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Best friends van Riemsdyk and Wilson have fun

by Adam Kimelman
The best friendships are ones where you can tease each other at any and all times. Like on the phone with a reporter interested in finding out why best friends James van Riemsdyk and Colin Wilson are the cornerstones for the U.S. team at the 2009 World Junior Championships.

"He's really a down-to-earth kid, works really hard," van Riemsdyk of Wilson. "Probably one of the hardest working kids I've ever played with. He's the first guy in the weight room and the last one out. He's usually in there doing bench presses to impress all the girls on the beaches in Winnipeg, Manitoba."

That zinger came after Wilson explained a prank he pulled on van Riemsdyk a few years ago during a trip with the U.S. team.

"One time we stayed at a hotel and it was a long walk to our room from the front desk," said Wilson. "We forgot the keys and I went back there and hung out in the hallway for a little bit. When I got back I told him they needed an ID. He went back to the desk and I went in the room and locked him out."

The best part? "He blamed it on (teammate) Brennan Vargas, so I was OK there," said Wilson.

Sorry, Colin -- cover blown. But don't expect it to affect their friendship, one that goes back to their days together with the U.S. National Team Development Program's under-17 team based in Ann Arbor, Mich.

While they didn't play together that first year -- "I think he was the only forward of the 13 on the team that I didn't play with," said van Riemsdyk -- the two have been pretty inseparable on and off the ice ever since.

Graduating to the under-18 team the following season, the pair was placed together on a line in the early going -- van Riemsdyk at left wing, Wilson at center -- and has been together pretty much ever since. That includes the 2007 World Under-18 Championship, where the pair had identical stat lines -- 5 goals, 7 assists and 12 points -- that tied them for the tournament lead in scoring as the U.S. won the silver medal. Right wing Jordan Schroeder completed the trio and finished third in scoring for the tournament with 11 points.

What makes them so good together?

"We just all bring something a little different to the table," said van Riemsdyk. "Jordan has the wheels, probably faster than me and Colin, and Colin has the strength. All our styles fit together. We're not the same kind of player but we're all pretty smart. We just clicked when we were put together."

"We all have a real good hockey IQ," added Wilson, "good heads for the game, good skill sets. We know where the other guy is going."

After spending last season as college freshmen -- van Riemsdyk at New Hampshire, Wilson at Hockey East-rival Boston University -- they reunited at the 2008 World Junior Championship.

Van Riemsdyk led the tournament in scoring with 11 points and was named to the tournament all-star team, while Wilson tied for the WJC lead with 6 goals. Schroeder, again the third man on the line, tied for the tournament lead with 7 assists.

After going undefeated in pool play, though, the U.S. finished fourth partly because van Riemsdyk and Wilson were held in check by Canada in the semifinals and Russia in the bronze medal game -- van Riemsdyk's goal against Canada was the only point scored by the pair in the two games. Schroeder had a goal in the bronze medal game.

2009 World Junior Championship Standings
Group A
CAN 2 0 0 0 6 23 1
USA 2 0 0 0 6 12 5
GER 1 0 0 1 3 11 8
CZE 0 0 0 2 0 4 12
KAZ 0 0 0 2 0 0 24
Group B
RUS 2 0 0 0 6  9  3
SWE 2 0 0 0 6  6  2
SLO 1 0 0 1 3  8  5
FIN 0 0 0 2 0  3  8
LAT 0 0 0 2 0  3  11
"Wilson, van Riemsdyk and Schroeder were great players for us last year," said Jim Johannson, USA Hockey Assistant Executive Director of Hockey Operations. "They saw the success we had at the start of the tournament and they were there for the disappointment at the end."

It's a disappointment that has stuck with both players, but something they can use as experience for the 2009 event, where coach Ron Rolston said they will be reunited heavily relied upon. 

"I think that they're a line that has great chemistry," said Rolston. "Going into the tournament you want to have some chemistry. … You don't have the time to create that chemistry in your lines, so James and Colin and Jordan will be a line we have together."

As two of seven players on the 2009 WJC team that experienced last year's swoon, van Riemsdyk and Wilson will be counted on to put last year's lessons to good use this year.

"I think what we've got to take from it is stick to our game plan the whole tournament," said Wilson. "We have to stay concentrated on our goal and keep playing the same way."

"I think we have to stick to our game plan and stay composed," added van Riemsdyk. "We got away from that against Canada last year."

What they won't get away from, though, is having fun. Wilson and van Riemsdyk again will be roommates.

"We've roomed together on a few trips," said van Riemsdyk. "The one thing I knew was not to come in during nap time. Sleep was really important to him. We called it getting gothic in our room. We'd get back and the blinds would be closed, and it was like living in the Middle ages."


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