THE SERIES VS. SLOVAKIA
All-time, the U.S. is 12-0-0-4-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L-T) against Slovakia in tournament play. This is the sixth preliminary round meeting in seven years between the two teams. A year ago, Brady Tkachuk (St. Louis, Mo./Boston University) and Casey Mittelstadt (Eden Prairie, Minn./University of Minnesota) both scored, but the U.S. fell to Slovakia, 3-2, in its second preliminary round game of the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship at KeyBank Center.
STARTING THINGS RIGHT
The United States enters the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship having won its last 11 tournament-opening games, a stretch that dates back to the 2007 event in Mora and Leksand, Sweden. A year ago on home ice in Buffalo, N.Y., Kieffer Bellows (Edina, Minn./Portland Winterhawks) and Casey Mittelstadt (Eden Prairie, Minn./University of Minnesota) each scored twice to lead the U.S. to a 9-0 shutout win over Denmark.
LEADING TEAM USA
John Vanbiesbrouck (Detroit, Mich.), assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey, is serving as Team USA's general manager. Mike Hastings (Crookston, Minn.), head coach at Minnesota State, has been tabbed head coach and is joined by assistant coaches David Lassonde (Durham, N.H.), Steve Miller (Sun Prairie, Wis./Ohio State University), Scott Sandelin (Hibbing, Minn./University of Minnesota Duluth) and Jerry Keefe (Saugus, Mass./Northeastern University).
On Dec. 24, Coach Hastings named Team USA's captains, tabbing Mikey Anderson (Roseville, Minn./Univ. of Minnesota Duluth) captain and Quinn Hughes (Orlando, Fla./Univ. of Michigan) and Josh Norris (Oxford, Mich./Univ. of Michigan) as alternate captains.
HOW WE GOT HERE
The journey towards today's tournament opening game began on Dec. 14, when the U.S. convened in Everett, Wash., for training camp. With a preliminary roster of 29 players, the U.S. held four skates from Dec. 15-17 in Everett before moving to Kamloops, B.C., where training continued from Dec. 18-21 and included a 3-2 pre-tournament victory over Russia. On Dec. 21, the team relocated to Langley, B.C., where the U.S. edged the Czech Republic by a 6-2 count. On Dec. 23, the final U.S. roster was named and the team departed for Victoria, B.C., via ferry.