The USA U17 team won the Four Nations tournament held in Ann Arbor earlier this week over Germany, Finland and Sweden. They defeated Sweden 3-2 in overtime of the gold medal game, after losing to them earlier in the tournament.
I didn't make it to any of the earlier games since Team USA"s first three games were head-to-head with two Michigan hockey games and the Rose Bowl. I was able to make it to the championship game against Sweden though.
I wasn't really watching Sweden too closely. They had some huge defenseman though. I wanted to check birth certificates on some of those kids. But for as big as they were, they weren't all that physical, especially since the game was played on NHL size ice. The other thing was that the Swedes were really obsessive about their skate guards. I guess it's a Swedish thing, like meatballs and fish.
I was very impressed with Team USA. Obviously these kids are some of the best in the country, and it showed.
Mike Clemente got the start in goal, and he was great. He made some huge saves in the first period to keep the game close. The US came out of the first period up 1-0 instead of down 2-1 or 3-1 thanks to him and that made a huge difference. I was very impressed with him.
The defense is supposed to be the weak point of this year's class. They weren't terrible, but I don't think they're as strong as the past couple years, which have been very deep on defense.
Eric Ringel was filling in for an injured Nick Pryor, and I thought he was one of the best defenseman on the team. I thought Ringel was great at the NAHL Showcase this fall, and looked great again. He should be getting a lot of college attention.
Joey Marciano is supposed to be the top defenseman on the team, and he was solid, but didn't really stand out as a superstar. Ryan Grimshaw played a solid, consistent game.
Minnesota recruit Sam Lofquist had both US goals in regulation on shots from the point. Neither were really cannon shots, but they were low and accurate. He's got a really long way to go in terms of adding strength and muscle before he's ready for college.
Notre Dame recruit Sean Lorenz looked talented, but really struggled. He made a couple turnovers, a few bad decisions to get caught out of position, and got beat on one of Sweden's goals. It's just one game though. Grant Scott looked better than I expected. I think he's still a little bit of a project, but will turn out to be a good player. He didn't play a single shift in the third period, but that could have been due to an injury.
I liked the current crop of forwards. It's extremely different than the group playing for the U18 team. The U18 team has a lot more big forwards. The U17 has way more smaller, speedy guys. It's tough to pick out one or two guys that were head and shoulders above the rest.
Notre Dame recruit Pat Gaul was one of the impressive forwards. My brother called him the next Danny Fardig. Coming from most people, that's probably an insult, but my brother is a big Danny Fardig fan. Gaul is the much more talented equivalent. He's such a hard-worker and does all the little things so well. He's the type of kid that you'd love to have on your team.
Minnesota recruit Jordan Schroeder was his usual creative self. He made a couple jaw-dropping moves. He also played the point on the powerplay. He'll be a fun player to watch in college.
The two Michigan recruits, Robbie Czarnik and David Wohlberg both played nice games. Czarnik probably has the most NHL potential among the forwards because of he has decent size, and is an incredibly fast skater. Wohlberg looked much more mature than what you'd expect from a 17 year old. He made great decisions with the puck and played an overall smart game.
North Dakota recruit Danny Kristo is a great skater, though he's another kid that looks like he has a long ways to go in terms of adding strength(though he's also only a sophomore). The other North Dakota recruit, Mike Cichy, probably didn't play his best game.
Northern Michigan's Justin Florek is the only true power forward on the team. He still struggles with his foot speed, but is a very talented kid, and a hard worker.
There's some very good Eastern kids that haven't committed yet, including Stephen Rogers, Colin Moore, and Kevin McCarey. I really liked Rogers. Moore is the team captain and a very solid, honest player.