-1 loss.
“With our guys, we have had a good run of playing good USHL teams,” Cole said. “The players are starting to learn how much attention you have to pay to detail. I think we played fairly well, but every time we had breakdowns it affected us negatively. When we go back to our own age group, we will need to perform consistently.”
EMPIRE STATE OF MIND: The U18s continue their eastern swing with a pair of road contests in New York state. On Friday, Team USA faces Cornell University, which is ranked just outside the top 15 in Div. I. The next night, the U18s head to Oswego State University for a Div. III match up. The U18 team is 1-2-1 (W-L-T) against college opponents this season, all of which were ranked at the time.
“We will face two strong teams this weekend, and it will be important that we come out strong both nights,” said head coach Don Granato, whose squad carries an 8-3-1 mark into this week. “We definitely have some areas of our game we need to work on this week before we head back out on the road. Defensively, we have some areas that we need to improve on, especially as we get ready for our first international tournament.”
The U18s finished with a 0-1-1 mark in a two-game college road swing last week. The squad skated to a 3-3 tie at then-ranked No. 5 Providence College on Thursday before dropping a 6-4 decision at No. 13 Boston University on Saturday.
Michael Lackey (Washington, D.C.) stopped 33 of 36 shots in the tie against Providence. Troy Terry (Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Casey Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.) and Jeremy Bracco (Freeport, N.Y.) scored the goals.
Auston Matthews (Scottsdale, Ariz.) tallied two goals while Bracco and Christian Fischer (Wayne, Ill.) had single goals in the loss at BU. Luke Opilka (St. Louis, Mo.) stopped 25 shots between the pipes.
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