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World Juniors

5 things learned from U.S. junior selection camp

Scrimmage brings final roster into focus; Luke Kunin excited to serve as captain

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- United States national junior team coach Bob Motzko feels the first and only scrimmage on Day 4 of selection camp helped point the compass in the right direction at HarborCenter on Monday.

"It really gave some clarity to special teams and the direction we're going to go," Motzko said. "We wanted to use [the scrimmage] to see if certain individuals would step forward. I think we learned a few things."

The Blue Team against White Team scrimmage was officiated and consisted of three, 12-minute periods. The teams played to a 1-1 tie before entering a 3-on-3 overtime for five minutes. After a scoreless overtime, the scrimmage entered a shootout.

In the shootout, Boston College goaltender Joseph Woll (Toronto Maple Leafs) stopped Boston University forward Kieffer Bellows (New York Islanders), Boston University forward Patrick Harper (Nashville Predators) and Manitoba Moose forward Jack Roslovic (Winnipeg Jets).

University of Connecticut forward Tage Thompson (St. Louis Blues) scored the only goal of the tiebreaker on a quick deke before pushing the puck inside the right post against Boston University goalie Jake Oettinger (2017 NHL Draft eligible).

"We had a couple guys in the wrong spots the first day at camp," Motzko said. "We had Luke Kunin (Minnesota Wild) in front of the net the first day and noticed when we put him on the half-wall, he was ripping them in. Clayton Keller (Arizona Coyotes) is more comfortable in a half wall-type situation, and defenseman Adam Fox (Calgary Flames) stood out working the point."

Camp concludes Tuesday before the team travels to Oshawa, Ontario, to scrimmage against Switzerland on Wednesday, at which time it is expected three cuts will be made. Motzko said the team will work on faceoffs, the 5-on-3 penalty kill and pulling the goalie during the final day of practice in Buffalo on Tuesday.

Here are four other things learned after Day 4 at USA Hockey selection camp:

Captain Kunin

Forward Luke Kunin of the University of Wisconsin was honored to be named captain of the United States at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship on Sunday.

USA Hockey also announced that defenseman Charlie McAvoy (Boston Bruins) of Boston University and forward Colin White (Ottawa Senators) of Boston College will serve as alternates.

"We have a lot of leaders in that locker room so we're all excited and ready to get going," Kunin said. "I don't think I need to change anything too much [as captain]. I just need to play my game, be the hardest working guy and most competitive guy whenever I step on the ice. I'll do my thing and hope the rest of the guys follow."

Memories of Herb Brooks

Motzko began his coaching career as an assistant for the legendary Herb Brooks at St. Cloud State in 1986-87, but his fondest memory of the Hockey Hall of Fame coach occurred when he was general manager and coach of Sioux Falls in USHL in 1998.

"We had had gone 7-for-7 in the past 20 games when on a 5-on-3 power play and we were scoring goals galore," Motzko said. "It was between periods of one game and we were on another 5-on-3. I noticed a guy leaning through the curtain that led to our locker room and it was Herb, so I ran over to him.

"He looked at me and said, 'What in the [heck] are you doing on this 5-on-3?' He took a sheet of paper, started scribbling notes and said, 'This guy shouldn't be there, now change it' and walked away. I hadn't talked to him in three years before that moment and he chewed me out, proof that he cared about me."

On Cloud nine

Defenseman Jack Ahcan of St. Cloud State is looking to make the most of his invitation to selection camp by earning a berth representing his country at the 2017 WJC.

Ahcan was eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft but wasn't selected. Playing for the U.S. on the big stage in Toronto and Montreal could be the ticket to hearing his name at the 2017 draft in Chicago.

Ahcan (5-foot-7, 184 pounds) is coached at St. Cloud State by Motzko.

"We've got eight defensemen at select camp we feel strongly about, and [Ahcan] possesses that high-end talent and skill. But what really makes him special is he's just a fierce competitor," Motzko said. "He's not big in stature but big in heart and toughness."

Ahcan leads all defensemen at St. Cloud State with 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) and is second with 13 blocked shots in 15 games.

He's been compared to Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug.

"I like to make smart plays and my competitiveness is pretty good," Ahcan said. "I like to get in the scrums most of the time and I think the bigger guys probably don't expect it but that's part of my game I've always had."

White on Woll

Forward Colin White, a first-round selection (No. 21) in the 2015 NHL Draft by the Senators, wouldn't be surprised if Boston College teammate Woll is named starter against Latvia in the U.S. opener on Dec. 26.

White has been impressed with how well the freshman goalie has steadily improved and transitioned to the college game following two seasons with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program.

"I can tell you he's the best competitor on our team at Boston College," White said. "He's always staying after practice, after workouts, always the last guy. He's really modest about all the success he's had, too, and that's probably why he's been so successful. I think he'll continue to be successful just for how hard he works."

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