Follow along Team USA's journey at the 2021 IIHF Men's World Championship in Riga, Latvia. The tournament takes place from May 21-June 6.
RIGA, Latvia – The U.S. Men’s National Team got goals from six different players and 33 saves from Cal Petersen (Waterloo, Iowa) on the way to a 6-1 win over Germany here today in the bronze-medal game of the 2021 IIHF Men’s World Championship. The U.S. has now medaled in four of the last eight men's world championships, the best medal stretch for the U.S. since 1931-47.
"These guys should be very proud of the way they played today and in this tournament," said head coach Jack Capuano. "I am very proud of the way this group competed. They're coming home with a medal, and I think they made USA Hockey and everyone involved proud."
RIGA, Latvia – Colin Blackwell (North Andover, Mass.) and Sasha Chmelevski (Huntington Beach, Calif.) both scored and Cal Petersen (Waterloo, Iowa) made 29 saves, but the U.S. Men’s National Team fell to Canada, 4-2, in the semifinal round at the 2021 IIHF Men’s World Championship. Team USA will play Germany in the bronze medal game tomorrow (June 6) at 8:15 am ET. The game can be seen live on NHL Network.
“This has been one of the best groups I’ve ever coached character-wise,” said Jack Capuano, head coach of the U.S. Men's National Team. “To lose our captain, our alternate, a top prospect, and to still be able to put this effort in tonight says a lot about this group. We still have a chance to come home with a medal and I know this group will give each other everything they’ve got to do so.”
With a day off between the quarterfinal and semifinal, the U.S. Men's National Team took advantage of the day with meetings and time at Arena Riga. While it was an optional skate, the team took part in meetings both there and at the hotel before resting for the rest of the night.
FIFTH TIME FOR TWO U.S.-CANADA FACEOFFS
This is the fifth time in tournament history that the U.S. and Canada are meeting twice in the same year. The last time they met twice was 2018, when the U.S. claimed both meetings for the first time ever with a 5-4 shootout preliminary-round win and a 3-1 bronze-medal win.
The first time the teams met twice in this tournament was 1985, when the U.S. edged Canada, 4-3, in the preliminary-round before falling, 3-2, in the round-robin playoffs. The 1985 win was considered an upset, as the U.S. roster, featuring John
Vanbiesbrouck (here with Team USA), Tony Granato,
and Mark Johnson defeated a Canadian team headlined by Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, and Ron Francis. Vanbiesbrouck and Team USA’s preliminary-round win snapped a 20-game losing streak to Canada, with the win being Team USA’s second-ever and first since the 1933 gold medal game.
BACK-TO-BACKS CLOSE 2021 IIHF MEN'S WORLDS
All four remaining teams -- USA, Canada, Finland and Germany -- will have to have a short memory with the semifinals taking place one day before the medal games. With Team USA's wins over Germany (2-0) and Italy (4-2) in preliminary-round back-to-back play, the U.S. is now 9-1-0-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L) on the second night of back-to-backs and 15-2-0-4 (W-OTW-OTL-L) overall in back-to-back situations since the 2016 IIHF Men's World Championship.
ROBERTSON NAMED CALDER TROPHY FINALIST
During last night's game, U.S. forward and Dallas Stars rookie Jason Robertson was named a Calder Trophy Finalist for the 2020-21 NHL Season. The Stars' 2nd-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft ranked second on Dallas and among all NHL rookies in scoring with 17-28--45 in 51 games. He led all NHL rookies in assists (28), plus-minus (tie, +13) and even-strength points (16-23--39) and ranked second in goals (tie, 17) and shots on goal (127). His season was highlighted by a nine-game point streak from April 13-27 (4-9--13), the longest by any NHL rookie since a 10-game streak by Arizona's Clayton Keller in 2017-18. The 21-year-old Arcadia, Calif., native is seeking to become the first Stars player to capture the Calder Trophy since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993-94 and will be the highest-finishing Calder candidate for Dallas, ahead of teammate Miro Heiskanen's fourth-place ranking in 2019.
RIGA, Lativa – Colin Blackwell (North Andover, Mass.) and Conor Garland (Scituate, Mass.) scored twice and Cal Peterson (Waterloo, Iowa) made 27 saves to help the U.S. to a 6-1 win here over Slovakia in quarterfinal play at the 2021 IIHF Men’s World Championship.
The U.S., which has won seven straight games and was the top seed in the tournament coming out of the preliminary round, will play Canada on Saturday (June 5) at 7:15 a.m. ET in the semifinals. The game can be seen live on NHL Network.
“I’m just happy for the guys. We’re facing some adversity here with injuries, and to see that pull the group even closer, I couldn’t be prouder of them,” said head coach Jack Capuano. “We’ll see how tonight’s games shake out before knowing our next opponent, but our group is excited to know we have a chance to play for a medal and make some history.”
For the first time since the 2021 IIHF Men's World Championship opened, today there were no games played. Teams that qualified for the quarterfinals skated, while those whose tournaments ended packed and left.
Eight teams remain, and Team USA sits atop the rankings as the only team to have claimed 18 points in preliminary-round play.
PRACTICE BACK AT ARENA RIGA
Today's practice, unlike most throughout the tournament, didn't require a dress-and-drive scenario to go to nearby Dauguva Arena. Instead, the team was able to skate here at Arena Riga for the first time since the first few days of the tournament. Following practice, some players took part in media obligations before returning to the hotel for dinner and snack. Among those players was Conor Garland, the top U.S. point-getter with 8 points (3-5) in seven games, and Brian Boyle, who will captain Team USA on the ice for the remainder of the tournament with Justin Abdelkader sidelined with a lower-body injury.
QUARTERFINAL OPPONENT: SLOVAKIA
The U.S. owns a 4-2-1-4-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L-T) record in 12 tournament meetings against Slovakia. In the last tournament (2019), the U.S. lost to Slovakia, 4-1, in its opening game. This is just the second-ever quarterfinal meeting between the two teams. In 2000, Team USA lost, 4-1, as Slovakia went on to earn a silver medal after reaching the gold-medal game. This year, after a perfect 3-0 start that included their first tournament win over ROC (Russia) in 17 years, Slovakia went 1-3 over its final four games.
This is the 10th straight year the U.S. has advanced to the quarterfinal round. All-time, Team USA is 6-3-3-11 (W-OTW-OTL-L) in 23 appearances and has won three of its last five quarterfinal berths (2-1-0-2). Quarterfinal games have been played in the tournament since 1992 with the exception of 1997, 1998 and 1999. Of the 23 years quarterfinals have been played, the U.S. has qualified all but twice.
RECAPPING GROUP B PLAY
The current tournament format, with seven games in the preliminary round, began in 2012. In the nine tournaments since, the U.S. has finished second or better in group play five times (1st - 2015, 2017, 2021; 2nd - 2012, 2014, 2018).
Following its tournament-opening 2-1 defeat to Finland, the U.S. claimed six-straight regulation wins. It is the third time ever the U.S. has won six-straight in a Men's World Championship (1990, 2017). With overtimes and shootouts, the U.S. also won six preliminary-round games in 2015 and 2018. The most wins a U.S. team has ever earned in a single IIHF Men's World Championship is eight, when the U.S. squads did so in 2015 (7 regulation, 1 OT) and 2018 (6 regulation, 2 OT).
RIGA, Lativa – Kevin Labanc (Staten Island, N.Y.) and Conor Garland (Scituate, Mass.) each scored two goals to help the U.S. Men’s National Team to a 4-2 victory over Italy in their final preliminary round game at the 2021 IIHF Men’s World Championship, giving Team USA its sixth-straight win at the world championship.
“Seventeen days ago, we came together some of us not knowing each other, and to now be sitting here in first place, we’re a proud group,” said head coach Jack Capuano. “We feel for our captain, Justin, though, who was doing everything right and leading both on and off the ice before his injury. Fortunately, he can still be with us here and we’ve said from Day One that it’s going to take every one of us, so we’ll keep that mentality as we turn our focus to the quarterfinals.”
With the win, the U.S. clinches first place in Group B with 18 points and will face Slovakia, the fourth-place team in Group A, in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Puck drop is slated for 9:15 a.m. ET and will be broadcast live on NHL Network.
ABDELKADER OUT; BOYLE TABBED CAPTAIN
Prior to the game, it was announced that U.S. captain and forward Justin Abdelkader (Muskegon, Mich.) will miss the remainder of the 2021 IIHF Men’s World Championship due to a lower-body injury sustained during the second period of Team USA’s 2-0 win over Germany. He is expected to remain with Team USA here in Riga, Latvia. In addition, forward Brian Boyle (Hingham, Mass.) has been tabbed captain of Team USA for the remainder of the tournament alongside alternate captains Matt Roy (Detroit, Mich.) and Colin Blackwell (North Andover, Mass.). Full release.
RIGA, Lativa – Cal Petersen (Waterloo, Iowa) turned aside all 33 shots he faced for his second shutout to lead the U.S. Men’s National Team to a 2-0 shutout victory over Germany in preliminary round play at the 2021 IIHF Men’s World Championship. Jason Robertson (Northville, Mich.) and Colin Blackwell (North Andover, Mass.) each scored to help the U.S. win its fifth-straight win at the world championship for Team USA.
“That’s a really good hockey team, full credit to them,” said head coach Jack Capuano. “Our guys made sacrifices, stuck to the structure and found a way to win. I’m really impressed with how we’ve come together so far and now we’ve got one more game here to finish our group play on a positive before getting ready for the quarterfinal.”
With two games left in the preliminary-round, the U.S. used today's practice day as an opportunity to take its team photo, as well as a slew of other 'group' photos.
LINEYS: MOORE, GARLAND, ROBERTSON
In the midst of the group photos -- all of which featured players with connections, be that current club teammates or fellow college alums -- the line of Conor Garland (Arizona Coyotes), Trevor Moore (LA Kings) and Jason Robertson (Dallas Stars) got together for a quick photo. The trio has collectively earned 16 points (7g, 9a) through five games and each carry a +5 rating. Moore leads the U.S. with six points (4-2=6) while Garland (1-4=5) and Robertson (2-3=5) are tied for second.
15 DAYS OF SACRIFICE AND COUNTING
Today marks Day 15 that Team USA has been a group since first convening in Newark, N.J. Over those 15 days, there's been 1 day of travel, 2 days of quarantine, 5 gamedays, and 7 days of practice. A common word used amongst the team is the 'sacrifice' to be here in a bubble as a group.
"It's a special group to come over here and sacrifice, especially in a very unique year with what we're all going through in the world together," said head coach Jack Capuano. "Everybody involved, from (John Vanbiesbrouck) and (Chris Drury) and our coaching staff it's an honor to be a part of."
"One thing that sticks out is just the group of guys," Garland said after last night's win over Norway. "It's unfortunate that we're in a bubble, but there's some good that comes with it. We're in our meal room hanging out as a group everyday. I've become pretty close with some of these guys and it's been a lot of fun... a lot in common with these guys. We have one goal as a group and, you kind of feel it when we're all hanging out together, it's a weird feeling, but something special can happen here. It's a really great group and I'm just excited to see where we take this."
As a team, the group understands this sacrifice is nothing compared to the sacrifice men and women across the United States have made not only in armed forces for our freedom, but with regards to the worldwide pandemic.
"It's cool, we've won some games here, we get to see our flag go up and sing our anthem," said Brian Boyle after Team USA's 4-2 win over Latvia. "It's a proud team in there, we obviously all have a lot to play for but living in the country we do, with the opportunities we've had, we're so fortunate, it's certainly a blessing to be able to play."
RIGA, Latvia – Conor Garland (Scituate, Mass.) and Tage Thompson (Orange, Conn.) each scored and Jake Oettinger (Lakeville, Minn.) contributed 22 saves to help the U.S. Men’s National Team to a 2-1 victory over Norway here tonight in preliminary round play at the 2021 IIHF Men’s World Championship. It was the fourth straight win at the world championship for Team USA.
“All the credit to the guys, this was a good hockey game," said Jack Capuano, head coach of the U.S. Men's National Team. "We knew coming in that this would be a tight game. Norway is a good team and made it tough. We’ve got to improve internally, control the penalties and give ourselves more opportunities moving forward."
Today was one of only a handful of sunny days here in Riga, Latvia. Team USA got together for breakfast, took a 10:30am bus to Arena Riga, and took part in off-ice meetings and workouts. A select number of players, including Drew Commesso (released from tournament quarantine) and Tage Thompson (injured in win over Canada), took part in an optional skate.
Following practice, the team returned to the hotel to relax before reconvening for ping pong, cards and watching some of the tournament games like Canada's 4-2 win over Kazakhstan.
Tomorrow, Team USA will return to action when it takes on Norway, who faces Latvia here tonight. Puck drop is set for 9:15 a.m. ET and will be broadcast on NHL Network.
While not technically brothers, the connection between Team USA's oldest and youngest player extends beyond sharing the same hometown. Brian Boyle (36) and Matty Beniers (18) have been spending time together on- and off-the-ice here in Latvia, whether it's been playing cards, assisting on goals or even taking part in a postgame press conference. Coincidentally, Boyle heard his name called on June 21, at the 2003 NHL Draft, five months before Beniers was even born (Nov. 5, 2002).
ROSTER's NHL EXPERIENCE
In terms of NHL experience, the 27-player U.S. roster has a total 3,672 of NHL games. Of those games, Brian Boyle (805 GP) and Abdelkader (739 GP) account for 1,544 of those games. The next most experienced NHLer is Kevin Labanc (339 GP), followed by
Chris Wideman (181 GP) and Ryan Donato (180 GP). Five players have yet to make their NHL debuts while another 10 have played in 90 or fewer NHL games.
ROSTER's 'BLUE COLLAR' MENTALITY
Over the last few years, the U.S. roster has featured NHL All-Stars, first overall NHL Draft picks and Stanley Cup champions. While this year's roster has one Stanley Cup champion in Justin
Abdelkader, its primarily built on late-round or undrafted players. Team USA's roster features just 3 first-round selections, followed by 7 second-rounders, 1 third-rounder, 3 fourth-rounders, 2 fifth-rounders, 2 sixth-rounders, 3 seventh-rounders and 5 undrafted players. In addition, one player has yet to be drafted, but is expected to be a first-round selection in this year's NHL Draft. With more than half of the roster (15) consisting of players taken in the fourth round or later (or undrafted), the team's character is driven by a blue-collar, earn it mentality.
COLLEGE GOALIE CAPTAINS OETTINGER & PETERSEN
In the crease, both Jake Oettinger (Dallas Stars) and Cal Petersen (LA Kings) have seen promising starts to their NHL careers after successful collegiate careers. Oettinger skated three seasons with Boston University (2016-19) while Petersen played three seasons with Notre Dame (2015-17). Not only did both players skate collegiately, both were given the rare letter to wear in their final collegiate seasons as Oettinger was tabbed an alternate captain while Petersen served as captain.
Among his numerous collegiate accolades from 2016-19, Oettinger was tabbed Hockey East Tournament MVP (2018) after leading the Terriers to the tournament title. Petersen, meanwhile, set an NCAA single-game record on March 6, 2015, when he made 87 saves for Notre Dame in a 4-3 five-overtime loss to Massachusetts in a Hockey East playoff game. That came at the end of his freshman season, when he had taken the starting job and begun a streak of 90 consecutive starts.
In the 2020 NHL Playoffs, Jake Oettinger became the first goalie in the expansion era (since 1967-68) to make his NHL debut in the round leading into the Stanley Cup Final when he played the third period for the Dallas Stars in a 3-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final on Sept. 8, 2020. He made five saves without allowing a goal. In the Stanley Cup Final, Oettinger relieved Anton Khudobin and played the third period during a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 on Sept. 23, 2020. He made three saves and did not allow a goal. This season he went 11-8-7 with a 2.36 GAA and .911 SV%.
Originally drafted by Buffalo, Petersen elected to sign with the Kings as a free-agent following his time at Notre Dame. In the 2018-19 season, Petersen made his NHL debut in relief of Jonathan Quick, allowing one goal on 16 shots. Petersen's first NHL start then came against the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 16, 2018, where he made 34 saves in a 2-1 win. The Kings sent Petersen back to Ontario Reign (AHL) after he went 5-4-1 with a 2.61 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. He spent the rest of the 2018-19 season and began 2019-20 with Ontario, where he was selected to the 2020 AHL All-Star Game, before being recalled in February 2020.This past season, he split time with Jonathan Quick, registering a 9-18-5 record with 2.89 goals-against-average and .911 save percentage.
RIGA, Latvia – Brian Boyle (Hingham, Mass.), Trevor Moore (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and Conor Garland (Scituate, Mass.) each had two points to help the U.S. Men’s National Team to a 4-2 victory over host Latvia here tonight in preliminary round play at the 2021 IIHF Men’s World Championship.
"I liked our compete level," said Jack Capuano, head coach of the U.S. Men's National Team. "We’ve got some things to clean up, but overall I was real pleased with our group sticking together and doing little things like our penalty kill and shot blocking. That mentality is something we can lean on as we keep progressing here."
Through five days of tournament play, the U.S. woke up in Latvia with two convincing wins over Canada (5-1) and Kazakhstan (3--0) and a narrow defeat to reigning World Championship Finland (1-2).
In a normal year, maybe Team USA's play would generate more buzz. After all, the team is littered with storylines that it has hardly seen before. 10 players making international debuts. Undrafted players looking like seasoned veterans. Players who were once childhood teammates are now representing the red, white, and blue.
But this year's tournament has seen its storyline filled with upsets. It started opening night with Latvia defeating Canada before the next days added Kazakhstan shocking Finland; Belarus blanking Sweden; Slovakia edging Russia and just today seeing Kazahkstan take down undefeated Germany. Kazakhstan is 1-2-0-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L) and sitting in Group B's Top four while the United States and Canada,, as well as Sweden and the Czech Republic in Group A, are on the outside looking in.
And while Team USA's day featured just a brief practice at the nearby Dauguva Arena, the mood around tournament buildings is that this year really could be anyone's tournament, and every game matters.
OFF-DAY MEDIA OBLIGATIONS
A unique aspect to the World Championship is the opportunity for European media to speak and hear from North American players at the NHL, AHL and college levels. Demands can ebb and flow based on who participates, but this year is no exception. Zac Jones and Jason Robertson took time to speak with Finnish and Russian media outlets about their seasons and participation here in Latvia while Trevor Moore sat down with the IIHF here on-site to discuss the team's start to the tournament and representing Team USA for the first time.
VanZant, Healy Return to World Championship
Two members of the U.S. Men's National Team support staff are no strangers to the tournament.
Piet VanZant is serving as an athletic trainer for the U.S. for the second-straight tournament after doing so at the 2019 event in Kosice, Slovakia. VanZant recently finished his 14th season as head athletic trainer for the NHL's Detroit Red Wings and 22nd with the organization overall. He joined the Red Wings’ staff for the 1999-2000 season after spending six years with Detroit’s American Hockey League franchise in Glens Falls, NY.
Jamie Healy, an assistant equipment manager for the Columbus Blue Jackets since the club’s inaugural 2000-01 season, is an equipment manager for Team USA here in Latvia after also fulfilling the same role on the bronze medal-winning 2015 team.
Prior to Columbus, Healy spent the 1999-00 season as equipment manager for the East Coast Hockey League champion, Peoria Rivermen, and also served as the equipment manager for the Alexandria Warthogs (WPHL, 1998-99) and Kalamazoo Wings (IHL, 1993-95).
RIGA, Latvia – The U.S. Men’s National Team used goals from Adam Clendening (Niagara Falls, N.Y.), Trevor Moore (Thousand Oaks, Calif) and Jack Drury (Winnetka, Ill.), along with 18 saves from Cal Petersen (Waterloo, Iowa), on the way to a 3-0 victory over Kazakhstan here tonight in preliminary round play at the 2021 IIHF Men’s World Championship.
"We knew Kazakhstan would be a tight defensive team and I’m proud of the way our guys were able to adjust our structure and come out with the win," said Jack Capuano, head coach of the 2021 U.S. Men's National Team. "This is a fun group to be around, a lot of them are playing their first time internationally and their pride and work ethic shows."
For the first time since Team USA's mandatary quarantine to start the tournament, the U.S. had a day to recharge. A handful of players took the ice while others took part in off-ice workouts.
The afternoon was spent with some team-bonding activities followed by dinner, which came midway through the third period of Slovakia's 3-1 upset win over ROC (Athletes of Russia). Following dinner, card games and ping pong games were played while others elected to watch Germany's 3-1 win over Canada.
Tomorrow, the team will conduct some meetings in the morning, a few players may take the ice, and then it's time for 4:15pm faceoff against Kazakhstan live on NHL Network.
COMMESSO ADDED, STOLARZ RETURNS TO USA
Goaltender Drew Commesso (Norwell, Mass./Boston University) has been added to the U.S. Men’s National Team, it was announced today by USA Hockey. In addition, goaltender Anthony Stolarz (Edison, N.J./Anaheim Ducks) will miss the remainder of the tournament due to a lower-body injury suffered in yesterday’s 5-1 win over Canada. For the full article, see here.
TEAM USA VS. CANADA, BACK-TO-BACK'S
Team USA's 5-1 win yesterday just Team USA’s seventh ever win in 48 meetings in tournament history. All-time, the U.S. is now 3-4-1-40 (W-OTW-OTL-L) and 2-1-0-2 in the last five meetings, including a 4-1 win in the 2018 bronze-medal game. Team USA is also now 8-1-0-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L) in the second game of back-to-backs since 2016.
STAN WONG, DANA BRYSON MILESTONES
Between the 2020-21 NHL season and 2021 IIHF Men's World Championship, both Stan Wong and Dana Bryson have reached some impressive milestones.
Stan Wong, one of Team USA's two athletic trainers and a beloved figure of players and staff alike, is working his 46th international event for a U.S. hockey team. This year marks his 13th straight men’s world championship. He has also served as a trainer for four Olympic teams, 17 national junior squads, 10 Deutschland Cup teams and for Team USA at one Youth Olympic Games and one Winter World University Games. Wong was inducted into the Professional Hockey Athletic Trainers Hall of Fame in June 2015.
Dana Bryson (Medford, Mass.), longtime equipment manager for the LA Kings, is making his debut on a U.S. Men's National Team staff here in Riga, Latvia. He previously served on the U.S. staff at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and also spent time with the U.S. National Inline Team. A member of the LA Kings' 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup championship teams, Bryson earlier this season worked his 1,500th NHL game in a 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Coincidentally, the very first NHL game he worked also came against the Coyotes in 2005-06, where Wayne Gretzky served as coach of the then 'Phoenix' Coyotes.
RIGA, Latvia – The U.S. Men’s National Team used two goals from Trevor Moore (Thousand Oaks, Calif) and 26 saves from Jake Oettinger (Lakeville, Minn.) on the way to a 5-1 victory over Canada here tonight in preliminary round play at the 2021 IIHF Men’s World Championship.
“We’ve talked about coming together as a brotherhood and being hard to play against and our guys got rewarded for that here tonight," said Jack Capuano, head coach of the 2021 U.S. Men's National Team. "Offensively, I liked the way our guys paid attention to detail and now it’s a matter of continuing that as we move forward here.”
RIGA, Latvia – The U.S. Men’s National Team dropped a hard-fought 2-1 decision to defending world champion Finland here tonight in the opening game for both teams at the 2021 IIHF Men’s World Championship.
"I thought the guys played really well given the short time we’ve spent together so far," said Jack Capuano, head coach of the 2021 U.S. Men's National Team. "We did a lot of good things, but their goalie played well and we couldn’t capitalize on our chances. There’s a lot of good things we can look at as we turn our attention here toward Canada tomorrow."
In a team meeting tonight, John Vanbiesbrouck announced that Justin Abdelkader (Muskegon, Mich.) will captain Team USA while Matt Roy and Colin Blackwell (Lawrence, Mass.) will serve as alternate captains. Following the announcement, the team turned its attention to the tournament at-large, beginning with its first opponent tomorrow in Finland. Puck drop is slated for 9:15 a.m. ET and can be seen live on NHL Network.
ABDELKADER TO LEAD TEAM USA FOR SECOND TIME
Abdelkader will captain Team USA in an IIHF Men’s World Championship for the second time after doing so in 2014 in Minsk, Belarus. The tournament marks the fifth time the Muskegon, Michigan, native will represent the U.S. internationally after doing so in two IIHF Men’s World Championships (2012, 2014), one IIHF World Junior Championship (2007 – bronze) and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. In 20 games on the international stage, he has collected 11 points (5g, 6a). An 11-year NHL veteran, all with the Detroit Red Wings, Abdelkader was with Detroit when they captured the 2008 Stanley Cup and served as an alternate captain his last four years with the Red Wings. In 739 NHL games, he amassed 252 points (106g, 146a) before signing with EV Zug in the Swiss National League this past February. With EV Zug, he registered eight points (4g, 4a) in nine games before tallying nine points (6g, 3a) in 13 playoff games to help m capture the 2021 NL Title.
ROY, BLACKWELL TABBED ALTERNATE CAPTAINS IN USA DEBUTS
The 2021 IIHF Men's World Championship not only marks the first time Roy and Blackwell will be skating for the U.S. in any international competition, it will also be the first time they will be wearing captain letters since their youth/high school careers. Both players coincidentally were taken with the 194th pick in the seventh round of an NHL Draft (Blackwell - SJS, 2011; Roy - LAK, 2015) and made their NHL debuts in the 2018-19 season.
Roy, a Detroit native, played youth hockey with Victory Honda (MI) before joining the Indiana Ice in the USHL for two seasons. Following that, he skated three years at Michigan Tech before signing with the Kings. On March 21, 2021, the Kings signed Roy to a three-year contract extension with an average annual value (AAV) of $3.15 million.
Hailing from Lawrence, Mass., Blackwell played high school hockey with St. John's Prep before spending five years with Harvard University. The 2020-21 season marked his first with the New York Rangers after splitting the last four seasons with the San Jose Sharks, Buffalo Sabres and Nashville Predators.
For the third straight day, the U.S. Men's National Team took the ice in the late evening here in Riga, Latvia. More practice time was spent on special teams, chemistry and an overall understanding of the structure head coach Jack Capuano and his staff want the team to play with.
In an interview with IIHF TV, goaltender Cal Petersen touched on the team's potential to not only play fast, gritty hockey, but to do so with an extra sense of pride given how many players are making their international debuts. Keep an eye out for the interview on IIHF social channels.
TEAM USA’S LAST TIME IN LATVIA
In 2006, the only other time the tournament was held in Riga, Latvia, the U.S. went 4-3-0-0 to finish in seventh place. Paul Holmgren served as general manager while Mike Eaves served as head coach alongside assistant coaches Keith Allain and Jay Leach and video coordinator Mark Osiecki.
Richard Park was Team USA’s captain with Hal Gill and Ryan Malone tabbed as alternate captains. Dustin Brown finished as Team USA’s top goal scorer (5) and point producer (7) while Craig Anderson finished with a 3-2-0 record, 2.36 goals-against-average and .908 save percentage as Team USA’s starting goaltender.
TEAM HOST AND OLYMPIAN, GEORGIJS PUJACS
Team USA’s host here in Latvia, Georgijs Pujacs, is a three-time Olympian who skated for the Latvian National Ice Hockey Team in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 Olympic Winter Games. He also skated in three IIHF Men’s World Championships, serving as an alternate captain in 2012 and 2013. His playing career included stops with HC Orebro (Sweden), Dinamo Riga (KHL), Lada Togliatti (KHL), Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL), Avangard Omsk (KHL) and, in the 2004-05 season, a stint with the Elmira Jackets of the UHL in Elmira, New York. At the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, he was drafted in the ninth round, 264th overall, by the Boston Bruins.
With two skates under their belts, the U.S. Men's National Team is starting to find its stride both on and off the ice here in Latvia. Players are starting to mesh and, in some cases, beginning to mingle and spend more time with others as opposed to those they knew or those they were past teammates with.
TURNING BACK TIME
With teams and tournament personnel confined to the hotel or rink, teams have found themselves resorting to old-fashioned ways of bonding. Team meals, once short-and-sweet where players and staff would sit, eat and leave, have now turned into longer stays. Chatter has increased, and so too has the cameraderie.
HINGHAM, MASSACHUSETTS CONNECTION
Case in point, Hingham, Mass. natives Brian Boyle and Matty Beniers. Coincidentally the oldest (Boyle, 36) and youngest (Beniers, 18) players on the U.S. roster, the two hail from the same hometown and have spent their short time in Latvia getting to know one another.
Selected 26th overall in the 2003 NHL Draft by the Los Angeles Kings, Boyle skated four seasons at Boston College before playing 805 NHL games for the Florida Panthers, Kings, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs. During the 2017-18 season in New Jersey, Boyle was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia and, after returning to the team, went on to participate in that year's NHL All-Star Game before winning the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey. The 2021 IIHF Men's World Championship will be Boyle's first event in a U.S. sweater.
Beniers, a projected top-10 selection in this summer's NHL Draft, will be skating in his second IIHF event this season after helping the U.S. to a gold medal at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton, Alberta. A freshman at the University of Michigan this past season, Beniers earned Big Ten All-Freshman Team, All-Big Ten Honorable Mention and College Hockey News All-Rookie Team honors after netting 24 points (10g, 14a) in 24 games for the Wolverines. The fourth-highest scoring freshman in the NCAA, Benier led the Big Ten with a +21 plus/minus rating that ranked eighth nationally. The forward played two seasons with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program and has skated for Team USA in seven different international events.
At 7:45am local time, all Team USA players and staff received the news that they were cleared to leave their hotel rooms, reconvene as a team, and officially kick start their journey together here in Riga, Latvia.
The day started with breakfast and a meeting for player/staff introductions and remarks from head coach Jack Capuano. Afterwards, the support staff departed for the arena while players and coaches explored the hotel in an attempt to stretch the legs. Following lunch and an early afternoon snack, the team finally headed to Arena Riga for the first time. Arena Riga, believe it or not, was built for the 2006 IIHF World Championship and currently serves as home of the Latvian national ice hockey team and the Kontinental Hockey League’s Dinamo Riga club.
Team USA’s arrival brought a heightened buzz as players and staff alike were still introducing and getting to know one another. Today’s practice kicked off at 5:30pm at nearby Daugava Arena, which meant the team had to “dress-and-drive” by putting gear on at Arena Riga before bussing over to Daugava. There, the team skated for nearly 90 minutes minus a brief pause for the ice to be dry scraped. Systems were introduced, players adjusted to a new staff, and the new staff kept a close eye on its players.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: TREVOR MOORE
Coincidentally, the team’s practice ended just as the NHL announced its list of nominees for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, which is presented “to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.” Among the 11 Americans nominated by their respective clubs was U.S. Men’s National Team forward Trevor Moore of the LA Kings.
Moore, a Thousand Oaks, Calif. native, is making his IIHF debut with USA Hockey, after setting career-highs on the ice in goals (10), assists (13) and points (23). Off the ice, he spent time delivering food to the local Children’s Hospital LA, taking part in a technology drive-by handout among other things. The forward is one of the lucky few NHL players who are skating for their childhood teams after being acquired by the Kings in the 2019-20 NHL season from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Team USA was together for less than 24 hours.
After the majority of the team’s players and staff convened in New Jersey on Saturday, the team boarded a charter flight early Sunday for Riga. Wheels touched down shortly before midnight. Upon arriving at the hotel, players and staff joined the other participating countries in mandatory COVID-19 tests just before 1am. Then, as soon as the team had come together, they were apart.
Players, staff, media and all associated with the tournament entered mandatory COVID-19 quarantine. All communication has been electronic and the day has been broken up with periodic knocks – sometimes for food, sometimes for water. Shortly after lunch, players were led through a workout via Zoom thanks to USA Hockey’s director of sports science, Brian Galivan. It was, ironically, the first active workout the players took part in together, each from their own room. Then came a knock for the day’s COVID-19 test, followed by dinner shortly thereafter.
With the tournament’s opening games just days away, everyone is eagerly anticipating the chance to reconvene and come together as a team. And fast. Sixteen members of the 2021 U.S. Men’s National Team know what it’s like to come together in a short period of time. They understand the weight a USA crest carries on the jersey. For the other 10 players, it will be the first time they ever skate for Team USA in an IIHF event. That, the staff says, means almost just as much as having the experience of previously playing for Team USA.
There’s nothing like representing your country. It’s a unique year with unique circumstances, and tomorrow’s first skate in Latvia will officially kick off the opportunity of a lifetime at the 2021 IIHF Men’s World Championship.