For Will Borgen, Troy Terry, Ryan Donato and Jordan Greenway, the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea were never supposed to be in the cards.
But then the National Hockey League declined to allow its players to play in the Games, and governing bodies around the world were left to scour their countries looking for the best non-NHL players to fill out their rosters.
USA Hockey went to Europe, the American Hockey League and into the college ranks; that’s where Borgen, Donato, Terry and Greenway come in.
Troy Terry was the shootout hero for Team USA at last year's World Juniors
The fact that USA Hockey chose to take four of its 25 players from the NCAA ranks is a credit to college hockey, whose numbers are rising as far as percentage of NHL players. Even Team USA’s head coach, Tony Granato, comes from the college ranks as the head coach of the University of Wisconsin men’s ice hockey team.
Greenway, physically, is the biggest of the college players, measuring 6-foot-6 and weighing 227 pounds. The power forward from Canton, New York, is a junior alternate captain at Boston University this season, where he has nine goals and 16 assists in 28 games.
"I couldn't be more excited going over to South Korea to represent Team USA," said Greenway. "I continue to get the same excitement as I did the first time I put the [USA] jersey on in Michigan at the [USA Hockey] National Team Development Program. I've always had the dream of playing in the Olympics. And to be honest, I didn't think it was going to happen before I graduated college. I'm going to take full advantage of it, and hopefully bring back the gold medal.”
Greenway is no stranger to gold medals. Last season he helped Team USA win gold at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship and he also won gold with Team USA at the 2015 IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship. Greenway also represented USA Hockey at the IIHF Men’s World Championship last spring.
"[The World Juniors last year] is really going to motivate me and inspire me through this tournament,” Greenway said. “We were able to go over there and come out with a gold medal. The feeling of winning a gold medal while playing for your country is a feeling that's hard to put into words. I want to be able to have that feeling again."
Terry won a national championship last season with the University of Denver and was teammates with Greenway on Under-18 and Under-20 gold medal teams in 2015 and 2017.
"Any time I've been able to represent my country, it's an amazing experience,” he said. "It's something that I take a lot of pride in. You grow up watching the Olympics — and myself, Olympic hockey — and it really is the biggest stage in sports. To know that I'm going there to represent the United States of America is a really cool feeling."
Donato, a Harvard junior, is following in his father’s footsteps. His dad, Ted Dontao, who is Harvard’s head men’s ice hockey coach, played for Team USA at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France.
Donato has been an electric collegiate player, scoring more than one point per game throughout his career and he has 31 points (21 goals, 10 assists) in 23 games this season.
Unlike Greenway and Terry, Donato is searching for his first international gold, having earned a bronze medal with Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championship in 2016.
Donato also realizes that his role might change during the tournament. At Harvard he’s a go-to scorer, and he hopes he can provide Team USA with the same scoring punch, but Donato is also a strong two-way player who can kill penalties and contribute in other ways.
"Whatever they need me to do," Donato told College Hockey News. "There are a lot of guys who can score, a lot of guys who can make plays, and that's what I want to do. Hopefully that's something they expect out of me because I feel like I can fill that role, of creating plays and scoring hopefully."
Donato and Greenway flew to South Korea together last week, following the first game of the annual Beanpot Tournament in Boston, where Greenway’s Terriers beat Donato’s Crimson in the opening round. Greenway was in Korea Monday night, watching the Terriers fall to Northeastern in the championship game.
Perhaps the most unassuming addition to the roster is Borgen. As a defenseman, he doesn't have big offensive totals (2 goals, 12 assists), but don't let that fool you. The junior defenseman at St. Cloud State was a teammate of Donato’s on the 2016 bronze-medal team at the World Juniors and he’s perhaps the best defenseman on a team that’s currently ranked No. 1 in the Pairwise Rankings, which is used to determine seeding for the NCAA Tournament in March.
"The whole Olympic Games, I'm excited for," Borgen said. "I never planned on going to the Olympics, let alone playing in it. I'm looking forward to be able to watch some of the other events, and then learning from some of the NHL veterans, the older guys on my team. It should be fun to take all of it in."
Team USA opens its tournament against Slovenia tomorrow (Feb. 14) 7:10 a.m. ET. That contest can be seen live on NBC Sports Network in addition to being streamed live on NBCOlympics.com.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
|Wed., Feb. 14||Slovenia||Preliminary||OTL, 2-3||Kwandong Hockey Centre|
|Fri., Feb. 16||Slovakia||Preliminary||W, 2-1||Gangneung Hockey Centre|
|Sat., Feb. 17||Olympic Athletes From Russia||Preliminary||L, 0-4||Gangneung Hockey Centre|
|Tues., Feb. 20||Slovakia||Qualification||W, 5-1||Gangneung Hockey Centre|
|Wed., Feb 21||Czech Republic||Quarterfinals||SOL, 2-3||Gangneung Hockey Centre|