It’s been a very productive 12 hours for the U.S. National Junior Team.
Last night, Team USA showed that its closer to being ready for the World Juniors with a convincing 6-1 victory over Norway. The U.S. scored four goals in the first, two of which came from Brock Nelson, who has continued to prove he belongs on this team.
Chris Brown scored once again. He’s on a bit of a hot streak coming into the tournament, which bodes well for his U.S. mates. Jerry D’Amigo had a two-point night with a goal and an assist. Hopefully that is a sign of things to come.
Justin Faulk got to try out that slapper of his on the power play and scored. He’s going to get a lot of minutes in power-play situations and hopefully he can continue to contribute. He’s a weapon back there.
Both goaltenders saw time last night, with Jack Campbell getting the start. He had a perfect night, stopping all nine shots he faced. Andy Iles played the second half of the game, stopping 9-of-10 shots.
From USA Hockey’s World Juniors Blog, here is how the lines started out last night:
Kreider – Coyle – Palmieri
Bourque – Bjugstad – Morin
Zucker – Nelson – Etem
D’Amigo – Shore – Brown
Merrill – Ramage
Dumoulin – Faulk
Forbort – Leddy
Those may change, but if they don’t, I think I like the way they are constructed. There is an awful lot of offense up front. I also think the D pairings are pretty good too. You’ve got a great mix of offense and defense on each pair, and I think Wey can be used with any one defenseman. So not only are the players versatile, the lineup is too. There are a lot of combinations that can work. I’ll be interested to see what Keith Allain does with certain lines throughout the course of the tournament.
Lastly, this morning Team USA named its captains for the 2011 World Junior Championship. John Ramage is the top guy, wearing the C for Team USA, while Ryan Bourque and Jeremy Morin will serve as alternates.
I love the choice of Ramage as captain for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, this is a guy who never complains. He does his job and is reliable. He might not be the most vocal guy, but he’ll be someone the players can look up to. He leads by example, even when he isn’t wearing a letter on his jersey. Ramage is steady. You can’t ask for more than that.
I’ve been told by several people that Derek Stepan was one of the best captains you could ever ask for. He’s a big reason Team USA had so much success last year. He led in the dressing room and he led on the ice, putting up a ton of points as well. Stepan and Ramage were teammates not only on Team USA, but also at Wisconsin. I’m sure Ramage picked up a few tips from his fellow Badger. I’m excited to see how he seizes this role.
I really like the alternates too. Ryan Bourque wore an A on the U.S. National Under-18 Team while he was at the NTDP. A big reason for that was the way he plays. His energy and spark are contagious. He doesn’t back down from anybody and he’s going 100 mph all the time. He’s not going to take a shift off, so nobody else better while this guy’s on the team. Another great example for his teammates and a guy Keith Allain can count on.
Jeremy Morin is a good choice because of his experience and his ability. Morin’s going to be counted on a lot by this team. They’ll need him to step up and be a go-to guy. I think he’ll rise to the occasion. He plays hard and he scores goals. Everyone can get on board with that. Shouldn’t be too hard for him to help motivate teammates with his play on the ice.
The importance of a good leadership core can’t be underestimated. If times get tough, you need good guys in the dressing room to help rally the team. If times are going really well, you need some guys that can temper the excitement. I think this group will excel in their positions. They’ve all played together before, at the NTDP and last year’s WJC. They know each other and they trust each other. It should be a great group to watch grow together.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: This will be the last post between now and December 26. On Sunday, we’ll come back with a full break down of Team USA’s Group A at the tournament, complete with rosters and analysis. We’ll also preview Team USA’s first contest against Finland and update you on any news and notes from around Christmastime. If you have questions, hit me up on Twitter or leave some in the comments. I’ll see what I can get to leading up to Team USA’s game on Sunday night. While I won’t be posting on the blog, I will probably still be tweeting updates here and there, so if you don’t already, follow me: @chrismpeters
Thanks so much for reading the blog over the last few weeks. I’m having a lot of fun and hopefully you’re finding this useful. Can’t wait to get it going again on Sunday. So from the United States of Hockey, MERRY CHRISTMAS! Enjoy your holiday and get ready for some World Junior hockey!