Monday, December 21, 2009

Chris Brown and Matt Donovan, Quest for the WJC

With just 5 days to go till the start of the World Junior Championships in Saskatchewan. Both Southwest players Chris Brown and Matt Donovan have made the main cut from 30 to 24 players and just recently completed a pre tournament training camp which involved both on ice and off ice training sessions and had involved some player meeting to discuss their chances and how they would be best used for team USA at the World Junior Championships.

Back on Saturday, a pre tournament game against the North Dakota Fighting Sioux where Team USA won 4-2 back on December 19.

Here's the Press Release from US College Hockey Website

In an exhibition game featuring Dean Blais against his former protege Dave Hakstol, the Blias coached U.S. Under 20 team downed North Dakota 4-2, at Ralph Engelstad.

Blais, who's currently in his first year with the University of Nebraska-Omaha, will coach the U.S. National Junior Team during the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships December 26 from January 5 in Saskatoon and Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

13 of the 19 starters on the U.S. Team come from the NCAA Ranks. The others are Americans that play in the Canadian Juniors or on the U.S. National Team Development Program.

Boston College Freshman Chris Kreider had two goals for the U.S. while Danny Kristo, a UND freshman playing for the U.S. scored an empty netter with 17 seconds left to seal the win. Wisconsin's Derek Stepan added two assists for the U20 Team.

During his ten years as head coach of UND, Blais won two national championships and 6 WCHA Titles. He also recommended Hakstol, his assistant, for the top spot when he left for the NHL back in 2004.

"Its always an emotional thing to look there and see the green and white and not cheer against them, but try to beat them," Blais said of his return to Engelstad Arena. "That was hard, I knew I'd have a tough time with it."

"It's been great to have Dean around here for a few days," Haskol said. "He's a guy that second to none in importance in our program, and he's done well personally."

However, once the puck dropped, both coaches were all business.

"It's not something you think about much during the 60 minutes, but certainly at the end of game, it's nice to shake his hand and wish them well going up their and winning a medal," Haskol related.

An odd moment-something probably seen only in an exhibition game-occurred at the end of the first period when Kristo and UND's Brad Malone staged a shoving match before leaving the ice.

"We talked a little bit before the game," Kristo explained. "We were trying to get coincidentals so we could hang out in the box for a couple of minutes."

Their act apparently wasn't good enough, because the officials didn't buy it.

Kreider got the U.S. on the board first with a power play tally at 6:51 of the 2nd period. Camped in front of the crease, he deflected defensemen Cam Fowler blast from the point over the shoulder of UND Goalie Brad Eidsness.

About half way through the 2nd period, Blais replaced goalie Mike Lee (St. Cloud State)-who had stopped all 12 shots he faced-with Jack Campbell. Hakstol substituted freshmen Aaron Dell for Eidsness, who had 13 saves on 14 shots.

The Fighting Sioux answered with a power play goal at 17:37 of the 2nd period. Defenseman Jake Marto found Malone unmarked in front of the U.S. Net. He dished the puck to forward Evan Trupp, who roofed it over a sprawling Campbell to knot it up at 1-1.

At 3:36 of the 3rd period, the U.S. went ahead for Good on Kreider's 2nd goal. Just as timed expired on a UND Penalty, Denver Defensemen Matt Donovan centered the puck from the left of the goal. Kreider got his stick on it and knocked it past Dell to give the U.S. at 2-1.

U.S. Forward Jason Zucker fired a wrister from the left dot that beat Dell short side at 8:57 of the 3rd period to make it 3-1. The Las Vegas native tally stood as the game winner.

With 49 seconds left, the Sioux cut the margin to one when Trupp scored a back hander with Dell pulled the goalie for an extra leader. However, Kristo empty netter in the last 17 seconds sealed the win, giving the U.S. the 4-2 win.

"In the 3rd period, it was kind of a defining moment for the kids," Blais said. "Can you win a close game? Can you gut it out? Can you do things we've asked for the last few days."

"They're a talented bunch. It's just whatever they could play together and generate any offense together. I don't think anyone was really rattled, and it kind of surprised me."

Kreider said that even an exhibition win will be beneficial to the U.S. Team heading into tournament play.

"Any win will give you confidence," he noted. "From my prospective, (UND) is a really good college team. They're big, they're fast. They're certainly physical and play with an edge. I think we should have an edge after playing well against North Dakota."

Campbell finished with 20 saves on 22 shots while Dell had nine saves on 11 shots. The Sioux out shot the U.S. 34 to 26 and went one for six on the power play. The U.S. was one for four on the man advantage

Besides missing leading Kristo, UND was without two of its 3 seniors. Defensemen and captain Chay Genoway remains out indefinitely with a head injury and assistant captain Darcy Zajac will miss 4-6 weeks. Trupp acknowledged that the team needs work.

"It was good to get some our players, who probably haven't gotten enough ice time, to get more ice time tonight, and get more comfortable on work on some chemistry as a team, he said.

The U.S. will play an exhibition against the Czech Republic in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, December 22 before opening play in the IIHF World Junior Championships December 26 against Slovakia. UND next plays Niagara on January 2 and then either Colgate or Norte Dame on January 3 in the Shillelagh Tournament in Chicago.

For Chris Brown, the USA team was impressed with his physical presence and could be best used as a physical forward in the WJC. He's had a great run since being named the CCHA Forward of the Week just after he was named to the prelim roster. Look for him to be dishing out the hits and looking for rebounds around the net when he hits the ice in Saskatchewan.

As for Matt Donovan, he's been used a great set up defensemen which included getting an assist on the U.S.A.'s 2nd goal of the game to make it 2-1 early in the 2nd period. Don't expect to be a big scoring threat, but he will look to set up plays and be a critical puck mover as well.

For both players, the outlook is really good as the U.S.A. will have to cut 2 more players after tomorrow's pre tournament game against the Czech Republic tomorrow.

Here's a look at the USA Schedule in Saskatoon during the World Junior Championships.

12/26: VS. Slovakia 7:00 PM

12/27: VS. Switzerland 3:00 PM

12/29: VS. Latvia 3:00 PM

12/31: VS. Canada 7:00 PM

Some of the games during the World Junior Championships will be broadcast on the NHL Network, check your local listings.


  1. By chance do you know which bars in the area will be showing the World Junior games. The Canada vs USA game should be a good one that I don't want to miss.

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