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2021 U18 Men's Worlds Notebook: The Killers

By USA Hockey, 05/02/21, 8:15PM EDT

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Follow along on Team USA's journey during the 2021 IIHF U18 Men's World Championship

The 2021 IIHF U18 Men's World Championship takes place from April 26 - May 6, 2021 in Frisco and Plano, Texas. Scroll for an inside look at Team USA's journey from the first practice to the gold medal game.


May 3 - Team USA's Run Comes to End

FRISCO, Texas - The U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team fell to Sweden, 5-2, Monday evening at Comerica Center to end the team's 2021 Under-18 Men's World Championship run. 

"Sweden is a really good club and we knew that coming in. I don’t think for a minute anybody took them lightly," head coach Dan Muse (Canton, Mass.) said after the defeat. "We know that in this tournament, and especially when you get to this part of it, everybody is going to give you their very best. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to create our own puck luck and get the goals we needed." 

Highlights

Postgame Comments

Photos


May 2 - The Killers

Team USA's roster sits at 24 players and all 24 are needed to win every game. Yes, that includes whoever the two may be on any given night who don't dress, cheering and offering support from the stands and locker room. 

Every one of those 24 players has a role, whether it's scoring the big goal when the team is down late, running the point on the power play or making 30 saves from your goalie in the cage. And one of the most underappreciated roles on any hockey team is the guys who kill penalties. 

You're outnumbered on the ice, you have to sacrifice your body to block shots and do anything humanly possible to keep the puck out of your net. Chances are, you're not going to score. You're not going to fill the stat sheet. But it's an absolutely integral part of every hockey team.

Meet Ryan St. Louis (Riverside, Conn.) and Justin Janicke (Maple Grove, Minn.), two of Team USA's most consistent penalty killers. The U.S. has killed off 10 of the last 11 power-plays over the last three games, the lone goal coming in a 5-on-3 situation. It's no surprise that the PK has been a crucial part to finishing on top in all three of those contests. 

Justin Janicke

Three People to Eat Dinner With: LeBron James, Phil Mickelson, Wayne Gretzky

Pump-Up Music: A lot of hard rap, little bit of Drake. I've got my own playlist. 

Favorite NHL Player: Patty Kane or Auston Matthews. Yeah, Auston. Just the dangles and he's leading the league in goals, it's pretty unreal. I had one goal this year that was 'the shot' and I thought it was pretty sweet.

Best Moment off the Ice in Texas: Definitely ping pong. The boys are getting after it. Lot of fun there. 

Take Me Through Last Night's Crazy Ending: The tying goal, Gally dances two guys, they get in there and scramble. We go crazy on the bench and I'm hugging everyone. We get to OT, Sasha made an unbelievable play and buried it five-hole and it was just crazy. It went by like a blur. All of a sudden, we're in a pile, everyone falls over and I'm getting tackled, can't even breathe. Pretty fun night!

Mindset on PK: It's definitely do your job, it's a big part of the game and you can gain momentum off of it. First thing's first, try to win the faceoff, not let them set. If they do get set, just be ready to block shots, get in the way and force them outside. 

How does it feel to block one? It's great. It hurts but once the boys go crazy it helps a lot. 

Ryan St. Louis

Three People to Eat Dinner With: Justin Bieber, Auston Matthews, Kevin Hart

Pump-Up Music: I'd say Future and Drake

Favorite NHL Player: Auston Matthews. He's got an incredible feel for the game and a great shot. 

Best Moment off the Ice in Texas: Just ping pong with all the guys.

Take Me Through Last Night's Crazy Ending: It was electric, that was definitely the biggest goal I've ever been a part of. Just being on the ice for Gally's [Ty Gallagher] goal, I feel like the whole stadium erupted. 

Mindset on the PK: Don't let them set up, don't let them score. Try to gain momentum for our team. 


May 1 - U18s Top Finland in OT in Thrilling Fashion

FRISCO, Texas - Ty Gallagher (Clarkston, Mich.) tied the game with three seconds to play in regulation and Sasha Pastujov (Bradenton, Fla.) connected less than a minute into the overtime period as the U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team came back to beat Finland, 5-4, Saturday night here at Comerica Center. 

Pastujov strolled down the right wing in the 3-on-3 session and ducked towards the center of the ice as he got to the goal line. He stickhandled between all three Finnish skaters before sliding his shot between the legs of Aku Koskenvuo to complete the comeback victory. 

Highlights

Postgame Comments

Photo Gallery

April 30 - Small in Stature, Not in Game

If you take a look through Team USA's roster, a couple figures might jump out at you. A whopping six players committed to play for Jeff Jackson and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. A player from the hockey hotbed of....Lincoln, Nebraska? A couple familiar names in St. Louis, Savage and Hejduk. And yes, defenseman Lane Hutson (Barrington, Ill.) stands in at an intimidating 5-foot-7, the shortest player on the team by three inches. 

Hutson is one of the seven 2004 birthdays on the team as the younger crop of kids for the red, white and blue. But his play through three games of the preliminary round has put everyone on notice. The Boston University commit has four assists, to currently put him t-10th in scoring among all skaters, and leads one of the most powerful power-play attacks in the competition, where he runs the point. 


Hutson pots the only goal of the shootout against Czech Republic

"It’s just been getting easier and easier, getting used to everyone’s game and making plays," said Hutson. "It’s been working so it’s good." 

You won't see it in the stat sheet, but Hutson has a knack for finding a big goal, too. He netted the lone goal in ten tries between the two teams to give Team USA the extra point last night against the Czech Republic. With an assist on Sasha Pastujov's (Bradenton, Fla.) third-period marker, Hutson was involved in all of Team USA's scoring. 

"I came in from the side and I was just looking for an opening," he said after the game. "I knew I had to beat the goalie before he could get down so I just tried to throw him off with a few stickhandles and it ended up going in."

With just one more game to play in the preliminary round tomorrow evening against Finland, Hutson knows he and his teammates must hit the ground running after a few slow starts the past two games. But the confidence hasn't wavered.

"As a team, we’re looking to get off to a better start. Do the little things and play the right way. I think we’ll be rolling from there."

April 29 - USA Tops Czech Republic in Shootout, 2-1

FRISCO, Texas - Sasha Pastujov (Bradenton, Fla.) scored the game-tying goal in the third period and Kaidan Mbereko (Aspen, Colo.) made 30 saves, plus an additional five in the shootout, to lead the U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team past the Czech Republic, 2-1, here tonight at Comerica Center. 

Highlights

Postgame Comments

Photo Gallery


April 28 - 24 Goals For Number 24

Twenty-three of the 24 players on Team USA's roster come from USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, based at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan. Going through the two-year program together is one of the biggest benefits Team USA has when it enters international tournaments, the chemistry of having played with all of your teammates so often.

Even this year's team, which features a record seven underagers, or players from the 2004 birth year (in a 2003 cut-off for the tournament), has had the chance to mix together over the course of the last six months. And while this tournament is based off of team success, individual success comes along the way. 

Defenseman Ty Gallagher (Clarkston, Mich.), a second-year blueliner at the NTDP, likes to be involved at both ends of the ice. He came to Texas with 21 goals scored in his NTDP career, one marker short of Cam York's (Anaheim Hills, Calif.) record for most career goals by an NTDP defenseman. Gallagher wasted no time trying to climb the last rung of the ladder with a snipe of a wrist-shot from the left wing in the team's pre-tournament game against Sweden on Saturday (April 24) evening to tie York's mark. 

In Team USA's first preliminary win over Germany last night (April 27), the University of Notre Dame commit found the back of the net on two different power plays to cement himself in sole possession of the top number.

"On the power play, I’m just finding spots and taking my shots has been key for me," Gallagher said. "I think we’ve been working well together as a unit and just capitalizing on our opportunities." 

His two goals were numbers 23 and 24 of his career while wearing the red, white and blue, a number fit for the player who wears 2-4 across the back of his jersey. And while the defenseman recognizes it's nice to be on top of any list that includes the likes of York, Will Butcher (Sun Prairie, Wis.), Erik Johnson (Bloomington, Minn.) and Quinn Hughes (Orlando, Fla.), he knows this tournament is all about collecting W's as a team. After a team workout this morning to keep the gang loose and limber, Gallagher knows they have to be ready for the Czech Republic tomorrow night. 

"I think we’re going to be well-rested and ready to go, the boys are going to come out buzzing. We’re going to be a hard working team, hard to play against, and we’re going to be tough to beat." 


April 27 - Team USA Picks Up Win Over Germany

FRISCO, Texas - The U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team never trailed en route to its first win of the 2021 IIHF Under-18 Men's World Championship, a 5-3 victory over Germany fueled by two power-play goals from Ty Gallagher (Clarkston, Mich.).

“As you go through a tournament like this, you’ve got to find different ways to win," said head coach Dan Muse (Canton, Mass.) after the game. "We found a way tonight and that’s something to build off of heading into Thursday.”

Highlights

Photo Gallery

Postgame Comments


April 26 - USA Falls in Opener

FRISCO, Texas - The U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team earned a point, but fell to Russia in overtime, 7-6, in the first preliminary-round matchup of the 2021 IIHF Under-18 Men's World Championship. 

"In a game like this, it's two good teams and there's going to be ups and downs," head coach Dan Muse said after the game. "So while we controlled momentum early, they had some big shifts in the second period to put us back on our heels. We need to be better with how we react to those types of situations and get our game back on track."

Highlights

Photo Gallery

Postgame Comments



April 25 - New Kids on the Block

It was a quick day at the rink for the U.S. team today as the team photo got top billing prior to skating. After that, it was a shorter, focused practice to keep the legs moving and get the heart-rate up. After yesterday's game, and with Russia looming tomorrow, Coach Muse wanted his squad to be as fresh as possible.

There were a couple new faces in the team photo, though. Forward Marek Hejduk (Parker, Colo.) and defenseman Ryan Chesley (Mahtomedi, Minn.), both underagers for this tournament, were late additions to Team USA's tournament roster. Let's get to know them a little better with a quick Q&A!

Marek Hejduk

Three People to Eat Dinner With: Patrick Kane, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Phil Mickelson

Best Moment of the Year: Getting the call to come play at U18 World Championship. We had just gotten back from Dubuque at 8:30 in the morning, I got a couple hours of sleep, and at noon I got a call from Coach Nightingale to come here to Dallas.

Pump-Up Music: I'm not a huge music guy, but a mix. Some up tempo beats, some pop, some rap, nothing specific. 

Favorite NHL Player: I absolutely love the Avalanche and every time I watch them I watch Nathan MacKinnon. He's electric, such a good all-around player.

Most Looking Forward to in Texas: The games. I'm super excited to play. It's my first international tournament of any kind. 

Three People to Have Dinner With: Cale Makar, Wayne Gretzky and Tiger Woods.

Best Moment of this Year: That's a tough one, but it has to be coming here to Texas and making this team.

Pump-Up Music: Any rap, I like Travis Scott.

Favorite NHL Player to Watch: Cale Makar (if you didn't already guess that one!) 

Most Looking Forward to in Texas: Just getting to play games and hopefully winning a gold medal.

Ryan Chesley


April 24 - USA Tops Sweden in Pre-Tournament Game

FRISCO, Texas - The U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team used five unanswered goals to take down Sweden, 5-1, in the team's lone pre-tournament game of the 2021 IIHF Under-18 Men's World Championship Saturday evening. 

Highlights

Photos


April 23 - Go With the Flow

Flow. Lettuce. Salad. Chop. Whatever you want to call it, hair was the star of the show today. And like anything else with this team, it turned into a competition. When you take the buckets off, what's going on underneath? 

Rutger McGroarty, Ty Gallagher and Red Savage were just three skaters who found themselves with a little extra time in front of the mirror, fluffing and poofing the hair to make sure it looked exquisite for their mugshots. A few extra products from Stryx lined the changing rooms to give everyone their A+ look. 

The next most important thing about headshots: do you smile or do you mean-mug it? Sometimes you don't get the choice. Aidan Hreschuk and Jack Hughes galavanted into the photo hallway together, both trying to get the other to crack a smile. This time, Hughes netted the W as the defenseman couldn't keep a straight face for the camera. 

While we talked yesterday about settling into a routine, picture day is a one-off that can sometimes throw a wrench into that regimen. But the ability to keep it loose among the players turned the quick photoshoot into a fun little side activity, something to spice up the day. 

We've got a few headshots off to the side; who's got your vote for top salad on the team? 

Buckle up, boys. Tomorrow is gameday. 


April 22 - Becoming Routine

It's the first full day for Team USA outside of quarantine, and things are starting to fall into place as we lead up to game action for the tournament. One of the biggest changes? The locker room. The team moved from its smaller two-room setup during the pre-tournament phase, to a more spacious area in the far corner of Comerica Center, complete with couches and a lounge area. 

The team first got to lay eyes on its new home heading into practice last night. Assistant coach Nick Fohr mentioned how he views the changing of the rooms as when he really starts to get settled into a tournament routine. Now everything is on a specific schedule, especially this year when outside distractions and activities are limited. 

Wake up. Eat. Stretch. Skate. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. It's time to complete what you came here to do, gentlemen. 

Equipment manager Jake Visser was tasked with not only changing the rooms and unpacking the stalls for each player to see, but creating special signage and figuring out what the best layout across the area is. An interior designer if you will. While every member of Team USA is skating in his first IIHF tournament, Visser is no rookie at this. He's serving on staff at his 11th IIHF event, a grizzled veteran at this by now. 

Team slogans, mantras, battle cries and of course the United States flag adorn the locker room on all the surrounding walls. It's as homey as it's going to get while not at USA Hockey Arena in Michigan. But it is now their home. And the routine that the team is settling into has one goal: defend home ice. 


April 21 - Truly United

The 'Three M's'. Michigan, Minnesota, Massachusetts. Your traditional powerhouses of hockey-producing states. And make no mistake, this team is loaded with players from there. Seven to be precise, including three each from the Gopher State and Great Lake State. 

And looking at USA Hockey's latest registration numbers from the 2019-20 report, that would tend to agree with the "M" theory. Those three states represent three of the top four locations in terms of total registrations (New York snuck past Michigan by just over 500 members). But the game is expanding across the nation, and that is clearly represented with this year's group. 

Team USA boasts a trio of players from California and another pair from Florida, two of the quickest growing states in terms of hockey participation. But two states will be making their debuts at this year's tournament: forward Rutger McGroarty will be the first player to don the red, white and blue at the U18 Worlds from Nebraska and Liam Gilmartin shares the same honor for the state of Virginia. 

"It's a huge honor, obviously, to represent your home town," said Gilmartin. "There's a lot of hockey now in Virginia and it's great to bring some more exposure to there. I'm just trying to do my best to represent everyone back home that's rooting for us and cheering on our team." 


April 20 - Fatigue Resistant

Congrats to everyone who has survived the first 24+ hours of quarantine, we’re more than halfway through our isolation period here in Frisco. There’s no denying this will be the toughest part of the trip mentally, but it’s also an opportunity to get better without being on the ice.

Coach Muse and the rest of the Team USA staff put together a great plan during the down time to keep the boys busy, focused and continuing to improve. Introduce Brian Galivan (Chicago, Ill.), USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program’s director of sports science and making his IIHF debut on the Team USA staff for the World Championship. Galivan trains the two teams at the NTDP all season long and has continued his workout routines in Texas. Each morning, he leads the team in a stretch and conditioning session and has at least one full workout scheduled every day. Can’t leave the room? No problem! This morning’s stretch was conducted via Zoom where each group of roommates had some stretching bands and weights in their rooms prior to being shut in.


Galivan on the ice at Comerica Center

“I think it’s just managing load and volume, not doing too much,” said Galivan when asked about peaking at the right time. “We’re coming out of a speed and strength phase and we’re really just focusing on speed right now and being as fresh as we can be.”

While he does have some workouts scheduled for the team in their rooms during isolation, he also knows that rest is one of the biggest weapons around. His main focus is on keeping the boys loose, limber and ready to go at full speed once they are back on the ice. No muscle fatigue or brain fog here. 

The lone full day in quarantine also brings some more Zoom calls to get through the day. Another round of mental performance training with USA Hockey’s national coach education consultant Adam Naylor was in store this afternoon and the team gets a treat tonight to chat with Nate Leaman and NTDP alums Henry Thrun and Matty Beniers, members of the gold-medal winning Team USA squad at the 2021 World Junior Championship.

One more day of confinement and we’ll be ready to hit the ice again tomorrow evening!


April 19 - The Quarantine Begins

It’s not a goodbye; it’s a see you later.

Team USA finished up its fifth consecutive day of practice this afternoon, a grueling two-hour on-ice skate. It was fast, it was competitive and it was intense. A big focus was on odd-man rushes, 2-on-1’s into 3-on-2’s. The speed was evident in a continuous 2-on-2 drill that had each pair of players up and down the ice battling to get behind the defenders and into scoring position. Special teams played an important role in today’s session as it does every day.

Winning the special teams battle each night has long been a consistent goal of this team and no better way to get better than making it muscle memory.

After arriving back at the hotel, the team and staff had one last chance to air it out around the pool before the official quarantine period begins. Beginning at 5:00 p.m. CT and until Wednesday afternoon, nobody will be allowed to leave their hotel rooms. Meals will be delivered and dropped off and all team activities will take place electronically, via Zoom.

So what does one do when you won’t see the outside world for a few days? Buy snacks of course. The team took a final trip to the hotel snack bar, picking up anything that remained in the store. Popcorn, candy bars, yogurt, gummy bears, chips – you name it, it was gone. It appeared that one unnamed member of the team even got some ice cream to put in the fridge to see how long it could stay, well, ice cream. Who are we kidding? That probably didn’t even last until they got back to the room!

Also waiting outside each hotel room door was a bag of goodies for each player. Included was some tournament-branded apparel, including a toque, pin and game puck. There were some toiletries like sanitizing wipes, tissues, sanitizer and a brand new pack of surgical grade masks. And our friends at Stryx hooked it up with some body gels and lip balms! But most importantly, more snacks: every team member got a baggy of bananas, apples, oranges and granola bars. Maybe it will last them the night. See everyone on the flip side, enjoy the coziness of your room!


April 18 - Competition Comes in All Facets of Trip

Team USA enjoyed its third straight day of practice, today’s session a lunch-time skate over at Comerica Center. The timing of practice kicked back lunch a little and well, that must have made the boys a little hungrier than normal. They returned to the hotel to heaping plates of beef, pork, mac n’ cheese, veggies and a curried carrot soup. Oh, and some pound cake which was gone quickly....to say the least. Everyone knows teenagers can eat, but this group EATS.

The IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship features, unsurprisingly, the top Under-18 aged players in the world. But not all of the participants are right up to the age limit, even though one member of Team USA reached that marker today. Happy golden birthday shoutout to defenseman Ethan Straky, turning 18 on the 18th of April today!

The American roster features a total of five “underagers” or players born after the 2003 birth year cut-off. They are forwards Logan Cooley, Isaac Howard, Rutger McGroarty and Charlie Stramel, along with defenseman Lane Hutson. The five skaters played on the U.S. National Under-17 Team for the majority of this season, whereas the rest of the players were members on the Under-18 squad. When the U18 Worlds team is picked, there is a little bit of an adjustment period to combine the age groups. Stramel says the older crew has made it as easy as possible for everyone to fit in.

“They’ve been really accepting as a team, taking us in as one of them,” said the Minnesota native. “It’s been great so far becoming more a part of the team as we get ready to go for gold.”

Howard mentioned while there are differentiations between skating on the two teams, it’s mostly just minor adjustments with his newer teammates.

“It’s not a huge difference, a couple tweaks on how each team plays. But it’s been quick to learn and it’s been really good to be a part of the group.”

While the younger boys can learn a few things from the older skaters on the ice, there are some areas where they dish out the knowledge. Most notably, yard games. The team has had some time to fine-tune the skills on the Spikeball and corn hole fields, and the weather has shaped up for some tournament-style action out on the patio.

“We’ve got a lot of competitive guys on the team,” Stramel continued. “So, we love to bring the competitive attitude somewhere else. Me and Ike are kind of the king of bags right now.”  

How good is the duo? Well they’re undefeated thus far on the trip and the confidence is only growing.

“We’re sitting 8-and-0 right now,” Howard chimed in. “Basically anybody that plays us knows they’re not going to win at this point.”


April 17 - Leadership Group Announced

The second full day in Texas started just as Day 1: a nice early-morning nose swab. But not all was the same…the sun showed its face for the first time since Team USA’s arrival and is expected to stick around consistently for at least the next week. That meant the team’s morning stretch and workout could be done outside next to the pool deck at the hotel. With a few minutes to kill before lunch, the corn hole boards were brought out and bags were flying – competition never leaves the boys.

Following lunch, the team hopped on a zoom call with attention to mental sport performance training. Learning how to prepare and excel off the ice can be just as important to skills training to improve on the ice. Setting high, realistic goals and maintaining self-motivation and positive attitudes can help lead to more success during practice and games.

Team USA did not have Comerica Center to itself today as it had during the first two skates. The tunes were blaring and arena floor was filled with teams as it played host to the Rockstar Lone Star Showdown Nationals cheer competition. Nevertheless, on the practice sheet, the team was back to work…. but not before a little delay to begin practice when the Zamboni pulled up lame and out of gas! Coach Muse has preached fighting through adversity throughout the trip and this was yet another small example.

The biggest difference in today’s practice? The team hit the ice knowing who would be sporting letters on their sweaters for the duration of the tournament. Your 2021 U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team captain is forward Red Savage (Scottsdale, Ariz.). Filling out the leadership team as alternate captains are defensemen Sean Behrens (Barrington, Ill.) and Aidan Hreschuk (Long Beach, Calif.).

Team Arrival & Practice

Savage finished the season with the third-most points on the U.S. National Under-18 Team, recording 16 goals and 22 assists across 39 games played. Behrens (6g-25a-31pts/0.79 PPG) and Hreschuk (5g-28a-33pts/0.77 PPG) were the two highest-scoring blueliners that Team USA brought to Texas.

"It’s pretty awesome having the trust of your teammates and coaching staff to help you guide the way for the whole team," said Savage prior to practice. "It’s not about me, but it’s about everyone stepping up together as a group, as a team, and hopefully coming out on top.” 


Left-to-right: Aidan Hreschuk (alternate captain), Red Savage (captain), Sean Behrens (alternate captain)


April 16 - Players Hit the Ice in Texas

The U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team, along with all coaching and support staff members, checked into Frisco, Texas, yesterday (April 15) evening to begin Team USA's pre-tournament slate. The team hit the ice for the first time late last night for a short skate to become familiar with their new home away from home — Comerica Center. As the official practice facility of the NHL's Dallas Stars, Team USA will play the entirety of their tournament schedule at the arena. 

Good news for the first morning in Texas: nobody needed to set an alarm. The bad news: that was due to a 6:00 a.m. wake-up via a loud door knock for COVID-19 testing. The team and staff are regularly tested to ensure the safety of all players and participants at the world championship. 

After a morning stretch, with some accommodations made to avoid the Texas rain, and a couple of meals at the hotel, the team was back to Comerica Center - but this time, 'celly season' was upon us. The staff at Comerica Center, along with the Dallas Stars Ice Girls and the legendary mascot, Victor E. Green, had a socially-distanced welcome celebration for Team USA as they entered the facility. After the fun entry, it was all business for a two-hour ice session. The players sported some of the latest TRUE Hockey gloves in a slick new red and blue pattern. 

The squad, led by head coach Dan Muse (Canton, Mass.), who is making his IIHF head coaching debut, will practice at least once every day up until a two-day quarantine period beginning the night of Monday, April 19. For the latest news on the Under-18 Men's World Championship, be sure to follow @USAHockey on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube

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