USA vs Finland
The U17s posted a spotless 3-0 record through preliminary-round play at the Four Nations Cup, which included wins over Slovakia (7-2), Switzerland (3-1) and Russia (4-2) before a 3-2 overtime defeat to Russia in the first-place game.
Dylan Peterson (Roseville, Calif.) and Jake Sanderson (Whitefish, Mont.) delivered five points apiece to lead Team USA at the Four Nations Cup. Ty Smilanic (Elizabeth, Colo.) scored a team-best four goals, while goaltender Drew Commesso (Norwell, Mass.) ranked second among all goaltenders with a 1.97 goals-against-average.
Thomas Bordeleau (Houston, Texas) paces the U17s with 24 points across all competitions (35 games). Smilanic's 15 total goals lead the team, as well.
Finland's National Under-17 Team last competed on the international stage at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in November in New Brunswick, Canada. The Finns posted a 1-0-1-1 record (W-OTW-L-OTL) through group play before they reeled off consecutive victories against Canada White and Canada Red to advance to the championship game against Russia. Finland jumped out to a 1-0 lead thanks to a goal from Eero Niemi, but settled for second place in a 2-1 loss.
Kasper Puutio tallied a team-best four points across six games at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, while Aatu Räty scored three goals.
Goaltender Joel Blomqvist started five of Finland's six games at the tournament and delivered a 3.26 goals-against-average.
Finland also played a trio of exhibition matchups against the Czech Republic in December and came away with one victory. Oliver Suni posted three goals across the three games.
Finnish defenseman Ruben Rafkin is a first-year member of the United States Hockey League's Tri-City Storm. The U.S. National Under-17 Team, in tandem with the U.S. National Under-18 Team, also competes within the USHL.
Rafkin, a 5-foot-11, 183-pound blueliner, owns 10 points across 31 games with the Storm and is committed to the University of Denver.
Eighteen of the 22 full-time players on the U.S. National Under-17 Team are verbally committed to NCAA Division I college hockey programs.
Boston University, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Wisconsin all hold three commitments, while Providence College, the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the University of North Dakota hold two commitments apiece.
Boston College, Penn State University and the University of Michigan each hold one verbal commitment from the Under-17 Team.
Matthew Beniers (Hingham, Mass.), Thomas Bordeleau (Houston, Texas), Hunter McKown (San Jose, Calif.) and Ty Smilanic (Elizabeth, Colo.) are uncommitted.
Each team will compete in four matchups at the 2019 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament. Points will be awarded for regulation wins (3), overtime wins (2) and overtime losses (1).
U17 FIVE NATIONS HISTORY
The Under-17 Four or Five Nations Tournaments are held twice per season. The NTDP's Under-17 teams placed first in at least one of the international events in each of the past two seasons.
Team USA claimed its most recent title at the Under-17 Five Nations Cup in February 2018 in Järvenpää, Finland.
In total, U.S. National Under-17 teams have won the Four or Five Nations tournaments 10 times since the start of the 2007-08 season.
The U.S. has won both of the annual tournaments twice at the U17 level (2017-18 and 2013-14).
LAST YEAR ...
The U.S. National Under-17 Team earned first-place finishes at both the Under-17 Five Nations Tournament, held in Järvenpää, Finland, and the Under-17 Four Nations Tournament, held in Veliky Novgorod, Russia, during the 2017-18 season.
COACHING STAFF AT U17 FIVE NATIONS CUP
Seth Appert (Cottage Grove, Minn.) will lead the U.S. National Under-17 Team at the 2019 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament. Associate coach Nick Fohr (Grand Forks, N.D.), intern assistant coach Jared Nightingale (Jackson, Mich.) and goaltending coach Jared Waimon (New Milford, Conn.) join Appert behind the bench.
TEAM USA CAPTAIN
Jake Sanderson (Whitefish, Mont.) is expected to serve as the team captain for the duration of the 2019 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament.
ABOUT THE NTDP
The pinnacle of amateur player development in the U.S., the NTDP scouts and selects the top 23 players in two age groups (Under-17 and Under-18) to train and develop in a highly competitive two-year program.
The teams (Under-17 and Under-18) face a rigorous domestic schedule, including competition against older, more developed players.
The U17s play a majority of a 60-game junior schedule in the USHL, while the U18s face USHL, NCAA Division I and III opponents. Both squads also compete in several international events each season.
Additionally, the players face a daily routine of off-ice development that includes strength training, cross-training, cognitive skill testing and academics.