LAKE PLACID - Now that the men's under-20 U.S. National Hockey Team camp has wrapped up in Lake Placid, it's the coaches turn to do the hard work as the roster must be whittled down for the upcoming world championships.
The seven-day camp started with 45 of the top men's players in the country ages 20 and under and ended with the final exhibition game of the week Saturday, Aug. 11, which saw the U.S. fall to Finland 3-2 in overtime.
One main goal of the evaluation camp was to give coaches an opportunity to look at the players who will ultimately be chosen to play for the United States at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships being held from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Ufa, Russia.
Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
Alex Galchenyuk of the United States and Finland’s Robert Leino look for the puck during the final game of a weeklong training camp Saturday, Aug. 11 in Lake Placid at the Olympic Center.
"We have a lot of tough decisions to make," U.S. head coach Phil Housley said after Saturday's game.
The camp featured exhibition games against Finland and Sweden. The U.S. played two split-squad matchups on the first competitive day on Monday, Aug. 6 and emerged with a win and a loss.
After the U.S. roster was trimmed to 35 players, the Americans posted a 2-1 record the rest of the way, which included a big 10-2 victory over Sweden, the defending junior world champions.
The U.S. had a chance to finish unbeaten but ran into a group of Finns not wanting to leave Lake Placid winless. In a see-saw game Saturday, Finland grabbed a one-goal lead on two occasions and then prevailed in overtime when its leading scorer, Miro Aaltonen, buried a shot 2:49 into the extra sudden-death period.
Binghamton native Tyler Biggs scored both U.S. goals in the game and finished the week with three goals and three assists. Last winter, Biggs skated for Miami University but is leaving the collegiate ranks after being picked in the first round of the 2011 National Hockey League draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Biggs said he hopes to skate for the U.S. at the junior worlds, which would be his first time playing for his country in an international tournament.
"I've been looking forward to playing on this team for a long time," Biggs said following Saturday's loss. "Representing the United States has been a dream of mine, and this could be my first and only chance. I hope it comes true, but a lot can happen over the next few months.
"We would have liked to finish unbeaten," Biggs added. "It was a close game, it was a tough game and it was a little scrappy out there. I know Finland didn't want to go home winless. For us, it was a lesson learned. One thing we did show is the U.S. plays hard-nosed, crash-the-net hockey."
Only one U.S. player on the roster, Seth Jones of Plano, Texas, wasn't picked in an NHL draft, and that's because the 6-foot-3 defenseman won't be eligible until the 2013 selection takes place. With a talent-laden roster, the Americans are hoping it will be their turn to wear the gold medals as the junior world champions.
"All of the guys came prepared for this camp," Housley said. "I was pleased with the week of work they put in. We have a great evaluation staff, and and we will have plenty of eyes on the guys as they play for their teams leading up to the world championships."
U.S. unites to beat Finland
LAKE PLACID - Playing for the first time this week as a single unit, the United States men's under-20 hockey team opened a three-game international exhibition series with a 5-2 victory over Finland Wednesday, Aug. 8 at the Olympic Center.
Skating on the ice of the Herb Brooks 1980 Arena, the Americans took an early 1-0 edge. After Finland knotted the contest, the U.S. went on to score four of the next five goals, including a pair of third-period tallies to pull away.
The games are included in a week-long USA Hockey evaluation camp that started with 45 of the top American under-20 prospects looking to earn spots on the team that will compete in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships being held from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Ufa, Russia. Prior to Wednesday's matchup, the U.S. roster was whittled down to 35 players who remained to take on Finland and Sweden.
The U.S. will face the powerful Swedes, who are the defending junior world champions, tonight at the Olympic Center starting at 4 p.m.
Against Finland, five different players scored for the U.S., and goalies John Gibson and Garret Sparks combined in net to earn the win. Most of the American tallies were a result of efficient forechecking and players finding room in front of Finland's net.
"We really played well, especially in the second half of the game," said U.S. head coach Phil Housley, who will be leading the team in Russia. "We won a lot of battles tonight, especially in their end. We got some dirty goals, and that's good."
Stephan Matteau opened the scoring, giving the U.S. a 1-0 edge five minutes into the game with assists going to Tyler Biggs and Andrew Welinski. Miro Aaltonen sent the game into the first intermission tied at 1-1 when he scored with 1:44 remaining in the opening period.
The U.S. never looked back after Sean Kuraly found the back of the net with 6:28 remaining in the middle stanza. He gave the Americans a 2-1 lead, and John Gaudreau scored less than three minutes later to up the U.S. edge to 3-1.
Aaltonen pulled Finland back to within a goal with his second score of the game, which came with two minutes left in the period and sent the teams into the second intermission with the U.S. in front 3-2.
The matchup remained a one-goal affair until late in the third period when Nicolas Kerdiles and Stefan Noesen each netted a goal. Kerdiles scored with 5:01 remaining and Noesen notched the final marker with 3:56 remaining on the game clock.
Gibson made 12 saves in goal for the U.S. Garret, who took over with about five minutes left in the second period, stopped nine shots.
Janne Jovonen went the distance in net for Finland and stopped 31 of the 36 shots the Americans fired his way.