It will be a hopping week at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube as the U.S. National Under-17 Team welcomes three countries for the 2014 Four Nations Tournament. Meanwhile, the U.S. National Under-18 Team will go out on the road to play a single United States Hockey League game.
TOURNAMENT TIME: The U17s will welcome Russia, Slovakia and Switzerland to the Ice Cube for the Four Nations Tournament, which runs Dec. 16-20.
“It’s always good for the guys, our fans and the community when we host a tournament,” head coach Danton Cole said. “Hopefully, they will enjoy it and the competition. It’s a different experience for our players, but it’s good for them to be able to play at home.”
Team USA opens against Russia on Tuesday. The game is a rematch of the recent World Under-17 Hockey Challenge title game, when Russia beat Team USA, 2-1.
“I think our players remember that we lost to Russia in the title game at the Challenge,” Cole said. “It has definitely been on our players’ minds. I thought we played a fairly good game, but we definitely needed to get more pucks and bodies to the net. We will need to make sure we are patient, especially in the neutral zone — both on the offensive and defensive side — on Tuesday, in addition to getting bodies and pucks to the net.”
The U17s have been off since Dec. 6, when they dropped a 4-2 decision at Muskegon.
The round-robin tournament schedule is as follows:
Tuesday, Dec. 16
Slovakia vs. Switzerland, 3:30 p.m.
Russia vs. USA, 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 17
Slovakia vs. Russia, 3:30 p.m.
Switzerland vs. USA, 7:00 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 19
Russia vs. Switzerland, 3:30 p.m.
Slovakia vs. USA, 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 20
Third-place game, 3:30 p.m.
Championship game, 7:00 p.m.
YOUNGSTOWN AGAIN: The U18s hit the road to play the Youngstown Phantoms on Friday. It will mark the third meeting between the teams in the last two weeks.
The U18s are coming off a 4-1 win at the University of Wisconsin this past Friday. Auston Matthews (Scottsdale, Ariz.) scored a pair of goals while Matthew Tkachuk (St. Louis, Mo.) and Luke Kunin (Chesterfield, Mo.) added single tallies. Luke Opilka (St. Louis, Mo.) kicked out 17 shots to earn the win.
The squad quickly turned its focus to the game with Youngstown.
“It’s never easy to play the same team within a two-week time span,” said head coach Don Granato, whose squad carries a 21-6-1 (W-L-T) mark into this week’s action. “We need to continue to build upon on performance from last weekend at Wisconsin. This team will be a little shorthanded, but the team needs to come together and work hard and the success will come.”
The U18s will be playing this week without Matthews and Jeremy Bracco (Freeport, N.Y.), who both will be at the U.S. National Junior Team Camp, as well as Granato, who is serving as an assistant for the U.S. junior team. In Granato’s absence, assistant coach Nick Fohr will serve behind the bench.
FOUR NATIONS TICKET INFO: Tickets for the 2014 Under-17 Four Nations Tournament can be purchased prior to the event or at the door. Tournament passes include tickets to all games and are $40 for adults and $20 for seniors and children. Single-day tickets are also available and include access to two games. Prices are $12 for adults, $7 for seniors and children, and $5 for groups of 10 or more. All tickets are general admission.
To purchase tickets, call (734) 327-9251 or visit the USA Hockey offices at 2121 Oak Valley Drive in Ann Arbor.
Team USA is the defending U17 Four Nations Tournament champion and has won six of the last seven tournaments.
The Four Nations Tournament was last held in the U.S. in 2012, when Ann Arbor hosted the U18 tournament.
Former NTDP coach John Hynes (2003-09) signed a multi-year extension with the American Hockey League’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Dec. 12. Hynes recorded his 200th AHL victory at Hershey on Dec. 7, accomplishing the milestone in just 333 games.
Former National Team Development Program and current University of Notre Dame blue-liner Robbie Russo (Westmont, Ill./2009-11) was named the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week on Dec. 8. Russo notched two goals and five points and finished with a plus-five rating in the Irish’s road sweep of the University of Massachusetts.
Tyler Motte (St. Clair, Mich./2011-13), a sophomore forward at the University of Michigan, was named the Big Ten Second Star of the Week on Dec. 8. Motte registered four assists in the Wolverines’ victory over Ohio State.
The U18s are 6-4-1 (W-L-T) against college competition this season, including wins over NCAA Division I foes Miami University (3-0 on Oct. 4), the University of Minnesota (5-4 in overtime on Nov. 21) and the University of Wisconsin.
The U18s are paced by Auston Matthews (24-25), who has recorded 49 points in 27 games. Jeremy Bracco (12-34) ranks second with 46 points while Matthew Tkachuk (17-19) sits third with 36 points. Jack Roslovic (Columbus, Ohio/6-21) and Christian Fischer (Wayne, Ill./12-12) round out the top five with 27 and 24 points, respectively.
In goal for the U18s, Michael Lackey (Washington, D.C.) and Luke Opilka continue to split time. Opilka is 12-3 with a 2.58 goals-against average and an .898 save percentage while Lackey is 9-3-1 with a 2.97 GAA and an .888 save percentage.
The U17s are led by Clayton Keller (Swansea, Ill./14-19), who has collected 33 points, while Chad Krys (Ridgefield, Conn./2-18) is second with 20 points. Max Jones (Rochester Mich./11-6) and Nick Pastujov (Bradenton, Fla./7-10) are tied for third with 17 points each. Joey Anderson (Roseville, Minn./10-6) is fifth with 16 points.
Joseph Woll (Dardenne Prairie, Mo.) and Jake Oettinger (Lakeville, Minn.) split time between the pipes for the U17s. Woll is 4-7 with a 3.04 GAA and an .898 save percentage while Oettinger is 5-7 with a 2.98 GAA and a .904 save percentage.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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