The 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship took place from Dec. 25, 2020 - Jan. 5, 2021 in Edmonton, Alberta. Scroll for an inside look at Team USA's journey from the start of camp in Plymouth, Mich. through the golden moment.
EDMONTON, Alberta – The U.S. National Junior Team, behind 34 saves from Spencer Knight (Darien, Conn.) and goals from Trevor Zegras (Bedford, N.Y.) and Alex Turcotte (Chicago, Ill.), beat Canada, 2-0, here tonight in the gold-medal game of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. It was the fifth gold medal for the United States in the tournament and the fifth time in the last six years that Team USA has medaled in the event, the best medal stretch in the nation’s history.
“I’m very proud of this group of guys, we really came together as a team over the course of this tournament,” said head coach Nate Leaman (East Greenwich, R.I.). “We played a great Canadian team today and we’re very fortunate to have beat them. I’m proud of how this team played together. This will be a memory they have forever.”
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Arthur Kaliyev (Staten Island, N.Y.) scored the game-winner with 1:16 left in regulation to lift the U.S. National Junior Team to a hard fought 4-3 victory over Finland tonight in the semifinals of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. With the win, Team USA will play in tomorrow’s (Jan. 5) gold-medal game against host Canada. Opening faceoff is set for 9:30 p.m. ET and the game can be seen live on NHL Network.
“It was a great hockey game, and hats off to Finland for being a great team,” said head coach Nate Leaman (East Greenwich, R.I.). “We showed a lot of mental toughness, when they tied it up our playmakers went out and made a great play to win the game. We’re very happy to be playing for gold tomorrow.”
Quarterfinals competition did not disappoint, with all four tournament games finishing closely contested. Germany nearly completed the upset over Russia, hitting the crossbar in dying moments, as Russia advanced, 2-1. Finland, after being down 2-0, scored three consecutive goals including a wraparound with 30 seconds remaining over rival Sweden to win, 3-2. Canada was frustrated by a defensive Czech Republic team, winning 3-0 after an empty net goal. Similarly, the United States advanced past Slovakia 5-3, with an empty net goal in the dying moments.
Quarterfinals was win or go home. Tomorrow’s semifinals are win and play for gold.
Today’s practice wasn’t a long, drawn out breakdown of the game to correct mistakes seen on tape. It didn’t feature physical drills, with players battling in small area games. Today’s practice was just an effort to loosen legs up, get on the ice and get in a good mindset for tomorrow.
And that’s okay. Since the first day of camp in October, head coach Nate Leaman (East Greenwich, R.I.) has talked about the “Gold Medal Standard” this team needs to accomplish its ultimate goal. And for more than three months, the team has applied that standard to their preparation every day.
Now, it’s time to go play. Tomorrow’s game won’t be about practice or pre-scouting Finland on video. It won’t be about replicating the same result, a 3-2 win over Finland, that the U.S. created in a pre-tournament exhibition.
Every player has prepared for this game dating back years. It’s the time at the rink as an 8U player learning how to be creative in small area games. It’s the long drives up the east coast to play a game on Saturday morning. For some, it’s the outdoor rinks in Minnesota that allowed them to go play with friends that got them to this point. And for others, it’s the long summer weather in California that allowed for extra outdoor strength training.
USA Hockey is the gold medal standard, coast to coast. Our volunteers, our coaches, the officials who woke up early to call our games, the parents who encouraged and helped their children grow into who they are today, that’s what has led to the semifinals matchup tomorrow.
They’re ready. Everything has prepared them for this moment. Now it’s time to play.
EDMONTON, Alberta -- The U.S. National Junior Team, behind two goals from John Farinacci (Red Bank, N.J.), earned a 5-2 victory over Slovakia here tonight in quarterfinal play of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. With the win, the U.S. advances to the tournament semifinals where it will face Finland on Monday (Jan. 4) at 9:30 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on NHL Network.
“It was a good game, and hats off to Slovakia who made it a really tough game,” said head coach Nate Leaman (East Greenwich, R.I.). “I’m proud of the way we got through it, and we’re on to the next phase.”
After a loss to Russia in opening preliminary action, Team USA shut down its opponents, quite literally, with three consecutive shutouts. Goaltenders Spencer Knight (Darien, Conn.) and Dustin Wolf (Gilroy, Calif.) combined to stop all 59 shots they faced against Austria, Czech Republic and Sweden. It was the first time in U.S. World Juniors history that a team recorded three shutouts, as Knight became the first U.S. goaltender to record back-to-back shutouts.
Every win has been a complete team effort. Trevor Zegras (Bedford, N.Y.) has led the charge offensively with a tournament-leading 13 points over four games. His six goals also are tied for top honors. But scoring has come from every line for the United States, with 12 of 13 forwards picking up points and 11 different forwards scoring goals. The defensive corps has combined for 19 points including four goals.
Perhaps the most important headline of the tournament has been Team USA’s commitment to discipline. Head coach Nate Leaman (East Greenwich, R.I.) has emphasized discipline since the first training camp in October, showing players video of proper stick positioning and body contact throughout previous World Junior Championships.
However, Leaman made it clear following the U.S. 4-0 win over Sweden, both in the locker room and when speaking with media, none of that matters.
All of the success, stats, accolades and everything else that comes with winning Group B, among the likes of Russia, Sweden and Czech Republic, all of that goes away when quarterfinals begin.
Win and you advance. Lose and you go home. That’s all that matters now.
The team celebrated New Year’s Eve with a quick meal after the game, and watched highlights of the tournament on the room’s TV. Most went back to their rooms to watch movies or play video games. A few went to the ping pong table to help unwind. No matter what they did, everyone knew at midnight it was a new year. And in the morning, it started a new tournament.
EDMONTON, Alberta – Behind a 27-save performance from Spencer Knight (Darien, Conn.) and a goal and two assists from Trevor Zegras (Bedford, N.Y.), the U.S. National Junior Team earned a 4-0 victory over Sweden in its final preliminary round game of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship to earn first-place in Group B. It was the third straight shutout for Team USA.
“I’m very proud of the way that we came back in this tournament from losing our first game, to then win our group is a good accomplishment,” said head coach Nate Leaman (East Greenwich, R.I.). “I think we continue to be a disciplined team which has been very important to our success and now the tournament begins. We have to reset our mindset, we can’t live in the past of the success we’ve had, and we need to get ready for the second phase of the tournament.”
The U.S. will face Slovakia on Saturday (Jan. 2) in the quarterfinal round of the tournament live on NHL Network. Game time is set for 10:30 p.m. ET.
When you ask a goaltender, “Why do you decide to become a goalie?” a common answer is that they fell in love with the gear.
Can you blame them? It’s the one position in hockey that allows for a little customization and creativity when it comes to how they look on the ice. Everyone has the jersey, socks and gloves decked out in team colors, but the goalie designs their own pads and helmet. And better yet, when you play on a U.S. national team, it’s a dream come true to work with the red, white and blue.
USA netminders Spencer Knight (Darien, Conn.), Dustin Wolf (Gilroy, Calif.) and Logan Stein (Suwanee, Ga.) took time after practice to show off their unique masks made for the 2021 World Junior Championship. All three incorporated USA Hockey crests and bald eagles throughout their paint.
Knight incorporated some of his common themes hidden throughout the mask, including a Squidward inside of the star on the side. Boston College themes are included throughout the mask, and his hometown in Connecticut is represented with a wave on the back of the head. Wolf carried a Captain America theme on his mask that continues throughout his pad design as well, and the back of the mask includes a favorite quote of his: “Be humble. Be hungry. And always be the hardest worker in the room.” Stein prominently displayed his last name on the chin, and has subtle designs of the Statue of Liberty, an eagle, USA Hockey logo and more throughout the paint.
As important as the mask is for safety, and yes there was a time goalies didn’t wear masks, it becomes a fun way to get a peek into the person behind the mask.
Edmonton, Alberta - Trevor Zegras (Bedford, N.Y.) had two goals and three assists, Bobby Brink (Minnetonka, Minn.) scored twice and Spencer Knight (Darien, Conn.) made 22 saves to help the U.S. National Junior Team to a 7-0 victory over the Czech Republic at Rogers Place in game three of preliminary round play at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.
With the victory, the U.S. has clinched a spot in the tournament quarterfinals on Jan. 2. Team USA will close out preliminary round play on Thursday (Dec. 31) against Sweden at 9:30 p.m. ET and the game can be seen live on NHL Network.
“It was a hard-fought win and I don’t think the score is predicated on how the game went,” said head coach Nate Leaman (East Greenwich, R.I.). “It was a tight game and we had to stick with it. I’m proud of the way guys stayed with it until we could break the game open.”
293 days. That’s how long Trevor Zegras (Bedford, N.Y.) waited to play a real hockey game between his last game as a Boston University Terrier, and a member of the U.S. National Junior Team in the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. Zegras scored a goal on the power play against Russia, the opening preliminary game for Team USA, making the game 4-3 in the final minutes.
The following night against Austria, a back-to-back set, Zegras recorded four points including two assists. Zegras now sits at 11 career assists in seven World Juniors games, sitting just one assist shy of the T-3rd all-time marker. Kyle Palmieri, Phil Kessel and Jeremy Roenick all have 12 career assists, and Doug Weight sits at second with 14 assists. Jordan Schroeder holds the all-time assist record for Team USA with 20 in his career, across 19 games. Schroeder played in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 tournaments, winning gold in 2010.
Zegras played against the Czech Republic last year, a 4-3 overtime win for the United States. He assisted on two goals, including a helper on the United States’ third goal that helped force overtime. This year, Zegras is playing a more prominent role for the Americans, and has commented about how he’s more focused on his game in the corners and being a stronger player to go up against.
Of all the stat lines mentioned above, Zegras would admit that the gold medal is what he’s chasing. As fun as stat lines are for fans and media, there is a consensus among all players that only one thing matters: the gold medal standard.
Individual stats can put you in the record books, but the best way to guarantee your name lives on forever is to win a gold medal for your country.
Sam Colangelo (Stoneham, Mass.) is one of three players who will celebrate their birthday over the course of the World Junior Championship. The 19-year old forward had a picture-perfect birthday, highlighted by scoring his first career Team USA goal in IIHF competition. Colangelo, who was interviewed by NHL Network’s Jill Savage following the game, gave a shoutout to his parents back home who he knew would be watching.
The team was able to add to the celebration, as hotel staff helped accommodate the players in making a birthday cake. Topped with a tealight candle, the chocolate and cream cake didn’t last long after Colangelo began dishing out slices.
Birthdays and goals may be a good omen for the U.S. National Junior Team. Cole Caufield (Stevens Point, Wis.) and Cam York (Anaheim, Calif.) will both be celebrating birthdays soon: Caufield’s Jan. 2 birthday is set to host quarterfinal games, and York’s Jan. 5 birthday is scheduled for medal-round games.
Following birthday celebrations, and back-to-back game days, Team USA took a well-deserved day of rest. Players completed their daily COVID-19 testing, and visited the locker room briefly, before returning back to the hotel. Rest and recovery continue to be a priority for players, as they look to manage themselves through the grind of the tournament.
EDMONTON, Alberta - Trevor Zegras (Bedford, N.Y.) had two goals and two assists and Matthew Boldy (Millis, Mass.) scored three times as 16 different players recorded points in the U.S. National Junior Team’s 11-0 victory over Austria here tonight in preliminary round play of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.
“It was a great bounce back win and I give a lot of credit to our leadership group to have the team ready,” said head coach Nate Leaman (East Greenwich, R.I.). “I thought we faced some adversity in the first period and I’m proud of the way that they fought through it and stayed with it and played hard until the end.”
EDMONTON, Alberta - The U.S. National Junior Team dropped a 5-3 decision to Russia in its opening game of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship here tonight. Cam York (Anaheim Hills, Calif.), John Farinacci (Red Bank, N.J.) and Trevor Zegras (Bedford, N.Y.) all scored a goal for Team USA, bringing the game to 4-3 in the final minutes, before Russia scored an empty-net goal.
Team USA took its annual Christmas card, er team photo, early Thursday morning. The American squad has one more practice, one more sleep, until its big first game against Russia Christmas night, with puck drop scheduled for 9:30pm ET, broadcast live on NHL Network.
Players will be served a nice holiday turkey meal for dinner, followed by the team’s annual visit from Stan-ta Claus. Trainer Stan Wong (Boca Raton, Fla.) brought his Santa suit, equipped with medical cotton balls for a beard, to spread Christmas cheer to the team.
One more sleep, one more day. This year’s tournament has been especially unique to prepare for. The extra effort and work to make simple things function, safely, has paid dividends. Twenty-five players begin their journey in hopes of bringing home a gold medal to the United States of America.
A day after Team USA’s first and only pre-tournament game, a 3-2 win, coaches scheduled a short one-hour practice. Following the game, head coach Nate Leaman (Providence, R.I.) mentioned how important last night’s game was for a handful of players that haven’t had the opportunity to start their season yet.
The forward group of Alex Turcotte (Chicago, Ill.), Trevor Zegras (Bedford, N.Y.) and Arthur Kaliyev (Staten Island, N.Y.) are three of those players. As important as a full pre-tournament game is to help players find their pace, perhaps it’s equally as important to recover the following day. The proper maintenance and practice schedule can be crucial for a team’s success in World Juniors, as everyone looks to find and manage their winning groove heading into the quarterfinals round.
Following practice, the locker room blared Christmas music, putting everyone in the holiday spirit. With just two days before their first game, against Russia, many players will enjoy a final 24 hours calling friends and family, wishing them a Merry Christmas.
As the official reminded everyone before the game’s first puck drop, “Santa is still watching boys.”
EDMONTON, Alberta – Cole Caufield (Stevens Point, Wis.) scored twice and Trevor Zegras (Bedford, N.Y.) added two assists to propel the U.S. National Junior Team to a 3-2 victory over Finland tonight in its first and only pre-tournament game ahead of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.
“I thought tonight was good overall, I thought some guys were a little tight in the first 10 minutes but that’s what these pre-tournaments games are for,” said head coach Nate Leaman (Providence, R.I.). “I’m glad we played Finland, they’re a really good team, and we found some things that we’re good at and they showed us some of our weaknesses. It’s important we had this game tonight to help us prepare for the next step in the tournament.”
For a full recap, click here.
The most important contest today at camp is for the honors of best hair. Team USA took their team headshots, rotating through a photo station while taking turns fluffing the flow, greasing the locks and prepping the lettuce.
We want you to share who you think takes top honors by leaving a comment on the top-10 buckets on Instagram.
These moments of fun help keep the team loose, and keeps the locker room fun. Hockey can become a grind in short tournaments like this, with compact schedules and quick turnarounds between games. Schedule changes and different practice times each day can throw anyone off their rhythm, so going with the flow becomes even more important, but this kind doesn’t require any gel or pomade.
That has been an emphasis for Nate Leaman (Providence, R.I.) and his coaching staff, making sure that the players are comfortable with one another. At the end of every practice, players are encouraged to call out a teammate that had a good practice, or fulfilled their role from beginning to end that day. It not only helps everyone stay engaged, but forces players to communicate compliments and criticisms, something that should pay dividends throughout the tournament.
Because that’s how World Juniors works. It’s a quick tournament, and the best teams throughout the history of the tournament have been able to overcome adversity together, knowing that all of their preparation has put them in a position to go out and win.
Big ideas, like big buildings, need a strong foundation. It’s one of the most common phrases used when talking about building teams or building ideas, about how important it is to lay a strong foundation.
Even the biggest, most ambitious of ideas, need a sturdy framework to support itself.
USA Hockey proudly celebrates the 12 National Junior teams that have earned medals at the World Junior Championship. The U.S. National Junior Team recently medaled in a team record four-consecutive years, including a gold medal in 2017. Over the past 10 years, the U.S. medaled six times, and heading into last year’s tournament only Finland could match the U.S. National Junior Team’s three gold medals over the past decade.
Those accomplishments, those accolades, were built on the wildest dreams of a few special people at USA Hockey over 50 years ago. It took Team USA 13 years to win its first medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship, a bronze in 1986. It was also the first time USA Hockey broke into the tournament’s top-five teams.
The hockey community, unfortunately, lost one of those special people yesterday in Art Berglund. After accepting his first Olympic assignment as general manager of the 1976 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team, Berglund went on to serve as general manager for eight U.S. National Junior Teams that competed in the IIHF World Junior Championship between 1977 and 1992 (1977, 1981, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992), including that 1986 team who won the bronze medal.
Many players on today’s team have never heard the name Berglund, or understand fully his contribution to USA Hockey and the international presence it has today. However, the intent of building a strong foundation, something Art and many others prided themselves on for decades, was so that today’s generation can continue to build the USA Hockey legacy as large as they possibly can.
As we watch this year’s National Junior Team, and all future teams, it is with great comfort that we all know just how solid of a foundation Art helped build.
All games took place in Edmonton, Alberta, at Rogers Place.
|Date||Opponent||Time (Local/ET)/Result||Broadcast||U.S. Player of Game|
|Tues., Dec 22||Finland
|W, 3-2||NHL Network||Cole Caufield|
|Fri., Dec. 25||Russia
|L, 3-5||NHL Network||Cam York|
|Sat., Dec. 26||Austria
|W, 11-0||NHL Network||Trevor Zegras|
|Tues., Dec. 29||Czech Republic
|W, 7-0||NHL Network||Bobby Brink|
|Thurs., Dec. 31||Sweden
|W, 4-0||NHL Network||Alex Turcotte|
|Sat., Jan. 2||Slovakia
|W, 5-2||NHL Network||John Farinacci|
|Mon., Jan. 4||Finland
|W, 4-3||NHL Network||Arthur Kaliyev|
|Tues., Jan. 5||Canada
Gold Medal Game
|W, 2-0||NHL Network||Spencer Knight|
The IIHF announced earlier this morning that the pre-tournament game schedule would be truncated, and that Team USA would play one pre-tournament game against Finland on Dec. 22, with puck drop now set for 7:30pm local time/9:30pm ET. NHL Network will still provide live broadcasts of all pre-tournament games.
A minor setback, like losing a scheduled pre-tournament game against Switzerland, can be seen as a negative. But for a team, that wakes up every morning with a reminder of the Gold Medal Standard, it’s confirmation to the importance of a daily commitment for greatness.
Players are focused on making the most out of practice time, and coaches remain focused on reviewing film in order to help teach and communicate changes in preparation for the team’s first preliminary game, now just six days away.
Eat. Stretch. Work out. Skate. Stretch. Recover. It’s a simple list of items to focus on, but everyone is focused on the daily commitment to make themselves better. That’s what it takes, that’s the standard.
There are fewer things in life that could match the feeling of exuberance and joy as the U.S. National Junior Team left isolation this morning. Possibly the smell of fresh sheets? Walking out to a layer of fresh snow? Maybe when dad sneaks you an extra donut?
Then again, there are few comparisons for the ups and downs we have all felt this year.
Team USA, players and staff, were cleared this morning to leave their hotel rooms and begin hockey activities in Rogers Place. After a final breakfast meeting on Zoom, players grabbed their stick from the hotel room and got their first look at the fresh ice inside the home of the Edmonton Oilers.
Ice schedules are even more important in 2020, as teams are organized into blocks and exact times for locker room access, ice time, meals, and everything else throughout the day. Coaches divided practice up in an effort to allow everyone to find their legs again early, while pushing for power play time at the end of the practice in order to give players the opportunity to re-develop any chemistry lost while staying in the hotel.
Today’s practice is most easily summarized by saying it set the record for most smiles, laughs and screams. It was a flood of positive energy, 25 players back on the ice, after waiting patiently in their hotel rooms for the opportunity to get back to business.
A common theme, beginning with the National Junior Evaluation Camp in October, was setting a gold medal standard. It’s a daily choice and focus for the team, to achieve their gold medal standard that day. Made difficult by the isolation quarantine period, players have pushed one another to stay physically active, but staff have also introduced outside influences to convey the gold medal standard that exists throughout USA Hockey.
Former U.S. National Junior Team members Patrick Kane (Buffalo, N.Y.), Charlie McAvoy (Long Beach, N.Y.) and Dylan Larkin (Waterford Township, Mich.) have connected with this year’s team, via Zoom, in order to share their hockey experiences and advice for the tournament. All three conveyed how much they’ve been able to follow this year’s team with the NHL schedule, and how much they’re looking forward to watching games on NHL Network beginning Dec. 25.
Wearing the red, white and blue isn’t something that is short-lived. Being a part of Team USA is forever. It runs across all generations, all men’s, women’s and sled national teams. The feeling of representing your country, in the pursuit of gold, is something only a few players know firsthand.
Former players and coaches feel attached to this year’s team, and every USA Hockey team for that matter. There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment, of what the past has built for the present, and where the future plans to go. Former coaching greats Lou Vairo (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Jack Barzee (New Haven, Conn.) called in to congratulate the team and push them to find success amongst the adversity presenting itself this year. Barzee, who was an assistant coach for the 1984 U.S. National Junior Team, smiled as he found a team photo featuring Alfie Turcotte (Gary, Ind.) in the top row.
Alfie, like his son Alex Turcotte (Chicago, Ill.), was an offensive playmaker for the squad. Alfie dished out nine assists in 1984, the same total that Trevor Zegras (Bedford, N.Y.) tallied in the 2020 tournament. Despite the jokes that Zegras couldn’t top Alfie’s mark nearly four decades ago, Alex and Trevor continue to focus on the team’s message:
Today, and every day, we set the gold medal standard.
NHL Network and USA Hockey announced that the network, in its 13th consecutive year of broadcasting the IIHF World Junior Championship, will for the first time broadcast every game in the tournament. That includes pre-tournament games, beginning Sunday, Dec. 20. Fans will be able to tune in on Dec. 25 and watch Team USA’s first preliminary game against Russia, with Stephen Nelson, Dave Starman and Jill Savage providing the exclusive call.
The tournament makes for great entertainment for fans, but what does playing during the holidays mean for players?
Many players have found time during the quarantine to gather in small groups, sharing prayer or religious conversation to help support one another. Others have been in constant contact with family, using FaceTime or Zoom to remain connected to loved ones. There is even a fishing group, yes fishing group, that has shared ice fishing videos and other photos of big catches from back home. All of these smaller communities within the team have been important for players as they attempt to connect to the magic of the holidays, from both within the team and back home.
That’s the most important thing that can get lost inside the bubble, the feeling of being loved.
One holiday tradition has unfortunately been canceled for Hunter Skinner (Pinckney, Mich.). Skinner is heavily involved with outreach at his local St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and would typically have made a handful of visits to the hospital during the holidays. It’s an important moment, to share love and inspiration with children fighting difficult situations, annually for Skinner and his teammates. The pandemic has limited Skinner’s ability to focus on community outreach and activities, but the 19-year-old defenseman has his hopes set high as 2021 begins, and is looking forward to the potential of visiting again in the new year.
You may not think most hockey teams talk about something like love. But it’s easy to forget that your favorite hockey players are people too. Some of the most important memories inside the bubble currently revolve around the love of parents driving them to practice when they were young, or the love of teammates picking them up during difficult times, and even a few funny stories about old coaches they love.
Take a moment with your own family, at home or at the rink, to thank them for the love you shared this year. You too will be ready for the ultimate holiday.
On the surface, the four-day quarantine period might sound like a “lock down” or even “prison.” But for Team USA, the team planned to use the four days, in which players and staff reside in individual hotel rooms in order to create an effective bubble, as an opportunity.
Players participate in different Zooms or activities each hour. As hotel staff drop breakfast off, knocking on each room’s door to let them know food is ready to pick up, players and staff log in to a Breakfast Zoom. The same happens for dinner, but during lunch, players are encouraged to FaceTime or Zoom with someone they don’t know.
In between meals, players participate in workouts, stretches and social activities. Derek LaLonde (Brasher Falls, N.Y.) and Patrick Kane (Buffalo, N.Y.) spoke to the team today, sharing what they believed would make for a successful tournament. LaLonde, an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning, shared moments that he thought were crucial to the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup. Kane, who also played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs inside the bubble in Edmonton, instantly recognized the hotel rooms and encouraged players to make the most of their opportunity.
“Most of you guys only get one, maybe two shots at this thing,” said Kane. “Go win gold.”
There has also been time for laughs during the busy schedule. Teammates nominated Matthew Beniers (Hingham, Mass.) as the best game show host on the team, and he didn’t disappoint. Joining Beniers for the first episode of Quarantine Quick Shifts was forward Landon Slaggert (South Bend, Ind.) and defenseman Brock Faber (Maple Grove, Minn.). It was a great laugh for the players, and may be an even bigger laugh for you.
Throughout this entire year, the hockey community has battled together to find the small victories each day. Every opportunity to step onto the ice and play the game we all love feels even more special, and something many people won’t take for granted in the years to come. These moments, including being isolated in a hotel room individually, are some of the most important moments for the U.S. National Junior Team. Every day is an opportunity to get better, and today, the team got better.
Team USA arrived into the Edmonton bubble late Sunday evening, immediately traveling from the plane to the hotel. Tournament and hotel staff were ready as the team arrived with individual room assignments, bottles of water and other necessary items for the quarantine period.
Prior to leaving Michigan, players were able to walk around a table and gather snacks into their bags, almost like Halloween. How do you keep a team of teenagers fueled during quarantine? Well, snacks are not optional.
That was especially true for forward Matthew Beniers (Hingham, Mass.), who packed away a snack bag the size of some player’s checked luggage.
Most players enjoyed a full day off Monday, participating in light team activities. General Manager John Vanbiesbrouck (Detroit, Mich.), head coach Nate Leaman (Providence, R.I.) and the staff have focused on keeping the team social with one another during the quarantine period including a virtual breakfast, lunch and dinner. The team will begin to participate in a more rigorous schedule beginning tomorrow, in an effort to keep players ready to hit the ice in just a few days.
Team USA joins the eight other countries flying into Canada today to begin its journey to the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. Players enjoyed the opportunity to skate one last time before a mandatory four-day quarantine period, in which they will not leave their hotel room or have any contact with the outside world.
That means no skating.
How do you make sure everyone gets the most out of a final practice? You play a game of tag.
That’s right, tag. The same game you probably played on the playground, or in the backyard, and would try to get an extra push into your little brother.
Players lined up one-on-one, with the player skating forward designated as ‘it.’ Many USA Hockey coaches may recognize the lessons learned in a drill like this from their coaching seminars or ADM resources. Tag isn’t just for fun. It forces a player to focus on backward skating, lateral movement, sudden changes in direction, awareness on the ice, and most importantly competition. Bobby Brink (Minnetonka, Minn.) and Landon Slaggert (South Bend, Ind.) were standouts in the competition.
Brink, known for his unique skating ability, was able to remain elusive while skating backwards, making cuts that were both unpredictable and unfortunately for his opponents, impossible to replicate. For Slaggert, the first-time U.S. National Junior Team member purely out-matched his opponents based on competition alone, even if it meant grabbing a jersey or glove subtly to gain an advantage.
Hockey is fun, and that’s why we love it. These players are still having fun playing the sport they love. It’s something that is true in every rink, whether it’s a seven-year-old skating for the first time, or a first-round NHL Draft pick hoping to win gold for his country.
As breakfast was served, and the coffee was poured, players began to look around the room. Eyeballs were bouncing, some fingers were indirectly pointing in the air, as everyone began to count in their heads.
“This is our team guys, you all should be very proud.”
The 25 players sitting in the room knew that they were officially members of the U.S. National Junior Team at that moment. They quickly looked around the room to see their teammates, potential d-partners or linemates, and suddenly everyone knew at the same time that they are a part of something special.
Everyone stopped for a loud applause. Not even the required masks could hide the smiles and happiness in the room.
Practice began with a lot of energy, some loud ‘woos’ from players, as coaches banged sticks against the ice to add to the excitement of the morning. Power play and penalty kill units again practiced together in order to help form team chemistry, but this was the first time all players knew confidently that they would be playing for their country at World Juniors.
As if making the team wasn’t exciting enough, players were informed as they were coming off the ice that they would be enjoying Chipotle for lunch. A favorite in the locker room, players grabbed burrito bowls and plenty of guac as the Chipotle vanished.
Most people believe they can make their Chipotle meal disappear quickly, but a hungry U.S. National Junior Team can consume 40 burrito bowls in record time.
Players and staff will continue to work throughout the day in order to properly prepare for the logistics involved with moving a team into the bubble in Edmonton. Hockey gear, medical tables, luggage, video equipment and more will continue to get packed over the next 24 hours, as the red, white and blue hockey bags begin to stack as high as the walls allow.
One more skate, one more day until the team, now at its final 25 players, boards a plane to Edmonton.
The practice jerseys for the U.S. National Junior Team feature a trio of colors well-known to any American hockey fan: red, white and blue. Defensemen have gotten comfortable in their white jerseys, forwards alternate between ‘Team Blue’ and ‘Team Red’, and then as practice comes to an end, players put new clean jerseys on to delineate between power play and penalty kill.
It’s the only jersey anyone has seen this entire week; a practice jersey with velcro nameplate that easily switches over to a new jersey if a color change is required.
That will soon change.
Presented by Chipotle
USA Hockey staff are working diligently to narrow down the U.S. National Junior Team to a final 25-man roster for the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. General manager John Vanbiesbrouck (Detroit, Mich.) has been happy with what he’s seen early at camp from the 29 players, in addition to the October training camp held in Plymouth, Mich. Head coach Nate Leaman (Providence, R.I.) has been keenly watching during practice for which guys naturally work well together, who can communicate effectively and who can bring the most energy into the bubble.
Ted Donato (Cambridge, Mass.) has been working with the team’s forward and power play units throughout camp. Steve Miller (Columbus, Ohio) has been working with the team’s defensemen, while Kris Mayotte (Ann Arbor, Mich.) has been focused on coaching the team’s three goaltenders. Both Miller and Mayotte team up together for the team’s penalty kill, despite their natural University of Michigan and Ohio State University rivalry. Theresa Feaster (Providence, R.I.) has been collecting video during practice for coaches to review at the end of each day, and notes what coaches should review or highlight during those long film sessions. Ryan Martin (Novi, Mich.) supports Vanbiesbrouck and the staff with player personnel decisions.
Players will still don the practice red, white and blue jerseys throughout the tournament in Edmonton. Nameplates will be temporary as they velcro onto new numbers, or new colors. But for 25 players, the Team USA jersey is about to become permanent, and the names on the back will represent the country on the front.
Players have enjoyed their fourth consecutive day of practice and film sessions, but the challenges of 2020 have made things look quite different. For one, USA Hockey Arena is lacking its soul and spirit of young kids running around before practice or youth hockey games. It’s typically a humbling sound ringing through the halls, as young athletes on the U.S. National Junior Team walk by and are reminded of their younger selves, hoping one day they’d play in the World Junior Championship.
Making daily activities seem as normal as possible is a small contingency of USA Hockey staff, who are also currently in the team bubble in order to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
Dr. Phil Johnson (Fargo, N.D.) can be found walking around the rink wearing his yellow and blue “BEAT COVID” pin. It’s a simple reminder of how much COVID-19 mitigation is a team effort. Everyone has to buy in. Everyone has to work together. Returning forward Alex Turcotte (Chicago, Ill.) mentioned in an interview that players want to play in the tournament so bad, and that it’s simple motivation to make sure everyone is washing their hands, wearing masks and staying social distant when possible.
Trainers Stan Wong (Boca Raton, Fla.) and Jason Hodges (Plymouth, Mich.) join Johnson as some of the most decorated USA Hockey staff members in international history. Between the three, they boast 15 gold medals at IIHF events. Wong, better known as “Wonger,” was recently awarded USA Hockey’s Bob Johnson Award for excellence in international competition. Hodges is a full-time face around USA Hockey Arena, as he typically serves in the same role for USA Hockey’s National Development Team Program.
Equipment managers Scott Aldrich (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Nate LaPoint (Madison Wisconsin) have assisted with the upkeep of four locker rooms. USA Hockey determined it best practice to split the team up into four large locker rooms in order to help with social distancing before and after practice. Aldrich, also a frequent member of medal-winning teams, coordinates equipment efforts between all of USA Hockey’s national teams. The logistics, shipping, packing and equipment setup was perfected weeks in advance of camp so that players could enjoy a normal camp feeling from Day One. LaPoint, who has worked internationally three times previously for USA Hockey, is familiar with much of the team while working in the Big Ten with the University of Wisconsin.
Marc Boxer (Colorado Springs, Colo.) serves as the director of junior hockey for USA Hockey, and with the recent talent stream from NTDP, United States Hockey League and North American Hockey League, Boxer has seen or scouted many of these players previously. Boxer, serving as director of hockey operations for the U.S. National Junior Team. Working alongside staff, Boxer's role is all about logistics, including ensuring everything that needs to be shipped arrives in Canada and being prepared for the unique four-day quarantine the team will go through upon arrival in Edmonton.
Generally, staff spends a few hours each day getting to know one another. Chemistry can be as important off the ice for staff as on the ice for players. That has been made difficult with restrictions. However, each of the staff members have taken time to learn about one another and introduce new staff members into the flow of the operations so that everything runs smoothly. It’s a small detail, but a sturdy foundation from the staff allows the team to function inside its bubble without hesitation.
USA Hockey continued its camp schedule, hosting players for a morning workout before a lunch video session and afternoon practice. Much has been made about Team USA returning a potential 10 players from last year’s roster. Boston College goaltender Spencer Knight (Darien, Conn.) is one of those 10 players.
We’ve learned a few things from mic’ing up Knight at practice. First and foremost, he’s got a rocket shot. After going bar down (and calling it beforehand), Knight couldn’t help but reflect on his laser for the rest of practice. Secondly, camp is providing a crucial time for Knight and Dustin Wolf (Darien, Calif.) to break in their new red, white and blue pads.
All three goaltenders on the preliminary roster have spent time with Kris Mayotte (Ann Arbor, Mich.) during camp. Mayotte, a goaltender at Union College from 2002-06, has been tasked with making the netminders feel comfortable in their new USA Hockey digs. This is Mayotte’s third appearance behind the bench of the U.S. National Junior Team, after winning a gold medal in 2017 and bronze in 2018.
The team is looking forward to three full days of camp, including two days featuring practice in the morning and evening, before it leaves for Edmonton Sunday, Dec. 13. Twenty-nine players know they have three days to make their dreams come true, and make the final 25-man roster for the 2021 U.S. National Junior Team.
Coaches and staff have focused their time ensuring players are properly prepared for their time in the bubble once the team settles into Edmonton. One aspect the staff are already focused on is the mandatory four-day hotel quarantine. During that time players will be locked inside their own hotel rooms, only opening their door to receive food and complete their daily COVID-19 test.
Players have learned stretches and workouts to complete during this isolation time. GVN Performance hosted players in the morning to review these routines, complete with resistance bands and equipment that can easily be used in a hotel room.
Practice focused on developing good habits, as coaches continue to implement their desired style of play to the group. The two-hour practice today first focused on breakouts through the neutral zone, and then split the team into special teams. With 10 returners, including seven forwards, currently on the preliminary roster, it only took five or so minutes before former teammates began to connect on the power play.
Following practice, media were able to talk with players, through Zoom sessions, for the first time at camp. University of Minnesota defenseman Jackson LaCombe (Eden Prairie, Minn.) was asked about the upcoming Gophers game against the University of Michigan. With three Gophers and five Wolverines in camp, in addition to Michigan assistant coach Kris Mayotte (Ann Arbor, Mich.), they were asked if there were any plans to watch the game tonight.
“We can’t gather in large groups right now with COVID rules,” said LaCombe. “But you better believe we’ll be watching it.”
All players and staff arrived in Plymouth, Mich. throughout the day yesterday, beginning the U.S. National Junior Team’s pre-tournament camp. Team USA announced three replacement players that joined the 29-man roster in camp, with Logan Stein (Suwanee, Ga.) and Hunter Skinner (Pinckney, Mich.) arriving locally from their Michigan bases. University of North Dakota defenseman Tyler Kleven (Fargo, N.D.) scored his first collegiate goal while playing in the NCHC Pod, and then following the game, received a phone call from general manager John Vanbiesbrouck (Detroit, Mich.) that he had been added to the U.S. National Junior Team preliminary roster. Kleven quickly packed his bags and joined the team in Michigan.
What’s the difference between a Pod and a Bubble? Three letters.
Three players joined Team USA’s training camp bubble directly from the NCHC pod. Kleven is joined by North Dakota teammate Jake Sanderson (Whitefish, Mont.), while returning forward Bobby Brink (Minnetonka, Minn.) arrived at camp after dishing out three assists in three games with the University of Denver.
Testing was a big topic the first day at camp, but it wasn’t just the health and safety precautions taken to keep players and staff safe from COVID-19. Players have set aside time this week to ensure that their college final exams, presentations and papers are all completed on time.
John Farinacci (Red Bank, N.J.) is currently enrolled at Harvard University after an impressive freshman season with the Crimson. While Harvard has announced the cancellation of their hockey season for this year, Farinacci joined the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League in an effort to play hockey this season. If quickly meeting teammates and fitting into a new team wasn’t hard enough, the Arizona Coyotes prospect has also had to learn how to balance the schedule of a full-time virtual Ivy League curriculum.
Holidays came early for players, as each were greeted with new helmets and gloves upon arrival. Bauer athletes all were on the 2020 “nice” list, as players unwrapped their surprise American flag-inspired skates.
Over the course of the next six days, USA Hockey staff will work diligently alongside their coaching staff, led by head coach Nate Leaman (Providence, R.I.), in order to whittle down the roster from 29 players to its eventual 25-man roster. Make sure to follow USA Hockey on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube for full U.S. National Junior Team coverage.