No matter the size of the stage, the opportunity to represent your country is always a big deal. Especially when it's your first time. For veteran forward Brian Boyle, there's no better time than the present.
Amid his first international tournament, the likeable 36-year-old scored one of Team USA's four goals in a 4-2 victory over host Latvia on Thursday. With their third win in a row, the United States improved to 3-0-0-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L) in preliminary play at the 2021 IIHF Men's World Championship.
[Complete coverage: Follow Oettinger, Robertson and Shea's quest for gold at Worlds]
Boyle's goal in the late stages of the first period gave Team USA a 2-1 lead, and his smile (and those of his teammates) said it all. He finished with a multi-point performance (one goal, one assist) and was named Team USA's best player of the game. Boyle touched on his experience with Team USA shortly after the buzzer sounded.
"It's cool," he said. "We get to see our flag go up and sing our anthem. It's a proud team in there. We all have a lot to play for. Living in the country we do and the opportunities we've had, we're so fortunate. It's certainly a blessing to be able to play."
This tournament marked the first game action of any kind for Boyle this season, who hadn't played at all since the 2019-20 campaign. Though he's a veteran of 805 games with Florida, Nashville, New Jersey, Toronto, Tampa Bay, New York (Rangers) and LA, Boyle is one of 10 first timers on the U.S. roster of 26 players in the tournament.
The Hingham, Massachusetts native has been a leader on and off the ice for the United States. Just ask 18-year-old Matty Beniers, who also hails from Boyle's hometown.
"He's been awesome this whole time," said Beniers, who scored his first goal of the tournament in the win over Latvia. "He's been like my big brother out here, guiding me through and taking me under his wing. He plays a great game. Awesome person off the ice."
Beniers, the youngest player on Team USA's roster, was born in November 2002, seven months before Boyle was drafted by the Kings.
"He's a high-character kid at such a young age," Boyle said of Beniers, who is one of the top prospects heading into the 2021 NHL Draft in July. "He puts the work in and wants to get better. Throughout the league, and what kids are able to do now, coming in, they're just so mature. They have access to different ways of training. That's been a generation of players now. You want to make an impact at a young age. We have a lot of that in the room."
Matt Tennyson and Trevor Moore also lit the lamp for the United States, while Stars forward Jason Robertson earned an assist to give him five points (two goals, three assists) in the tournament, second only to Moore, who has six points (four goals, two assists). Robertson has points in all four games with Team USA thus far.
Next up for Team USA is a matchup against Norway on Saturday, May 29, the fifth of seven preliminary games on the schedule. Game time is set for 8:15 a.m. CT, with coverage on NHL Network. As a reminder, NHL Network is airing all Team USA games plus quarterfinal, semifinal and medal contests.
NOTE: Jake Oettinger served as backup to Cal Petersen. Texas Stars defenseman Ryan Shea didn't dress for the game and has yet to make his debut in the tournament.
The 2021 IIHF World Championship is taking place in Riga, Latvia. The 16-nation tournament began May 21 and runs through June 6. For complete coverage, click here.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Kyle Shohara is the Digital Manager for DallasStars.com and writes about the Stars/NHL. Follow him on Twitter @kyleshohara.