College players make up two-thirds of the US hockey roster for Beijing, a significant increase from 2018 when the NHL decided not to participate.
USA Hockey revealed its 25-man roster of 15 from college on Thursday, led by Matty Beniers in 2nd place in the Seattle Kraken in 2021 and Jake Sanderson of the Ottawa Senators in 2020 in 5th place. Brendan Brisson, a Michigan teammate von Beniers and a 2020 first-round pick from the Vegas Golden Knights, has also been named to the team.
The US was younger than it was four years ago when Troy Terry, Ryan Donato, Jordan Greenway and Will Borgen were the only NCAA players on a team that consisted mostly of older professionals in Europe. Donato led the US on goals, Terry on assists, Greenway was one of the top all-rounders during the tournament and their contributions increased confidence this time around to draw on more college players.
“It removed that hesitation,” said Scott Young, who is returning as assistant, this time under David Quinn. “We weren’t afraid to get young. We weren’t afraid of getting young and hungry. “
That includes in the net. The newly minted graduate Strauss Mann from Michigan, who plays in the Swedish hockey league, is expected to be the starter. He is supported by Drew Commesso of Boston University, who was the goalkeeper for the US at the Junior World Championship, which was canceled four days later.
University of Minnesota defenders Sanderson, Beniers and Brock Faber are the additional junior players to join the team. The other NCAA players are Nick Abruzzese and Sean Farrell of Harvard, Ben Meyers and Matthew Knies of Minnesota, Nathan Smith of Minnesota State, Noah Cates of Minnesota-Duluth, Mark McLaughlin and Drew Helleson of Boston College, and Sam Hentges and Nick Perbix of St. Cloud State.
Forwards Brian O’Neill, Kenny Agostino, Andy Miele and Nick Shore as well as defenders Steven Kampfer, Aaron Ness and David Warsofsky are the US players with NHL experience.
“We have good players everywhere, whether in the NHL or college hockey,” Sanderson said earlier this week. “I’m really excited to play with these guys just because I played against (a lot) of them in college. We just have to go there, do our best and expect the best. “
USA Hockey executives and coaches knew they would need some senior players to tackle the tournament, which begins February 9 and runs through February 20. The US open against China on February 10th.
“We feel like we have enough strength and men to make up for that,” said Young. “They don’t want to go in one direction too much in any way, but we believe we will be quick, we believe we can put the teams under pressure and play very quickly and we feel we have a lot of skill . When the games get a little bigger, stronger, rougher, we’ll have some big, strong guys too. “
O’Neill is the only return from the 2018 team that lost to the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals.
“We hit a post with two minutes from time and then lost on penalties (with a chance) to go to the semi-finals,” said Young. “It was so close for us to play for a medal. We expect success. “
Defenseman Brian Cooper, who plays in Sweden, and goalkeeper Pat Nagle, who plays with Lehigh Valley in the American Hockey League, complete the US squad.
Long-time Boston Bruins Center David Krejci heads the Czech squad, which also includes former NHL strikers Michael Frolik, Tomas Hyka, Vladimir Sobotka, Roman Cervenka, Lukas Sedlak and Michal Repik, as well as defenders Jakub Jerabek, Tomas Kundratek and Libor Belong to Sulak.
Krejci, 35, has played 1,088 games with the Bruins in the last 15 NHL seasons and decided to return to his home country to play in front of friends and family. He is one of four players in the Czech Extraliga team, twelve from the Russian Continental Hockey League.
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