Helsingborg, Sweden - Team USA has arrived in Sweden. After nine hours of flying followed by an hour bus ride, the team arrived at its hotel in Helsingborg around 2 p.m. Central European Time (6 hours ahead of ET). A late lunch was waiting at the hotel.
With practice scheduled for a few hours later, players were instructed to stay awake so that they could begin to acclimate to the new time zone as quickly as possible. Still, many players took a quick nap during the 30-minute ride to Lindab Arena in Angelholm. Team USA will face Sweden and Finland at the venue in pre-tournament action over the next three days.
“I thought they had good energy all things considered,” head coach Don Lucia said of Thursday's practice. “We were able to put in some things we wanted to work on with our breakouts and neutral zone and end zone offense without resistance.”
Lucia used the first practice in Sweden to continue to drive home the principles and strategies that he wants his team to use in the tournament. Repetitions on special teams become especially important as players who have been practicing and playing a certain way all season have to switch gears.
“We’re trying to teach some of the kids who do penalty kill with a certain way with their own teams a completely new system,” he said. “We have to try, as quickly as possible, to get them on the same page with what we’re trying to do.”
After a 90-minute practice, the travel weary Americans headed back to the hotel for dinner and a long-awaited good night's sleep.
Dr. Phil Johnson is serving on his fifth consecutive World Junior team and has the experience traveling abroad to know that the first 72 hours in a new time zone are important from a physical health standpoint.
"The biggest thing we worry about is to make sure the kids get plenty of hydration," Johnson said. "Plenty of hydration is the key to allow the body to acclimate itself. Those first three days are really critical with lots of water and lots of rest."
While nearly everyone on the team bus wanted desperately to nap upon arrival in Sweden, the immediate activity of practice will pay dividends in the long run, Johnson added.
"It keeps them going, doesn't let them go back and take a nap. You want to get them into a rhythm so they are sleeping at night," he said.