Archive for WC – United States

College Skaters Have Chance With United States’ Squad


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United States center NICK BJUGSTAD (14), the 19th overall pick of the Florida Panthers at the 2010 National Hockey League Draft who earned a bronze medal at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championships, led the powerful University of Minnesota in goal-scoring during this 2012/13 NCAA campaign before appearing in all of his team’s ten games this spring at the 2013 IIHF World Championships in Scandinavia.
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When it comes to the UNITED STATES’ entry at the annual IIHF World Championships, the matter is never merely a question of what National Hockey League players are available. Rather, the equation must always factor in exactly which NHLers are, indeed, willing to participate. Whereas the Europeans have traditionally always viewed national team duty as an honor, many top-shelf North American professionals have often considered major international tournaments — with the possible exception of the Winter Olympic Games — to be something more akin to an actual burden.

Not so in the case of college players, who are, traditionally speaking, always ready to step into the breach. Last season, the American entry at the annual IIHF World Championships contained no college players for the first time in seven years but this spring the United States squad led by head coach JOE SACCO featured no fewer than four skaters who spent the bulk of the 2012/13 campaign competing at the NCAA level. Sacco, of course, was a college player at Boston University before going on to skate in 738 National Hockey League games (94 go, 213 pts), himself.

Three of these four recruits actually signed professional contracts after appearing in the annual NCAA tournament with their respective college teams this spring. SCOTT BJUGSTAD from the University of Minnesota (40 ga, 21 go, 36 pts) went on to skate in 11 NHL games (1 go, 0 as) for the Florida Panthers while DREW LEBLANC from St. Cloud State (42 ga, 13 go, 50 pts), the senior center out of Hermantown, Minnesota, who was lauded as the nation’s most outstanding college hockey player this term, made two appearances for the would-be Stanley Cup champion Chicago Black Hawks at the tail end of the strike-shortened 2013 NHL regular season. DANNY KRISTO from the University of North Dakota (40 ga, 26 go, 52 pts), the senior right wing out of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, who was the second round choice (# 56 overall) of the Montreal Canadiens at the 2008 NHL Draft, skated nine games with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the American Hockey League before flying off to Finland.

JACOB TROUBA from the University of Michigan (37 ga, 12 go, 29 pts) also agreed to professional terms after the Wolverines failed to make the NCAA tournament cut for the first time in more than two decades. The 19-year-old Trouba was honored by tournament officials as the Best Defenseman while helping the United States to the gold medal at the annual IIHF World Junior Championships this past winter but did not appear in any National Hockey League games after being signed by the Winnipeg Jets in early April. Trouba, to review, was the ninth overall player taken at the 2012 NHL Draft.

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United States defenseman JACOB TROUBA (8) from the University of Michigan harasses Switzerland winger DENIS HOLLENTSTEIN (70) of EHC Kloten during the 2013 IIHF World Championships semifinal contest watched by an audience of 7,136 spectators at the Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.
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Not since the 1995 IIHF World Championships held in Sweden have the United States had more than four players who spent the bulk of the season in the collegiate ranks on the roster at any major international tournament. On that occasion almost two decades ago, the U.S.A. contingent iced six NCAA players including University of Vermont sophomore goaltender TIM THOMAS and University of Wisconsin senior defenseman BRIAN RAFALSKI. Oddly enough, both Rafalski and Thomas began their professional careers by signing for clubs in Scandinavia but, ultimately, would to North America and experience the thrill of lifting the treasured Stanley Cup in the vaunted National Hockey League.

Along with three other collegians, Thomas would also be named to the American squad for the IIHF World Championships the very next season by incoming United States head coach RON WILSON, then in charge of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the NHL, as well. Joined there in Vienna, Austria, by the University of Minnesota pair of senior center BRIAN BONIN and sophomore defenseman MIKE CROWLEY in addition to Lake Superior State sophomore goaltender JOHN GRAHAME, the surprising U.S.A. team finished third and, in doing so, earned a medal at the annual IIHF event for the first time in 34 years. Bonin, to review, was the recipient of the 1996 Hobey Baker Memorial Award given to the nation’s most outstanding college hockey player.

Over the past twenty years, several Americans have appeared at the annual IIHF World Championships after playing NCAA college hockey that same season more than once in their careers; such repeat collegiate performers from this distinct group include center CHRIS DRURY (Boston University), defenseman MIKE MOTTAU (Boston College), right wing BRIAN GIONTA (Boston College), goaltender RYAN MILLER (Michigan State) and left wing CHRIS KREIDER (Boston College).

United States right wing CRAIG SMITH of the Nashville Predators finished third on the scoring chart for all players at this year’s IIHF World Championships by notching 14 points (4 go, 10 as) in ten games; indeed, Smith had cut his senior international teeth for the U.S.A. two years ago at the 2011 IIHF World Championships in Slovakia (7 ga, 3 go, 6 pts) after spending the entire 2010/11 campaign competing at the NCAA level on behalf of the University of Wisconsin (41 ga, 19 go, 43 pts).

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United States center DREW LEBLANC (21) of the Chicago Black Hawks, shields the puck from Germany center MARCUS KINK (17) of Adler Mannheim during the 2013 IIHF World Championships – Group H match watched by a crowd of 11,057 spectators at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland.

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77,803 In Gelsenkirchen : New All-Time Mark For Any Game

The prelude to drop of the puck for the opening game of the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships --- the UNITED STATES versus host nation GERMANY from the converted soccer stadium, the VELTINS-ARENA, in Gelsenkirchen. (DPA photo)

The prelude to drop of the puck for the opening game of the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships --- the UNITED STATES versus host nation GERMANY from the converted soccer stadium, the VELTINS-ARENA, in Gelsenkirchen. (DPA photo)

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The official spectator count of 77,803 at the Veltins-Arena for the opening game of the 2010 IIHF World Championships in Gelsenkirchen sets a new world record for attendance at an ice hockey match.

The total also surpassed what had been projected by tournament officials and reported in the German press by a good 1,650 or so. It should be remembered that the sport of ice hockey is not widely popular in Germany. Fussball (soccer) is far and away the king of sport in the European country.

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The eishockey fans start to fill up the Veltins-Arena, which is normally the home of German Bundesliga football club Schalke 04 Gelsenkirchen, prior to the match featuring the host nation and the silver medalists from this past winter’s Olympic Games. (DPA photo)

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The gate at Gelsenkirchen wipes away a mark that had stood for over half a century (53 years) in international hockey.

The old record for attendance at an IIHF World Championships match dates back to 1957 for the match between Sweden and the Soviet Union at the multi-purpose Grand Arena of the Central Lenin Stadium (since re-named Luzhniki) in Moscow.

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March 5, 1957 : A reported 55,000 converge at the Central Lenin Stadium in Moscow to witness the Soviet Union and Sweden skate to a 4-4 deadlock on the final day of the annual IIHF event. The Soviet Union hosted a further three World Championships (1973, 1979, 1986) and never failed to win a contest on home ice (28 games) thereafter. (rtvslo.si photo)
March 5, 1957 : A reported 55,000 converge at the Central Lenin Stadium in Moscow to witness the Soviet Union and Sweden skate to a 4-4 deadlock on the final day of the annual IIHF event. The Soviet Union hosted a further three World Championships (1973, 1979, 1986) and never failed to win a contest on home ice (28 games) thereafter. (rtvslo.si photo)

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The crowd that gathered at FC Schalke’s stadium also bested the total that saw a college hockey game billed as “The Cold War” in the United States almost a decade ago.

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October 6, 2001 : 74,554 fans watch Michigan State University, ranked # 1 in the nation, and the University of Michigan, who enter the game at # 4, skate to a 3-3 draw at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan.

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Oddly enough, the United States team that met Germany at Gelsenkirchen fielded two players who participated for the University of Michigan in the previous record-setting contest.

The Calgary Flames pair of DAVID MOSS and ERIC NYSTROM were freshmen forwards for the Wolverines that 2001-02 hockey season.

Michigan and Michigan State are scheduled to meet again this December in an outdoor game, this time at Michigan Stadium. That game is expected to draw in the neighborhood of 108,000 to “The Big House”. Thus, Gelsenkirchen’s record will be short-lived.

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A record, nonetheless. Which, as both luck and skill would have it, coincided with a major German victory, as well. Both events are wildly celebrated here by the operators of this blog to be certain.

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Germany 2 – USA 1 : Endras Is Excellent

Iserlohn Roosters forward MICHAEL WOLF (16) and Hannover Scorpions defenseman NIKOLAI GOC (77) celebrate Germany's opening goal of the match five minutes into the second period against the United States at the converted Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen. (DPA photo)

Iserlohn Roosters forward MICHAEL WOLF (16) and Hannover Scorpions defenseman NIKOLAI GOC (77) celebrate Germany's opening goal of the match five minutes into the second period against the United States at the converted Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen. (DPA photo)

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On his debut at a major international for his country in front of a world-record audience, goaltender DENNIS ENDRAS certainly had himself an evening to remember.

The Augsburg Panthers puck stopper piled up 31 saves and American Hockey League forward FELIX SCHUETZ of the Portland Pirates produced a Blitztor just 21 seconds into overtime as host nation GERMANY defeated the UNITED STATES 2-1 in the opening match of the 2010 IIHF World Championships at Gelsenkirchen.

Endras was on the German national squad for last year’s World Championships in Switzerland as well as this winter’s Winter Olympic Games from Vancouver but did not play in a match at either tournament; the 24-year-old got the call from head coach UWE KRUPP to stand in the German net before the record-setting 77,803 spectators in the game against the United States staged at the VELTINS-ARENA, which is normally a football (soccer) stadium.

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Veteran international MICHAEL WOLF of Iserlohn Roosters (16), despite the close-checking of United States forward TIM KENNEDY (13) of the Buffalo Sabres, whips the puck past Florida Panthers goalie SCOTT CLEMMENSEN (30) in the American cage to give Germany a 1-0 lead in the second period at Gelsenkirchen. (DPA photo)

Veteran international MICHAEL WOLF of Iserlohn Roosters (16), despite the close-checking of United States forward TIM KENNEDY (13) of the Buffalo Sabres, whips the puck past Florida Panthers goalie SCOTT CLEMMENSEN (30) in the American cage to give Germany a 1-0 lead in the second period at Gelsenkirchen. (DPA photo)

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Germany were always content to absorb United States pressure and play for the counterattack; the Americans outshot the Germans for the game, 32-20.

The Germans went into a bit of a shell to start the third which helped RYAN CARTER (Minn-Mankato State) of the Anaheim Ducks finally tie the game for the United States eight and a half minutes into the final period.

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United States forward RYAN CARTER (22) muscles the puck past German goaltender DENNIS ENDRAS in the third period of the preliminary round Group D match at the Veltins-Arena. (Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

United States forward RYAN CARTER (22) muscles the puck past German goaltender DENNIS ENDRAS in the third period of the preliminary round Group D match at the Veltins-Arena. (Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

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Even though the United States brought a young sqaud, there was still plenty of experience on hand for head coach SCOTT GORDON. All but two of the American players at Gelsenkirchen skated the majority of their season in the National Hockey League; most of the United States sqaud are NHL regulars.

To contrast, Germany have just one NHL player competing — 26-year-old team captain MARCEL GOC of the Nashville Predators.

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German forward KAI HOSPELT (18) of Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams, a one-time 7th round selection (2003, # 216 overall) of the San Jose Sharks, advances on American defenseman TAYLOR CHORNEY (41) of the Edmonton Oilers during the opening game of the 2010 IIHF World Championships in Germany. (DPA photo)

German forward KAI HOSPELT (18) of Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams, a one-time 7th round selection (2003, # 216 overall) of the San Jose Sharks, advances on American defenseman TAYLOR CHORNEY (41) of the Edmonton Oilers during the opening game of the 2010 IIHF World Championships in Germany. (DPA photo)

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The 22-year-old Schuetz, one of four AHL skaters in the German line-up, put the puck past Florida Panthers’ 32-year old goaltender SCOTT CLEMMENSEN less than half a minute into overtime to delight the home Volk and secure the host nation two valuable points in Group D at this year’s World Championships.

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Germany forward FELIX SCHUETZ signals his goal 21 seconds into overtime on his debut at a major international tournament in front of United States defenseman KEITH YANDLE (93) of the Phoenix Coyotes at the Veltins-Arena. (Ina Fassbender/Reuters)

Germany forward FELIX SCHUETZ signals his goal 21 seconds into overtime on his debut at a major international tournament in front of United States defenseman KEITH YANDLE (93) of the Phoenix Coyotes at the Veltins-Arena. (Ina Fassbender/Reuters)

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Germany national team head coach UWE KRUPP collected what was, by far, his most significant Sieg; it has been 17 years since the Germans last defeated the Americans (Dortmund, 1993) at the annual IIHF World tournament. (DPA photo)

Germany national team head coach UWE KRUPP collected what was, by far, his most significant Sieg; it has been 17 years since the Germans last defeated the Americans (Dortmund, 1993) at the annual IIHF World tournament. (DPA photo)

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