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World Juniors

3 'Star' keys to success for U.S. against Canada in World Juniors

NHL Network analyst Starman says managing emotions, team-first mentality vital

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

The NHL Network will provide exclusive live telecasts of all United States games during the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic. 

The U.S. will play the first of four preliminary-round games in Group B at Ostravar Arena in Ostrava against Canada on Thursday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN). It also will play against Germany, Russia and Czech Republic. The playoff round begins Jan. 2.

Longtime NCAA hockey analyst Dave Starman, who will handle the broadcast along with Stephen Nelson, will give his three keys to victory for the United States before each of its games during the 11-day tournament.

"As the U.S. prepares to take on Canada in Game 1 of the 2020 WJC, certain thoughts run through the minds of the United States coaching staff, as well as fans who live and die by the red, white and blue during the World Juniors," Starman said. "Here are three things on my mind prior to Game 1."

1. It's just Game 1 

"The great thing about the preliminary round is you can lose a game, and as the United States proved at the 2013 WJC, you can also lose two and still (finish first). Game 1 is against Canada and that's always emotional. Playing with discipline is going to be important, but being that neither team is loaded with grit and snarl and the game is being played on the Olympic sheet, it might not be the usually hard-nosed game we see between the two teams. That said, the U.S. needs to manage the game, manage the emotions and manage the mood swings. This is a huge game for the U.S. to get a look at who they are, what they are and what areas of concern they have that Canada will expose." 

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2. Establishing a center

"The U.S. has a few guys who are wings on their college teams but will play center, their pre-NCAA position, for coach Scott Sandelin's team in the tournament. Last year the United States started with Ryan Poehling on the wing, and due to an injury to Jack Hughes, Poehling moved to the middle and it worked out great for the U.S., which has consistency at the pivot position. Consistency with who plays center in Sandelin's structure will be important."  


3. Having a team-first mentality

"I have a small list in my office of players I felt, or knew, were not buying into the big picture over the past 11 World Junior Championship events for the United States. It's my list and my opinion, but I have corroborated it over the years. No team can win this tourney unless the buy-in is there, and the roles you are assigned that game, that period, that shift, are played with acceptance, passion and dedication. 

"When the U.S. won at the 2004 WJC, the fourth line was made up of Jake Dowell, Greg Moore and David Booth ... three big-time college players. Mike Eaves has often told me their buy-in to that role was a huge piece of the puzzle for Eaves and his staff. The U.S. is somewhat of an all-star team, most players are top-six forwards, top-four defensemen, power-play guys, players taking the big defensive-zone draw to start a penalty kill, and so on. 

"Not on this team. One of Sandelin's concerns, as is the case for any coach in this tourney, is whether the high-end guys can buy into other roles they don't normally play. If 'me first' rears its head with this bunch, expect Sandelin to cut it off pretty quick. There's a reason he has won back-to-back NCAA titles at the University of Minnesota Duluth and three in the decade. He doesn't put up with a lot of nonsense and this will be no different."

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