Keith Allain, head coach for the U.S. National Junior Team preparing for the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship, has no intention of changing his philosophy now.
Why would he? For the second straight week, his hockey program at Yale University is ranked No. 1 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Mens's College Hockey Poll.
But now that his 22-player roster has been finalized for the 11-day WJC that begins Sunday and concludes Jan. 5 in Buffalo, N.Y., Allain can begin to get down to business to incorporate the style of hockey he feels will work just as well on the international stage.
"I will be incorporating the same style because I think we have players who can play that kind of game," Allain said. "We play an up-tempo game at Yale. We like to get all five guys involved in the offense and we're a transition team. We back pressure the puck hard and you want to suit your team style to the strengths of the players. I think there's a good match there."
This will be Allain's third time coaching the U.S. at the World Juniors, following back-to-back fifth-place finishes in 2001 and 2002.
The roster includes eight returning players from last year's team, nine first-round NHL draft choices and seven second-round picks. Just one player, backup goalie Andy Iles (Cornell University), is eligible for the 2011 Entry Draft. The roster also has three players with NHL experience -- Nick Leddy and Jeremy Morin of the Chicago Blackhawks and Kyle Palmieri of the Anaheim Ducks.
Among those returnees are goalie Jack Campbell of the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires, who was in goal when the U.S. won the gold with a 6-5 overtime victory against Canada in Saskatoon last January.
"Jack is going to be a key component," Allain said. "The best word to describe him is 'winner.' He's found a way to come up big in big games his whole career. We realize he had a tough start in Windsor, but he has a great deal of experience and confidence."
Also coming back to defend the gold are defenseman John Ramage of the University of Wisconsin and forwards Ryan Bourque of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Quebec Remparts, Jerry D'Amigo of the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies, Chris Kreider of Boston College, Morin, Palmieri and Jason Zucker of the University of Denver.
Campbell appeared in three games at last year's tournament, going 2-1 with a 2.54 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. His breakout moment came when he replaced Mike Lee in net for Team USA 3:56 into the second period of the gold-medal game against Canada. He allowed only two goals on 34 shots to help lead the U.S. to victory.
"There's a great combination of experience and talent on this roster," said Jim Johannson, general manager of the 2011 U.S. National Junior Team. "The fact that these decisions were so hard is a testament to where hockey has come in the United States."
Of the players taken in the first round, three were chosen in 2009 and six in 2010. From the 2009 class are Leddy, a defenseman taken No. 16 by the Wild and subsequently traded to the Blackhawks; Kreider, a forward taken at No. 19 by the Rangers; and Palmieri, taken at No. 26 by the Ducks and currently playing for their AHL team, the Syracuse Crunch. Taken this past June were Campbell (No. 11, Stars), defensemen Derek Forbort (No. 15, Kings), and forwards Nick Bjugstad (No. 19, Panthers), Charlie Coyle (No. 28, Sharks), Emerson Etem (No. 29, Ducks) and Brock Nelson (No. 30, Islanders).
Allain isn't at all concerned over the fact the U.S. will not get an opportunity to face either Canada, Sweden or Russia until the medal round. Kreider, incidentally, told NHL.com that losing to Canada in the preliminary round of last year's tournament was a blessing in disguise.
"I don't think it's necessarily a Canada thing," Allain said. "I do think that dealing with adversity is a great teacher if you have the right personalities in the locker room. Last year's team probably gained strength from that loss and whether it's against Finland or someone else in our pool, we'll be up against it in the prelims. We're going to learn a lot about ourselves as a team, as individuals, in how we deal with that adversity."
Allain also scoffed at the notion Team Canada would be considered the underdog at the tournament.
"I can't get inside anyone else's mind, but someone told me they had 15 first-round picks on that team," Allain said. "I don't see where you become underdogs with that kind of a roster, but the games will be played on the ice."
The seven players cut early Wednesday morning following the team's 3-2 shootout loss to the Czech Republic in an exhibition game were defensemen Adam Clendening (Boston University), Jamieson Oleksiak (Northeastern) and Philip Samuelsson (Boston College), and forwards Connor Brickley (Vermont), Rocco Grimaldi (USNTDP), Matthew Nieto (Boston University) and Brandon Saad (Saginaw, OHL).
"I thought it was a good, fair process, a hard process, in getting down to 22 players," Johannson said. "There were a lot of players capable of playing in this championship. The bottom line for us, we wanted the most versatile lineup so that coaches could plug in guys wherever and, secondly, build a team with speed. The fans that come out to watch the hockey at the WJC will notice that speed will be a trademark."
Is it gold or bust for the Americans playing on home soil?
"Do we come in with high expectations? Yes, we do," Johannson said. "But our players come in with expectations of themselves as well. I say that out of respect to all our opponents, and how hard and difficult it is to have success in this tournament. But the players expect and know full well that they have to perform to have success and must believe in their abilities and skills to have that success. That's a big hurdle we've climbed over in some parts, but also something we have a huge appreciation for."
Team USA, which earned its second-ever World Juniors gold medal and first since 2004 last year, will start its title defense in preliminary-round action at 8 p.m. on Dec. 26 against Finland at HSBC Arena. They'll also play Switzerland, Slovakia and Germany during the preliminary round. The quarterfinals will be played Jan. 2 at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. ET; the semifinals on Jan. 3 at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The bronze-medal game will be Jan. 5 at 3:30 p.m. ET; and the gold-medal game will be played Jan. 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET. All knockout-round games will be played at HSBC Arena and broadcast on NHL Network-U.S. and TSN.
Follow Mike Morreale at the WJC on Twitter at: @mike_morreale