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Despite gold medals, Campbell has no job guarantee

by Adam Kimelman
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- The slogan for the U.S. team working at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp is "Earned, not given," and that applies to everyone -- even the goaltender with the bushel of gold medals.

Jack Campbell, who backstopped the U.S. to the 2010 World Junior Championship gold medal in Saskatoon -- the sandwich between a pair of World Under-18 Championship golds -- is working just as hard to make the 2011 WJC team as he did last year.

He has no choice, as fellow netminders Andy Iles and Zane Gothberg are pushing him for the two spots on the team that will go to Buffalo as defending champions in December.

When Gothberg, the youngest of the three, starts Thursday against Sweden, coach Keith Allain and the USA Hockey staff will have had the chance to judge each goaltender.

Campbell would have to be considered the early favorite based on his track record of success. He came into the gold-medal game against Canada at last year's WJC in the second period, and despite allowing two goals in the final 2:49 that forced overtime, his save on Alex Pietrangelo's shot just over four minutes into overtime started the winning rush up the ice.

"His play and track record speak for itself," U.S. goalie coach Joe Exter told "He has the mental toughness and focus to build on (his success) and use that as an asset and strength to his game."

With three gold medals in a 12-month span and then being the 11th pick in the 2010 Entry Draft, Campbell's confidence should be at an all-time high. Instead, he's approaching this year's camp like last year never happened.

"I'm not satisfied with one gold medal, two gold medals, three gold medals," Campbell told "It doesn't matter. My goal is to … help this team win another world championship. If I don't take full responsibility over my performance on the ice every single day I'm here, and off the ice, I'm not going to help this team the best I can."

In his lone start, Tuesday against Sweden, Campbell stopped 24 of 27 shots in a 6-3 victory.

"I thought Jack was OK," U.S. coach Keith Allain said that night. "I think he's played better, he's played worse. We're pleased with his effort overall."

Exter also has been pleased with how Campbell has grown, not just in his game play but in his role as a leader and role model for Iles and Gothberg.

"We started this year with character and leadership, being an example for other goaltenders and players throughout the camp," Exter said. "He's a leader through example."

Iles and Gothberg certainly have followed Campbell's examples. While each has experience with USA Hockey, this is their first time competing at the highest junior level.

Iles and Campbell were partners last season with the U.S. National Team Development Program, so competing against each other is nothing new.

"Jack and I have a unique relationship, a real healthy working relationship," Iles told "When we're on the ice we compete with each other and challenge each other and we can learn a lot from each other. Maybe not words of advice he's given me but just seeing the way he approaches the game and the way he approaches practices, never giving up on a puck, always following his rebounds, just instilling good habits in your body and your brain, so when you're playing in the game, the game comes as easy as possible."

While Campbell earned the headlines, he credited his daily competition with Iles at the USNTDP headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., as a big reason he was so successful.

"I have to give Andy a lot of credit for where I am today," said Campbell, "because last year I developed a lot by just competing with him at practice."

Iles stopped 18 of 21 shots in his only start, Wednesday's 6-3 win against Finland.

"I thought Andy did a good job," Allain said after Wednesday's game. "He was competitive, handled the puck well, gave the defensemen some time and space to create some outs."

Iles admitted he was nervous the first time he stepped out for the intrasquad scrimmages that started the camp, but by the time Wednesday's game arrived, he was quite comfortable.

"Even in the intrasquad scrimmages, right away I felt like the game wasn't coming too fast to me," he told "I felt like I was up to speed with everything. I had the confidence, knew I wasn't going to be overpowered. With that confidence I could just go out there and focus on my game and give my team an opportunity to win."

That's what Gothberg hopes to do today with his first opportunity. The graduate of Thief River Falls (Minn.) High School was taken in the sixth round of this year's draft by the Boston Bruins, but playing with the top under-20 talent in the world is a pretty big leap.

"I'm not satisfied with one gold medal, two gold medals, three gold medals. It doesn't matter. My goal is to … help this team win another world championship. If I don't take full responsibility over my performance on the ice every single day I'm here, and off the ice, I'm not going to help this team the best I can."
-- Jack Campbell

"It's crazy just how quick they can shoot it and stuff compared to the level I used to play at," Gothberg told "It's been a lot with tracking and stuff, had some problems starting out, but now I've gotten into a groove and settled down and I'm able to track pucks better."

Exter has followed Gothberg since last summer, when they were together with the U.S. team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, and he has been very pleased with Gothberg's development.

"Over the course of the time that I have seen him, starting last year, he has a very good skill set," Exter said. "Now he's being able to take that skill and put it to work at a higher level. It's his first time going through that. For me, I'm very pleased with how calm he's stayed and how confident he's played."

All three goalies have proven their mettle so far, making the jobs of the folks at USA Hockey who have to decide which two earn those coveted roster spots in Buffalo that much harder.

Contact Adam Kimelman at

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