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Campbell has instilled confidence in U.S. team

by Mike G. Morreale /
BUFFALO -- A wide grin adorns the face of Nick Bjugstad when asked to describe his U.S. National Junior Team roommate in Buffalo for the duration of the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Meet goalie Jack Campbell -- Mr. Meticulous.

"Jack is always on time, he's always early, he's always leaving 20 minutes early for the bus," Bjugstad told "I don't usually go with him, but he's the nicest kid around and it's an honor to be able to room with him."

Campbell doesn't deny the fact he's a tad over the top, but he doesn't really care. It works.

"I'm really focused before games and sometimes that's not the best thing for some," Campbell said. "For myself, I just want to relax. Nick does a good job at being focused when the time comes, but at the same time, he's not stressing out about the game the whole day. We complement each other in that sense."

The thing is, Campbell has an uncanny ability to forget about the past almost immediately. Whether he's run into by an opposing player or has just given up a critical goal, it doesn't matter. He re-focuses and continues on -- and never misses a beat.

"I think his demeanor filters right down to the defensemen and even the forwards," U.S. captain John Ramage said. "Everyone has tremendous confidence in him. Having that confidence in your goaltender makes everyone else play better defensively."

Few will forget Campbell's incredible 32-save performance in the gold-medal game against Team Canada at last year's WJC after he replaced starter Mike Lee 3:56 into the second period. In three appearances in Saskatoon, he finished with a 2.54 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

"He's so focused and that helps the team up front," Bjugstad said. "We can rely on him in big situations like (Sunday) night, and obviously he won a gold medal last year, so we have a lot of confidence in him. He has confidence in himself, and on top of that, he's very humble."

Campbell was named player of game Sunday after stopping 32 shots in a 3-2 overtime win against Finland. He made critical saves at crucial stages of the game, exactly what coach Keith Allain has come to expect.

"I think it's very impressive and it's absolutely necessary (to have that composure) for that position," Allain said. "Jack works hard when it's time to work and he's a guy who seems to really enjoy the competition and the pressures that come with being a goaltender. That's why he's been successful."

Campbell said his confidence comes from the teammates doing the work in front of him.

"I just think it's my confidence in my teammates," he said. "I really don't have to go out there and think about much of anything -- just go out and play."

Long before his heroics in Saskatoon last year, Campbell was making a name for himself on the international stage. He remains Team USA's all-time leader in each statistical category for goalies at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship with nine victories, a 0.88 GAA, .966 save percentage and five shutouts.

Campbell has his routine before and during every game, and with the success he's had on the international stage, he's not about to change.

"Prior to the game, I like to listen to my iPod and visualize making saves and doing whatever I need to do to help the team win," he said. "It's a lot of mental preparation and that takes a lot out of you, so to have Nick there to kind of talk to and laugh with for most of the day really loosens me up. This way, the nerves aren't out there when I hit the ice."

It's the same deal between periods. After removing his upper gear, he'll turn on his iPod and listen to the same three songs before stretching and heading out for the next period.

"Confidence starts from the net out," U.S. forward Chris Kreider said. "He's a confident kid and that comes from who he is off ice … he can draw a lot of confidence from his family life because he has an amazing support system. He's an extremely confident kid and he has every reason to be. He's tough, but not cocky, and extremely humble. So from his surroundings, he carries that right out onto the ice and that really helps him -- and us."
"I think his demeanor filters right down to the defensemen and even the forwards.  Everyone has tremendous confidence in him. Having that confidence in your goaltender makes everyone else play better defensively."
-- John Ramage on Jack Campbell
Campbell, the first American drafted last June when he was taken No. 11 by the Dallas Stars, has struggled a bit in his first season with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. In 22 games, he's 12-9-0, with a 3.68 GAA and .887 save percentage. But really, he's not too concerned about anything outside of Buffalo at this point.

"I'm focused on the U.S. winning a gold medal and when we get back to Windsor, it'll be an exciting second half, and hopefully we'll make that Memorial Cup run," he said.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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