MINNEAPOLIS -- As exciting as it is to be a part of the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship in any capacity, releasing players in an attempt to reduce the roster to the maximum number never is easy.
That was the task put in the hands of United States National Junior Team coach Don Lucia and the managerial team following a 3-2 overtime victory Tuesday against Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn.
The end result was the decision Wednesday to cut University of Michigan forward J.T. Compher (Buffalo Sabres), Boston College forward Ryan Fitzgerald (Boston Bruins) and defenseman Anthony DeAngelo of the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League, a top prospect for the 2014 NHL Draft.
Lucia said the decision to cut Compher was due to a left foot injury sustained in practice Monday while blocking a shot. Compher had his foot in a walking boot Tuesday.
USA SELECTION CAMP ROSTER
GOALIES: *Jon Gillies, Providence College, HEA (Calgary); Anthony Stolarz, London, OHL (Philadelphia); Thatcher Demko, Boston College, HEA (2014 draft eligible)
DEFNSEMEN: Will Butcher, University of Denver, NCHC (Colorado); Connor Carrick, Plymouth, OHL (Washington); Matthew Grzelcyk, Boston University, HEA (Boston); Ian McCoshen, Boston College, HEA (Florida); Brett Pesce, University of New Hampshire, HEA (Carolina); Steven Santini, Boston College, HEA (New Jersey);Brady Skjei, University of Minnesota, Big Ten (New York Rangers); Jaccob Slavin, Colorado College, NCHC (Carolina)
FORWARDS: *Riley Barber, Miami University, NCHC (Washington); Andrew Copp, University of Michigan, Big Ten (Winnipeg);Thomas Di Pauli, University of Notre Dame, HEA (Washington); Jack Eichel, USA U-18, USHL (2015 draft eligible); Adam Erne, Quebec, QMJHL (Tampa Bay); Hudson Fasching, University of Minnesota, Big Ten (Los Angeles); *Ryan Hartman, Plymouth, OHL (Chicago); Vincent Hinostroza, University of Notre Dame, HEA (Chicago); Nicolas Kerdiles, University of Wisconsin, Big Ten (Anaheim); Stefan Matteau, Rimouski, QMJHL (New Jersey); Tyler Motte, University of Michigan, Big Ten (Chicago); Daniel O'Regan, Boston University, HEA (San Jose); Henrik Samuelsson, Edmonton, WHL (Phoenix); Quentin Shore, University of Denver, NCHC (Ottawa); Zach Stepan, Minnesota State University, WCHA (Nashville)
*- Returning player
"The disappointment is in Compher getting hurt; he could have played a lot of different roles on this team," Lucia said. "The good thing is that he's a 1995 [birth year] so he'll have another opportunity next year. It would have been a good bet that he probably would have made this team, but now it gives someone else an opportunity."
Tyler Motte, a teammate of Compher's at Michigan, said he spoke to Compher on Tuesday night and said Compher told him he had sustained a broken foot.
"He's a resilient kid so he'll bounce back from this for sure," Motte told NHL.com.
DeAngelo, who earned an assist on Ian McCoshen's third-period goal for the U.S. National Junior Team on Tuesday, also will have a shot to make the 2015 team.
"He's a name that will come back to us," Johannson said. "He's a good hockey player. He gets measured in a small group here and not the entire group and you have to fit a role. There are other guys here that have a little bit of an edge doing those extra things."
This was Fitzgerald's final opportunity to play in the World Juniors.
"Ryan is a wonderful hockey player; he does a lot of things," Johannson said. "Special teams is a priority and he was an in-between guy for us in that regard. I really wish he was a '95 [birth year] with experience because he's a really good hockey player; he's going to be a great college player."
Lucia said he notified the players of USA Hockey's decision early Wednesday morning.
"We sat them down and told them," he said. "Like anything else that's the worse part. They care, they want to be on this team and when you don't have another year [like Fitzgerald], that makes it even more difficult. But Compher and DeAngelo have opportunities next year."
The 26-player roster, which now consists of 15 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies, departs for Angelholm, Sweden, on Wednesday afternoon to continue the selection camp. The United States will have exhibition games against Sweden on Dec. 20 and Finland on Dec. 22; the final 23-player tournament roster will be announced Dec. 23. At that time, Lucia and his staff will need to trim three more players, likely two forwards and one defenseman.
Though Lucia noted that no one player surprised him during the win against Minnesota State, he did admit that Colorado College defenseman Jaccob Slavin (Carolina Hurricanes) did more than enough to impress the entire staff.
"Slavin is a kid we didn't have a great read on since he wasn't at [summer] orientation camp and was a late addition," Lucia said. "But he did some good things. He's a 6-foot-3 kid with a good reach and can skate. He made some nice plays and he's a bit of a blend, so he's a guy who really helped himself with his play in the game on Tuesday."