U.S. Looks to Lean on International Experience at World Juniors

Leaman is still evaluating his goaltender situation. All three — Remington Keopple, Kaidan Mbereko and Andrew Oke — saw action in the two pre-tournament games. Keopple and Mbereko played in the USHL last season and will be freshmen at Cornell and Colorado College, respectively, while Oke is with the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL.

“I think that position is pretty wide open for us,” Leaman said.

While still getting a feel for his team, Leaman was clear about one thing that will be key to the U.S. defending its gold medal.

“I think we have to buy into an identity,” Leaman said. “I think we have to be an extremely disciplined team as far as penalties. Special teams plays a huge part in this tournament. Our penalty minutes need to be among the fewest in the tournament and I think we have to get to the best version of ourselves. If we can get to the best version of ourselves and be a disciplined group, I think we have a chance.”

Hughes and Knies are among four players who have experience at the senior level that should help keep the U.S. on track. Faber joined Knies at the Beijing Olympics, while Hughes and Thomas Bordeleau played in the IIHF Men’s World Championship in May.

“It was great to watch guys like Seth Jones and Nate Schmidt and all those guys and how they treat their bodies and what they did on and off the ice,” said Hughes, who had a goal and three assists in that tournament. “To see that was really good for me and it was a real learning experience.”

“I think just the level of play,” said Knies, who had a goal and an assist in Beijing. “It was a very physical and fast-paced game. That’s something I want to bring here. We obviously had Justin Abdelkader, who had quite a bit of NHL experience, on our team, and he had a lot of leadership qualities.”

It could be a special few months for some of these players as the 2023 World Juniors will be in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick, from Dec. 26-Jan. 5. But of course, the focus is on winning a second-straight gold medal, a quest that begins today.

“I think we’re just all excited,” Knies said. “We’re all fired up to get going. Obviously it’s been a long wait. We had a long camp to kind of get ready for this. I think the boys are really itching to get on the ice for our first game. I’m going to try to bring that speed and power and produce some offense and get the guys going for sure. We’re all super-pumped up.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.


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