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U.S. team hoping for better showing

by Adam Schwartz /

Collin Bowman, a defenseman for the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League, will be representing Team USA at the the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
The United States has not fared well recently in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, but they are looking to turn that around starting Aug. 12 when they face off against the Russians in Breclav, Czech Republic.

While the highly favored Canadians boast 20 of the 22 players with Canada Hockey League experience, the American team is a patchwork of players coming from an assortment of different leagues and schools. Players from 13 states are on the roster, including untraditional hockey-producing states Pennsylvania and Missouri.  

Two American players, however, Collin Bowman and Tyler Brown, both played in the CHL last season.

Bowman is a 6-foot-3, 190-pound defensive defenseman who had 45 penalty minutes in 67 games with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. Bowman, who had a plus-20 rating last season, is honing his position alongside two of the best 18-year-old defensemen in the world with the Rockets. Bowman is teammates with Luke Schenn, drafted No. 5 in the 2008 Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Tyler Myers, picked No. 12 by the Buffalo Sabres.

The other CHL player on the United States roster is forward Tyler Brown, who plays for the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. Brown had 6 assists and 10 points for the Whalers in the regular season. During the playoffs, Brown dressed in three of Plymouth’s four playoff games and scored a goal as the Whalers were swept by the eventual OHL-champion Kitchener Rangers.

Paul Phillips, the only other player aside from Brown and Bowman who plays for a Junior A team, is a responsible defenseman who had a plus-7 rating during the regular season with the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders of the United States Hockey League. During the playoffs, Phillips and the Rough Riders struggled as the blueliner had a minus-3 rating as Cedar Rapids was eliminated in a first-round, three-game sweep by the eventual Eastern Division-champion Waterloo Black Hawks.

While forward Nick Oliver doesn’t play junior A, he still has an impressive hockey pedigree. Oliver plays high school hockey for the Roseau Rams in Minnesota, who had a perfect 25-0 record and won the Section 8AA championship before finishing fourth among high schools in the state. Oliver was fifth on the Rams with 25 assists and 42 points in 30 games while playing with defenseman Aaron Ness, drafted No. 40 by the New York Islanders this year, and goalie Mike Lee, who was invited to the United States World Junior Championship training camp this summer.

Including Oliver, 10 players on the roster played for high school teams last season, including American hockey institutions like Avon Old Farms, Lawrence Academy and St. Thomas Academy.

Forward Alex Wideman, however, comes from an untraditional hockey background in St. Louis and played for the St. Louis AAA Blues midget team last season. Wideman stands just 5-foot-7, 150 pounds. He will play for the Miami Redhawks of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. Wideman’s diminutive stature is typical of America’s forwards – seven of the 12 forwards are shorter than 6-foot and nine of them weight less than 190 pounds.

The defense, however, has three 6-foot-3 players in Bowman, Brian Dumoulin and Brendan Rempel. While these big defensemen can hold their own when it comes to physical play, perhaps the most physical defenseman on the club is 5-foot-10, 185-pound Beau Schmitz, who played for the Under-17 U.S. National Developmental Team. Last season, Schmitz led the Under-17 NTDP team with 108 penalty minutes and had nine assists and 15 points in 59 games.

Behind the rugged defense, goalies John Cullen and Casey DeSmith are going to battle for the starting goalie position.

Cullen was named the best goalie in the Empire Junior Hockey League with Maksymum Junior Hockey while posting a 21-4-2 record with a 2.09 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage and five shutouts. DeSmith, who had a 3.20 GAA during training camp, is attending Deerfield Academy in the fall and is going to push Cullen for the starting job.

Even though this mix of players doesn’t play many games together, some of them are familiar with each other from past international events. Oliver, Phillips, Zach Budish, Nick Leddy, Eamonn McDermott, Ryan Walters and Steven Whitney all played together for America at the 2007 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic.  

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