Both the U.S. National Under-17 and Under-18 Teams will break for the holidays. The U18s return to action on Dec. 27, while the U17s are off until Jan. 2.
MORE COLLEGE ACTION: The U18s continue their college tour with four straight college contests. The tour starts with a pair of games at Colorado College on Dec. 27-28, followed by a Dec. 31 game against Adrian College that will be played outdoors at Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Ohio. The U18s close out the stretch with a Jan. 3 game at the University of North Dakota.
“The focus really for us is playing as a team,” said assistant coach Nick Fohr. “We are missing a few players [Auston Matthews and Jeremy Bracco, who are with the U.S. National Junior Team], but we have a lot of good hockey players. Even though we are missing two of our top point guys, that means others will get plenty of opportunities to step up.
“The focus just needs to be game-by-game for the upcoming games. That is what we are looking for right now, having that focus from shift-to-shift. The Adrian outdoor game will be interesting since we have never had one before in USA history. I think we are excited for the outdoor game, but we will need to focus on CC first. We will be coming off break and playing in the high altitude, and it’s something that a majority of the players haven’t done before.”
The U18s dropped an 8-4 road decision at Youngstown on Friday. Christian Fischer (Wayne, Ill.) tallied two goals while Luke Kunin (Chesterfield, Mo.) and Michael Floodstrand (Hinsdale, Ill.) had single tallies. Michael Lackey (Washington, D.C.) and Luke Opilka (St. Louis, Mo.) combined for 30 stops.
ROAD TRIP AHEAD: The U17s will break for the holidays before returning to United States Hockey League action on Jan. 2-3, when the squad travels to face the Green Bay Gamblers in a two-game set.
The U17s are coming off a second-place finish at the 2014 Under-17 Four Nations Tournament in Ann Arbor after dropping a 3-2 decision to Russia in the championship contest on Saturday. Clayton Keller (Swansea, Ill.) and Joey Anderson (Roseville, Minn.) provided the offense while Joseph Woll (Dardenne Prairie, Mo.) stopped 20 shots between the pipes.
Team USA also lost the tournament opener to Russia, falling 2-0 on Dec. 16. Jake Oettinger (Lakeville, Minn.) finished with 24 stops in net.
The Americans came back to beat Switzerland 9-2 on Dec. 17. Nick Pastujov (Bradenton, Fla.) led the offensive attack with four goals. Graham McPhee (Bethesda, Md.), Keller, William Lockwood (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), Patrick Khodorenko (Walnut Creek, Calif.) and Timmy Gettinger (North Olmsted, Ohio) added single tallies. Woll kicked out 11 shots in the win.
Oettinger stopped all 15 shots he faced en route to a 5-0 win over Slovakia in the final round-robin contest on Friday. Gettinger, Pastujov, Keller, Anderson and Lockwood tallied goals in the victory.
The U17s also placed second in their first international tournament this year, the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sarnia, Ontario. The squad wraps up its international schedule with the Five Nations Tournament in Russia in February.
Clayton Keller (3-5) led the Four Nations Tournament with eight points while Joey Anderson (2-4) finished second with six points. Nick Pastujov (5-0) was third with five points.
North Dakota defensemen Nick Mattson (Chanhassen, Minn./2007-09) and Keaton Thompson (Devils Lake, N.D./2011-13) previously played in Ann Arbor for the National Team Development Program.
As of Dec. 21, five former NTDP players rank among the top-30 point leaders in the National Hockey League. Phil Kessel (Madison, Wis./2003-05/Toronto) is eighth with 36 points (17-19) while Patrick Kane (Buffalo, N.Y./2004-06/Chicago) sits 13th with 33 points (15-18). Nick Foligno (Hummelstown, Pa./2003-04/Columbus) ranks 17th with 30 points (16-14), James van Riemsdyk (Middletown, N.J./2005-07/Toronto) is 19th with 29 points (14-15) and Kevin Shattenkirk (New Rochelle, N.Y./2005-07/St. Louis) is 29th with 28 points (5-23).
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 (4-1 on Dec. 12).
The U18s are paced by Auston Matthews (Scottsdale, Ariz./24-25) with 49 points while Jeremy Bracco (Freeport, N.Y./12-34) is second with 46 points. Matthew Tkachuk (St. Louis, Mo./17-19) sits third with 36 points. Jack Roslovic (Columbus, Ohio/6-21) and Christian Fischer (14-13) are tied for fourth with 27 points each.
In goal for the U18s, Michael Lackey and Luke Opilka continue to split time. Opilka is 12-4 with a 2.77 goals-against average and an .894 save percentage while Lackey is 9-3-1 with a 3.15 GAA and an .881 save percentage.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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