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World Juniors

Bob Motzko returning to coach U.S. at 2018 World Junior Championship

Staff back in full from gold medal win at 2017 tournament

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Bob Motzko will return as coach for the United States at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Motzko, the coach at St. Cloud State University, led the U.S. to the gold medal at the 2017 tournament.

"Winning is fun but I am honored to have a chance to work for USA Hockey again and dive into the process of getting the staff together and having a new message," Motzko said. "My enjoyment is building a team."

Tweet from @usahockey: After leading #TeamUSA to gold in 2017, Bob Motzko will be back behind the bench for #WorldJuniors in 2018: #USAWJC

The 2018 WJC will be held at KeyBank Center and HarborCenter in Buffalo from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, 2018. The U.S. also will play Canada in a preliminary-round game at New Era Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills of the NFL.

The U.S. defeated Canada 5-4 in a shootout in the gold-medal game at the 2017 tournament.

Joining the U.S. and Canada in Group A will be Denmark, Slovakia and Finland. Group B will consist of Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Belarus.

The U.S. has a chance to win a medal for the third straight tournament for the first time. It won the bronze medal in 2016.

Motzko said he's particularly looking forward to the outdoor game Dec. 29. It's the first time any top-level IIHF world championship tournament game will be played outdoors.

"It's going to be a great challenge in getting the players to treat that as a hockey game and not an exhibition," Motzko said.

Motzko will be the first since Keith Allain in 2001-02 to coach the U.S. at consecutive World Junior tournaments. Jeff Jackson was coach for four straight tournaments (1997-2000).

Video: Motzko on coaching 2018 World Junior Championship

"We waited almost six weeks to really ask and get a feel from [Motzko] on the experience and his takeaway from the tournament," U.S. national junior team general manager Jim Johannson said. "I felt he needed the time to know the impact on St. Cloud and his family."

Motzko said once he received the blessing from his wife, Shelley, it was all systems go.

"I kind of hesitated at first because it is a commitment in the summer and being away from your team, but my wife said, 'What are you doing? You know you want to do it,'" Motzko said. "I called [Johannson] a few days later and said, 'If you want me, I'm in.'"

Motzko will bring back the same coaching staff from 2017, which includes Boston College coach Greg Brown to oversee the defense and penalty kill, Northern Michigan University coach Grant Potulny to oversee the forwards and the power play, Providence College assistant coach Kris Mayotte to work with the goaltenders and do scouting, and Air Force director of hockey operations Steve Miller to do scouting and video work.

"You hear the words 'player's coach' associated with Bob, but I see it differently," Johannson said. "I see a guy that wants players and the coaching staff to excel and utilize their abilities in all aspects of the game. I see a coach that has exceptional game recognition from the bench of what is going on both from a team perspective and individual player performance point of view. He uses 'we,' 'team' and 'together' a lot in his leadership of a team and staff. I felt that carried throughout our entire team [at the 2017 WJC] and I do believe that all starts with the head coach."

The process will start with 40 players at the 2017 United States World Junior Summer Showcase, held at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan, from July 28 to Aug. 5. The U.S. will practice and play games against Canada, Finland and Sweden during the evaluation camp.

Dominique Ducharme, who coached Canada at the 2017 WJC, will return in the same role in the 2018, along with assistant coaches Kris Knoblauch and Tim Hunter.

"We'll have to have a new message," Motzko said. "You can't use the same one from last year. The greatest thing we do as coaches is get these players to believe in each other and check egos at the door. This is a players tournament; not a coaches tournament."

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