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U.S. opens selection camp with hopes of gold

by Mike G. Morreale

MINNEAPOLIS -- The opening practice at United States National Junior Team selection camp offered plenty of energy and enthusiasm on Sunday evening at Mariucci Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota.

Despite the fact a few players at schools along the East Coast weren't able to arrive here until later in day due to weekend games, the 29 players in attendance ran each drill at a fast pace. United States National Junior Team coach Don Lucia had his team go through several drills.

"We had to find our legs out there," Boston University sophomore forward Dan O'Regan told "But the pace was better than what I expected on a travel day. Then again, that's what you'd expect with 29 of the best players in the country; we'll probably see the same thing throughout the whole week."

Lucia gave his group a quick lesson in becoming a hard team, fast along the boards in retrieving pucks, tenacious and keeping shifts short.

Camping with the Americans is on location in Minneapolis to provide coverage of the four-day United States National Junior Team selection camp at Mariucci Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota.

The camp will help determine the 22-player roster for the 2014 World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden, from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5, 2014.

Check back often for blog reports, news and features, as well as a recap of the exhibition game in Mankato against Minnesota State University on Tuesday.

-- Mike G. Morreale

"We just wanted to get them comfortable back on the rink with our group," Lucia said. "We didn't practice as long since we got on the ice late, but we worked on forechecks, breakouts and just got them comfortable with each other."

Lucia will oversee four more practice sessions at Mariucci Arena this week. The team also has scheduled an exhibition game against Minnesota State University on Tuesday evening at Verizon Wireless Arena in Mankato.

The managerial team and coaching staff is expected to make a few cuts before camp moves to Angelholm, Sweden, on Thursday. There, Lucia will resume practice sessions and have his team play exhibition games against Sweden on Dec. 20 and Finland on Dec. 22 before announcing the official 22-player roster headed to Malmo for the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship that begins Dec. 26.

"We came out of the summer [orientation camp in August] with some ideas about how we want to look at the guys [in selection camp]," Lucia said. "Obviously, we have the game in Mankato to get an idea about some of the guys on the bubble. We might not play some guys in that game who we obviously know will be going to Sweden, so we'll make that decision. But we're going to have to make some cuts after the game on Tuesday because we're not going to take that many to Sweden. We don't know how many that will be, but we'll have a pretty good indication after sessions on Monday and Tuesday."

Lucia will run a morning and afternoon practice session on Monday at Mariucci Arena.

"We'll have to get down to a workable number; there's not a number set in stone, but I do know bringing 17 and nine players to Europe is not what we'll do," U.S. general manager Jim Johannson said. "Assuming there's no uncertainly in health status, we'd like to get down by a few players before leaving for Europe."

Lucia had 17-year-old Jack Eichel centering Adam Erne and Riley Barber; O'Regan between Nick Kerdiles and Ryan Hartman and Stefan Matteau centering Andrew Copp and Hudson Fasching.

Erne, who plays for the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, arrived at the arena just 30 minutes before the start of practice.

"My flight was delayed to Chicago from Quebec, but once I got to Chicago I got here OK," Erne said. "I felt it was a good practice for the first one."

There were four players sharing roles on two other units. Quentin Shore, Zach Stepan, Ryan Fitzgerald and Vince Hinostroza were on one line, and J.T. Compher, Tommy DiPauli, Henrik Samuelsson and Tyler Motte were on another.

Lucia didn't have a set defensive lineup in order.

"I think [Sunday] was all about getting the legs going, really," Boston University sophomore defenseman Matt Grzelcyk told "Coach Lucia was awesome in summer camp [in August]. He's an upbeat guy who knows a lot about the game and it's nice to come out here and get a different feel for a new coach."


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