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Osiecki to coach 2015 U.S. World Junior team

by Mike G. Morreale

Mark Osiecki, who has been a part of championship teams at almost every level of his hockey career, will look to add another next winter.

USA Hockey on Wednesday named Osiecki, 45, coach of the United States team for the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Osiecki is in his first season as an assistant coach with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

"I'm thrilled to accept the role of head coach for the U.S. National Junior Team," Osiecki said. "Each time I've been on the Team USA staff it's been an extremely rewarding experience. I will incorporate a lot of what I learned from Phil Housley, Keith Allain and Dean Blais at previous tournaments, as well as what I gained from Mike Eaves at Wisconsin. We have great emerging young talent across the country and I can't wait to start working with them in Lake Placid this August."

As many as 45 players will be invited to the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. The invitees to the camp and a complete schedule will be announced later in the spring, but U.S. National Junior Team general manager Jim Johannson said he expects a fierce competition for roster spots.

"The young group (2015 draft-eligible players Jack Eichel, Noah Hanifin and Colin White) is pushing, there's no doubt about it," Johannson said. "I think the 2015 draft class is going to be a special one. There are some very talented players and, from a historical perspective, it kind of goes back to the year (2010) Justin Faulk and Jon Merrill were underage players.

"There's going to be some hard decisions to make, not only from evaluation camp, but when we start making cuts down to the final roster. Those young players are going to be challenging for positions."

Johannson also confirmed via a teleconference call Wednesday that Finland and Sweden will be part of the summer evaluation camp in Lake Placid.

Before moving to the AHL, Osiecki spent three seasons as the coach at Ohio State University, where he was 46-50-10. He was part of the U.S. coaching staff for WJC teams that won a gold medal in 2010 in Saskatoon and 2013 in Ufa, Russia, plus a bronze medal in 2011 in Buffalo.

What did he take away from those gold medal-winning teams?

"The team mentality; you always talk about it, but those teams truly had a great team mentality starting with the leadership group," Osiecki said. "I think the leaders of both those groups took charge of the locker room right away, so that's one thing you're always searching for. It's hard to put a price tag on leadership.

"The second part of it is discipline. You have to have tremendous discipline in a short tournament. You can't put yourself in a position where you will be chasing from behind all the time, and I'm not even talking about penalties; you have to be disciplined with your team system."

The 2015 WJC will be held in Montreal and Toronto. The 11-day tournament will run Dec. 26 through Jan. 5, 2015. The U.S. will be in Group A along with Canada, Slovakia, Germany and defending gold medalist Finland. Their preliminary-round games will be played at Bell Centre in Montreal.

The U.S. finished fifth at the 2014 WJC in Malmo, Sweden.

Osiecki will be assisted by Don Granato, coach of the USNTDP under-17 team, and University of Vermont assistant coach Kevin Patrick. Mike Ayers will serve as goalie coach. Former Atlanta Thrashers general manager Don Waddell, an international consultant for USA Hockey, will assist Johannson in evaluating and selecting players for the 2015 U.S. National Junior Team.

Osiecki said he is looking forward to the tournament taking place in Canada.

"It's a mentality that you have to embrace," he said. "You look at a Dean Blais [in 2010], he embraced it. In my first conversation with Donny Granato, he embraces it. I think that has to be a reflection of the team as well from the coaches. We have to understand the energy and feed off of it. I recall in Buffalo [in 2011] our guys a little surprised with the atmosphere when we played Canada. As a staff, we have to embrace that challenge and embrace this tournament, especially in North America."

Osiecki earned a silver medal as coach of the United States at the 1999 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Slovakia and as an assistant coach at the 2000 World U-18 Championship in the Czech Republic.

Prior to joining OSU he spent six seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin (2004-10) and seven seasons as coach and general manager of the Green Bay Gamblers in the United States Hockey League (1997-2004). During his seven seasons in Green Bay, Osiecki helped 65 players advance to the NCAA ranks, 17 of which were drafted into the NHL. He won four straight division titles (1999-2002) in Green Bay, was honored as USHL Coach of the Year in 1999 and won the Clark Cup in 2000.

Osiecki attended Wisconsin from 1987-90 and was the alternate captain for the 1990 team that won the NCAA championship under the tutelage of coach Jeff Sauer. Sauer recently led the United States to a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Paralympics.

"I finally had a chance to talk to Jeff just recently; what an honor that was for him and what an honor for USA at the Paralympics," Osiecki said. "I took a lot away from what [Sauer] did as a person for me and as a coach. We always talked about him being a conductor and standing back there and conducting the orchestra, and he did a great job. What a great human being."

Osiecki was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the ninth round (No. 187) of the 1987 NHL Draft. He played 93 games in parts of four seasons with the Flames, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota North Stars before a wrist injury ended his career. He also played for the U.S. at the 1992 World Championship.


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