2014 IIHF World Under-18 Championship Team USA Preview

The U.S. National Under-18 Team will look to improve on its silver medal finish at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship this year, while continuing a medal streak that dates back to 2004. The World Under-18 Championship will be held in Laapeenranta and Imatra, Finland, April 17-27.

2014_IIHF_World_U18_ChampionshipsThe U.S. will bring a team to the tournament, as it does every year, comprised primarily of players from the National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor. Twenty of the 22 players come from the NTDP, in fact. The roster includes several top prospects for the 2014 and 2015 NHL Drafts. It is one of the most highly scouted events on the NHL Draft calendar.

You can follow along as well. FASTHockey.com will stream all of Team USA’s games live and free starting Thursday. Unfortunately, for the first time since 2010, I won’t be calling the games. I had to bow out due to increased responsibilities at CBSSports.com with the NHL playoffs, so I will greatly miss being there for one of my favorite events in hockey. The full broadcast schedule is at the end of this post.

The Under-18 Championship follows the same format as the World Junior Championship. It is a 10-team tournament this year featuring Canada, Finland, Sweden, Russia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany and Denmark. Players eligible for this tournament were born in 1996 or later.

Team USA will play out of Group B, which includes the Swiss, Czechs, Danes and Finns.

Team USA will be led by head coach Danton Cole, who last guided the U.S. National Under-18 Team to gold at the 2012 World U18 Championship. He’ll bring a highly-skilled roster to Finland with a few key players from outside of the NTDP as well as a few called up from the Under-17 Team.

Coming up after the jump, a complete look at Team USA’s roster, the broadcast schedule and some brief thoughts on the team.

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Posted in American Prospects, NCAA, NHL Draft, NTDP, U.S. National Teams, USA Hockey, World U18 Championship | 1 Comment

Frozen Four: Minnesota, Union Examples of What Makes College Hockey Great

College hockey’s national champion will be crowned Saturday night in Philadelphia. The two teams squaring off for the national title represent both the storied past of college hockey and its future.

On one side sits one of the country’s proudest programs, the University of Minnesota, which is one of the teams you’ll first think of when you think about college hockey and one with five national championships. On the other side, it’s Union College, playing for their first national title after becoming one of the fastest rising programs in all of college hockey.

2014FFHowever, as much as Minnesota represents college hockey’s past, it is a symbol of the future as well. The Gophers have a team full of youth and bright prospects who have helped the program maintain a high level of skill. They’re also part of the new Big Ten hockey conference which has brought about much change to the college hockey landscape.

And as much as Union represents the future of college hockey as a program rising to national prominence, despite having no athletic scholarships to offer and finding players from all corners of North America that other teams missed, they also help honor the past. Playing out of the ECAC, once as strong as any conference in the country and the only conference essentially untouched by realignment.

Whatever the symbolism this game brings, when the puck drops it is only about hockey and with the two teams in the game, we’re in for a treat.

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15 Reasons To Watch the Frozen Four Tonight

Frozen Four. Those two words alone should be music to the ears of any hockey fan. The greatest spectacle college hockey has to offer is upon us and tonight at 5 p.m. ET, we’ll be treated to one of the great events in the game today. So basically, you probably don’t need a bunch of reasons to watch tonight. You’re already tuning in.

2014FFThat’s not going to stop me for giving the many reasons the 2014 Frozen Four is worth watching for anyone that even remotely likes sports. There really are a lot of reasons to watch, so I had to pare this list down from 1,342 items to the best 15 reasons to tune in.

Both games from today will be on ESPN2 in the U.S. and guess what, Canada? You’re not left out this year. TSN2 picked up the Frozen Four, so you can see some great young Canadian players and some solid prospects for Canadian based teams.

Union meets Boston College at 5 p.m. ET, while Minnesota and North Dakota will clash at 8:30 p.m. The national championship game will air live on ESPN (and I believe TSN2) at 7:30 p.m. ET.

So let’s get to all the reasons you should be watching the Frozen Four starting tonight…

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Mark Osiecki named head coach of 2015 U.S. National Junior Team

Mark Osiecki has been named head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team for the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, USA Hockey announced today. The former Ohio State head coach has been an assistant on each of the last three medal-winning U.S. National Junior Teams including the golden entries in 2010 and 2013 and the 2011 bronze medalist.

Osiecki is currently an assistant coach with the Rockford IceHogs, American Hockey League affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. Prior to that, he spent three seasons as the head coach at the Ohio State University from 2010-2013. He was shockingly let go after building substantial momentum for the program in his three years there, for reasons that have remained unclear. It sent shockwaves through the college hockey community, but Osiecki landed on his feet well with Rockford.

From 2004-10, Osiecki served as an assistant coach at his alma mater, the University of Wiconsin, helping the team to the 2006 NCAA national championship and developing a reputation as an expert recruiter. Osiecki also was a head coach in the United States Hockey League for seven years with the Green Bay Gamblers. He led the team to the Clark Cup in 2000.

In a lot of ways, Osiecki has been groomed for this job, having served as an assistant coach for three different head coaches, all of which brought home a medal of some color including two of the three world titles owned by the U.S. at the World Junior Championship. Additionally, Osiecki worked closely at Wisconsin with head coach Mike Eaves, who guided Team USA to its first ever WJC gold in 2004.

Osiecki’s international resume is long with stints at other events like the Ivan Hlinka and Men’s World Championships.

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Posted in Junior Hockey, NCAA, U.S. National Teams, USA Hockey, World Junior Championship | 2 Comments

2014 Frozen Four Preview: Minnesota, Boston College, Union & North Dakota at a Glance

Thursday marks the beginning of the end of the 2013-14 college hockey season. Only four teams remain and they’ll all be in Philadelphia Thursday competing for a spot in Saturday’s national championship game.

2014FFThe two best teams in the East have the early game as Union meets Boston College at 5 p.m. ET, while traditional rivals Minnesota and North Dakota will meet at 8:30 p.m. ET. Both games are on ESPN2.

The folks over at USCHO, College Hockey News and various other hockey outlets have a bunch of great preview coverage as well, so be sure to check those out. I wanted to put together some basic preview pieces for the casual college hockey fans out there that are either tracking their favorite team’s NHL prospect or just enjoy the fact that they can watch some college hockey on a basic cable network. Whatever your reason, the Frozen Four is pretty much never dull and one of the great showcases in all of hockey.

Coming up after the jump, a quick look at all four teams including why they can win, why they’re vulnerable and five players from each squad to keep a close eye on.

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College Hockey Roundup: Frozen Four Set, Folin to Market, Gaudreau Dazzles, More

A great weekend of NCAA tournament came to a close Sunday night with the Frozen Four field finalized. After 12 exciting games, Union, Boston College, Minnesota and North Dakota are all that remain. Three No. 1 seeds and one of the strongest No. 4s in recent memory.

The stage is set for an absolutely terrific show in Philadelphia in a few weeks with one of the strongest Frozen Four fields in recent memory. It’s also a final weekend rife with storylines like historic rivals Minnesota and North Dakota, having not played in the regular season in the first year of realignment, will meet on the largest stage the college game has to offer. On the other side, two of the highest scoring teams in the country will go head-to-head as Union and Boston College have explosive lineups.

The weekend also represented the end for a lot of great college hockey players. Some will graduate, others will leave school early for pro contracts, but there’s no question that each team and each player offered college hockey fans yet another fantastic showcase for what makes this segment of hockey so darn fun.

Coming up after the jump, a quick look at the highlights from regional weekend, recapping Johnny Gaudreau’s virtuoso performance in Worcester, one last look at top college UFA Christian Folin and more.

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Posted in American Prospects, NCAA, NHL | 4 Comments

College Hockey: NCAA Tournament Game-by-Game Preview

The most exciting weekend in hockey is near. The road tot he 2014 Frozen Four is now a 15-game sprint with one team four wins away from being crowned college hockey’s national champion.

To get it started, I wanted to take a look at each of the first-round match-ups in short, digestible capsules that give you a little bit of an idea of what each matchup has to offer, where to find it on TV and why it’s worth your time to sit down and watch (hint: every single one is worth watching), what players could be difference makers and even end it with a prediction.

The end of the post also ranks each matchup in terms of level of intrigue, be it due to competitiveness or playing style. That said, the beauty of this tournament is its unpredictability. Anything really can happen and we’ve seen plenty of strange occurrences and results over the years. Sometimes Holy Cross beats Minnesota and sometimes RIT makes it to the Frozen Four. The growing parity in college hockey makes the level of unpredictability that much higher this year.

Coming up after the jump, a look at each of the eight first-round match-ups listed in chronological order, ranking each match-up and my final bracket prediction.

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Posted in NCAA | 2 Comments