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U.S. Men Look to Step Up At Worlds After Bronze In 2021

By Bob Reinert, 05/12/22, 8:00AM EDT

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Goal is clear for all players as tournament kicks off in Finland

Bronze is a fine color, but gold is even better.

No doubt, everyone on the United States roster for the 2022 IIHF Men’s World Championship taking place May 13-29 in Tampere and Helsinki, Finland, would agree with that sentiment. A year after capturing a world championship bronze medal, the Americans are looking to move to the top of the podium.

“Obviously, this tournament, it’s playoff time,” said U.S. coach David Quinn. “This is our playoffs. They’re here for a reason. They want to represent their country. They want to put their best foot forward.

“They want to win a gold medal. You can kind of feel it in the locker room. They’re excited about being here.”

Though it’s early, Quinn likes what he has seen in his players.

“I think in a short period of time, we’ve found that we’ve got some team speed,” Quinn said. “I think it’s going to dictate the way we play. I love our enthusiasm.”

The U.S. begins its quest for a gold medal hoping for good luck on Friday, May 13 at 4:20 p.m. local/9:20 a.m. ET with a Group B preliminary round game against Latvia at Nokia Arena in Tampere. All seven of the Americans’ preliminary round games will be broadcast live on NHL Network, as will the quarterfinals, semifinals, bronze-medal and gold-medal games.

“You want to start off on the right foot,” said New York Islanders forward Kieffer Bellows of the Latvia game. “You want to solidify yourself as playing the right way, no matter who you play, so that’s a good game for us to just go out there and show the way we’re going to play the whole tournament.”

“These tournaments, they’re quick,” said Team USA alternate captain Austin Watson of the Ottawa Senators. “You’re only here for a short period of time, and every game matters. They come at you fast.

“If you can as a group find a way to get on the same page early … that can go a long way. It’s been a long year for guys, but everybody’s excited to be here and get things started.”

The U.S. has won 13 medals at the world championship since its first in 1931, winning its first gold medal in 1933. That remains the lone world championship gold medal in U.S. history, save for gold at the 1960 Olympic tournament that served as the world championship that year. In earning the bronze medal in 2021, the U.S. posted an 8-2 record.

John Vanbiesbrouck, who is part of the management group for the U.S. Men’s National Team and assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey, sounded pleased with this year’s roster.

“I really like our group,” Vanbiesbrouck said. “They’re very quick, persistent and talented. It’s a team that will play fast and will be hard to play against, and that should serve us well in the world championship.”

Team USA features 13 forwards, eight defensemen and three goaltenders. Captain Seth Jones of the Chicago Blackhawks has the most international experience, now playing in his sixth IIHF event and third IIHF Men’s World Championship. Arizona Coyotes center Alex Galchenyuk has the most NHL points on the U.S. team with 354, followed by Jones with 337.

“There’s no bigger honor than to represent your country at any tournament. For me, it’s been a little while,” Watson said. “There’s a lot of pride in that. There’s a lot of excitement that goes into that.”

Along with Jones and Watson, Washington Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt rounds out the team’s leadership as an alternate captain.

“We’re very fortunate,” said Quinn, “three guys that have an awful lot of respect throughout the … NHL, guys that have really embraced the leadership role before we named them captains. We really feel like our leadership group’s in good hands.”

“I think the group has a lot of character, a lot of just grit and hard work, but we have plenty of skill and speed,” Bellows said. “I think we’re just going to bring a lot of energy to the games. We’re going to work hard.

“It’s also, just in general, away from the rink, a good group of guys. We like to have fun with each other. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. But when we step on the ice, it’s all business.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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