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U.S. National Junior Team set for exhibition opener

by Mike G. Morreale

BOSTON -- United States National Junior Team coach Mark Osiecki realizes practices and drills can only keep a player's interest for so long.


The 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship will be held Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 at Bell Centre in Montreal and Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

It's one reason why he feels the players are champing at the bit for a little game action to prove their ability against Boston University at Walter Brown Arena on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET. The game will be the first of three pre-tournament exhibition games for the United States prior to the start of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship beginning Dec. 26 at Bell Centre in Montreal.

It will also mark Boston University's first men's ice hockey game at the storied arena since Jan. 2, 2005, a 2-1 loss to the University of Minnesota. The Terriers opened Agganis Arena the following day with a 2-1 victory against the Golden Gophers.

"I am excited for a game and I think they are too," Osiecki said following the third day of practice at Walter Brown Arena. "They're tired of beating up on each other and are ready to see someone else right now."

There's no question the game will also be a strange twist for BU freshman Jack Eichel, who will play for the United States. Eichel has played a big role in helping the Terriers earn the No. 1 ranking in the NCAA college hockey poll by leading the nation with 27 points (eight goals, 19 assists).

"It should be weird; they know a lot of my tendencies and what I like to do and I'm so close with all those guys," Eichel said. "But it is a game and if you look at it, we're just trying to get better as a team right now. We're trying to come together and it's our first big test."

Osiecki believes Eichel will be fine after a few shifts.

"He'll have fun with it," Osiecki said. "He's such a great kid and I can't say enough about how humble he is. He'll approach it the right way and when the puck is dropped, it is game on. He's very competitive and will want to perform well."

Osiecki will conduct a morning skate on Friday before the puck drops against BU later in the day. The U.S. managerial team will announce its first round of cuts after the game against the Terriers.

"Ideally we would have certain numbers [of players to keep] in our minds, but I don't think anything is in stone," Osiecki said. "It depends on how guys play [Friday] and we'll determine it that night."

U.S. defenseman Steven Santini (New Jersey Devils) will not play in the game. He is expected to have his fitted cast and pins removed on Dec. 22. He might be available to play in the final exhibition game against Sweden on Dec. 23 at the Rogers K Rock Centre in Kingston, Ontario.

Here is a projected lineup for the United States:

Tyler Motte - Jack Eichel - Alex Tuch

Nick Schmaltz - Auston Matthews - John Hayden

Michael McCarron - Dylan Larkin - Hudson Fasching

Adam Erne - JT Compher - Jeremy Bracco

Sonny Milano - Chase De Leo - Anthony Louis

Miles Wood - Cole Cassels

Noah Hanifin - Ian McCoshen/Zach Werenski

Will Butcher - Anthony DeAngelo

Jack Dougherty - Brandon Carlo

Michael Downing - Ryan Collins

Brandon Halverson

Alex Nedeljkovic

Injured: Steven Santini (hand)

Scratched: Thatcher Demko

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