Thursday, January 07, 2010

What a difference a year makes

A year ago, the United States World Junior Championship team was getting ready to play in Ottawa with dreams of unseating Canada as the top U-20 team in the world. Colin Wilson, Eric Tangradi, James van Riemsdyk, and Thomas McCollum comprised one of the more talented teams that this country has sent to the showcase, but things unraveled quickly. First there was the mess that was the New Years Eve game against Canada in which the Red White and Blue led 3-0 before blowing the lead and getting their doors blown off. After that mess the team then went out in the quarterfinals and ended up finishing up fifth place. Not the result a team with that must talent should have.

After the tournament USA Hockey had to take a long look in the mirror and figure out what happened. One of the things that came under attack was the US National Team Development Program. The National Team Development Program, based out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, is made up of a select group of players that have tried out and been selected as the most talented in the nation. The NTDP consists of two teams; the U.S. National Under-18 Team, and the U.S. National Under-17 Team. The criticism was that the program produced good players, but players that did not play for the front of the shirt.

Fast forward a year and their is a different tone surrounding USA Hockey. First the U-18 goes out and wins the title in the age group. The U-17 teams goes out and wins the title in that age group. Then on Tuesday night, the biggest of them all the Junior Team goes out and beats five time defending champion Canada in the final. Sure the Canadian team was more talented but this USA team had something that the team last year did not have: heart and toughness. Sure they blew a two goal lead in the final, but this team would not take no for answer and came back and won won in OT.

The best thing about all of these titles is that they beat Canada or some type of Canadian team in the final. So much for being the a step under Canada, the United States has all of the trophies now.

With the Olympics a couple of weeks away, I hope the men's team shows that the heart that the junior team did this week, if so maybe they can shock the world like the kids have done over the last couple of months.

No comments: