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WJC veteran Campbell keys U.S. hopes for gold

by Mike G. Morreale /
Those familiar with U.S. National Junior Team goalie Jack Campbell will tell you the kid has ice in his veins when it comes to performing on the highest international stage at the World Junior Championship.

He's proven it the last two years and is determined to do so one final time this year in Edmonton and Calgary, Alta., beginning Dec. 26.

"Just to represent my country for the World Juniors, in itself, is a great honor, but to do it for a third straight year is pretty crazy," Campbell told "I still remember a few years ago when I made it for my first time [in 2010]. Ever since, I've never taken it for granted. It's been such an accomplishment, and it's a credit to my coaches and teammates who have helped me along the way."

Campbell will become only the second American goalie to play in three World Junior tournaments when he defends the U.S. end this year. He'll join Alan Perry, the first U.S. goalie to win the Directorate Award as the best at his position at the WJC in his first tournament in 1984. Perry also split goaltending duties with Mike Richter on the first U.S. team to medal at the WJC in 1986 (bronze).

All-time U.S. Directorate winners at WJC

There have been eight U.S. National Junior Team players who have earned the Directorate Award as the best at their position during the World Junior Championship.

Here are the players and the year they were selected:

2011 - Jack Campbell, goalie
2007 - Erik Johnson, defenseman
2004 - Al Montoya, goalie; Zach Parise, forward
2000 - Rick DiPietro, goalie
1997 - Joe Corvo, defenseman
1992 - Mike Dunham, goalie
1984 - Alan Perry, goalie

-- Source: USA Hockey
"You never have time to really think about that stuff, but when you sit back and have someone tell you, it's pretty incredible," Campbell said when informed he would be only the second goalie to play in the WJC three times.

Campbell has helped the Americans to a gold medal (2010), as well as a bronze (2011) at the tournament. He is 5-2-1-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L) in nine appearances with a 1.88 goals-against average, .932 save percentage and one shutout. He was named the tournament's top goalie last year when he finished 4-1-0-1 with a 1.70 GAA and .941 save percentage.

U.S. coach Dean Blais was coach for the gold-medal winning U.S. Team in 2010 and is again behind the bench this year. He knows having Campbell between the pipes is a nice security blanket.

"He's been phenomenal … his international record really speaks for itself," Blais said.

Along with U.S. teammate Jason Zucker, Campbell became the first American player to earn three gold medals at International Ice Hockey Federation events -- two with the U.S. Under-18 Team in 2009 and 2010 and one at the 2010 WJC in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

"He's had just one loss on the big international stage at the elite level. He brings confidence and continues to push himself to say he's the guy," Blais said. "His compete level is like a Mike Richter. He doesn't like a puck to get by him whether it's at practice or a game. His mental preparation is second to none."

Campbell needs just three wins to surpass Al Montoya (2004, 2005) for most victories by a U.S. goalie at the WJC. He's currently tied with Rick DiPietro (2000, 2001) for the second-most wins with seven.

In addition to crediting the coaches he's come in contact with for his impeccable resume on the international stage, he also recalled his days as a pre-teen.

"I was a starting quarterback and also a catcher, so there's a lot of pressure put on those positions as well, and I was doing it when I was 8 or 9 years old," Campbell said. "Obviously, it's not the magnitude of the World Junior Championship, but once I got there, I just had the most fun with it.

"I don't look at it as pressure. I'm going out there like I'm a little kid again … who wouldn't dream of playing for the United States in a game against Canada in front of 20,000 fans? I look at it as a great opportunity and not something to shy away from."

"He's had just one loss on the big international stage at the elite level. He brings confidence and continues to push himself to say he's the guy. His compete level is like a Mike Richter. He doesn't like a puck to get by him whether it's at practice or a game. His mental preparation is second to none."
-- U.S. coach Dean Blais on Jack Campbell

Few will forget the 2010 gold medal game between the U.S. and Canada when Blais replaced starter Mike Lee with Campbell midway through the second period of a 3-3 game. Campbell didn't disappoint, stopping 32 shots the rest of the way en route to a 6-5 overtime victory. The 6-foot-2, 182-pound goalie knows what the team has with Blais behind the bench.

"I just remember how he got the attention of all 22 guys on the team from the start," Campbell said. "His intensity and his passion for the game was just incredible … Blais is definitely up there as one of the most passionate hockey coaches in the world. He walked in there and showed a video on the Canadian crowd, about how loud it was in Ottawa in 2009. He gave a speech about what we were going to do to take them down and we worked hard and ended up winning gold. It's such an honor to play for him."

Campbell, chosen by the Dallas Stars with the 11th pick in the 2010 Entry Draft, said he has taken a little something out of every World Junior tournament he's participated.

"In 2010 I gained a lot of confidence, and winning always helps, but just having a lot of confidence in my teammates and the guys returning from the year before helped entering the 2011 tournament," Campbell said. "The biggest thing I learned from last year was that this really is the best tournament in the world for our age so, while you expect and want to win, you can't take anyone lightly. You have to put the work in and be prepared for everybody."

Despite his confidence in the players in front of him, as well as backup goalie John Gibson, Campbell admitted that the Canadians are the team to beat this year.

"Canada always has to be the favorite, for sure," he said. "They have the history, they have the players and they have the home ice advantage … so, for sure."

Thing is, every Canadian player is well aware Campbell can steal a game at any time, so the respect is likely mutual.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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