Friday, January 05, 2007

US U17 Wins Four Nations Gold

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.


Anonymous said...

Good write up Chris. I had a chance to see the championship game as well. You don't mention d-man Steven West. I'm wondering if you may have mixed his work in with Lorenz's. West is no. 71 and Lorenz is no. 77 and they look alot alike on the ice. I don't think Lorenz was on the ice for either of the Swedish goals. West has always been a strong offensive d-man and Lorenz has been stronger defensively. I thought in the game both played to their strengths.

Anonymous said...

ok mom

Kevin said...

I saw Lorenz screw up twice for sure during the game. First time was during a 5-4. One of the US forwards had a broken stick and was playing up high trying to block shots, and for some reason Lorenz tried to double team the defensemen and completely took himself out of the zone and out of the play. About two plays later he let somebody just walk by him on a 1-2 for a quality scoring opportunity. I didn't really pay attention to him until I saw those two things happen, which was fairly late in the game, so he might've played pretty solidly before that and didn't screw up anything too bad after those two misplays.

Anonymous said...

Guess What I didn't see any of the games :-)

Anonymous said...

Any thoughts on Vinny Saponari?

Anonymous said...

2 mistakes on Lorenz...what other kids made mistakes?

Jeremy A. said...

The observations and speculation made were inaccurate and are way off about Sam Lofquist’s strength on his shot. Just ask Mahoning Valley (NAHL) Defenseman Trent Bonnett who caught one of Lofquist’s 95 mph one timer slap shots in the jaw in a valiant effort to stop a sure goal. (Bonnet’s jaw was broken in 3 places and required 21 stitches when the shot’s high velocity caused it to slice left and rise directly for the upper corner)

Lofquist’s reputation precedes him when it comes to the power and accuracy of his shot. Ask Lofquist’s past and present coaches and team-mates who they think has the strongest most accurate shot from the point…start with the US U-17 team. Ask J.P. Parise who had the strongest, fastest, most accurate shot at Shattuck last year (including the Prep team; he says he’ll be glad to talk to anyone about Lofquist’s strength of shooting). Ask last year’s Honeybaked team who it was that stung them in overtime against Shattuck at Nationals with a rocket shot (hint: the answer will be Lofquist).

Lofquist scored twice on 2 wrist shots (they were not slap shots) versus Sweden for the gold because that’s what was needed to score when it was important. The second one that scored was high- to the upper corner (not low as stated). Check it’s a matter of credibility when a statement of total speculation is made based on incorrect observation. This indicates an ignorance of Lofquist’s game.

Maybe he’s one of the Swedes you forgot to watch, but he scored the only 2 goals in regulation and this is typical of when and how Lofquist has scored in the past, and is no surprise. The prototype player for football players does not necessarily equate very well to highly skilled hockey players who win games…but bigger, faster, stronger is what seems to be the long term rally call at the NTDP, so I guess all is well any way you approach it.

Thanks for getting my juices going on this one!

Gerald Dresow said...

It’s too bad that you didn’t make it to any of the earlier games or that you didn’t watch Sweden too closely. Lofquist and Grimshaw were being matched up to counter the top lines, using man to man coverage. Neither got scored against and they neutralized the star Swedes, completely, when on the ice.

Lofquist played nearly a perfect and strong coverage game versus Finland (I don’t use the word great very much, but he played a great game on D)…and he made 2 very hard hits that knocked down the opposing players. Your supposition about his strength is way off base.

Scott Bjugstad radar timed Lofquist’s slapper at over 93 (2 years ago). J.P. Parise at Shattuck- St. Mary’s has said that Lofquist’s shot is a cannon with laser accuracy and that he will score in clutch situations. Lofquist’s father was a middle linebacker in college and pro football…I don’t think strength is or will be an issue.

One can never be too strong, so your advice is a good general rule, but you mischaracterize this kid, Sam Lofquist, who is a true sniper of world class. Check it out with those qualified evaluators who really know this kid’s game.

Thanks for a good hockey forum.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Gerald and Jeremy for an opposing opinion about Sam Lofquist. I am really looking forward to seeing him in a Gopher uniform.

To be fair it's often hard to know whether this blogger's hatred for all things Gopher is constant or only intermittent. For a reference check the latest Minnesota vs M,MSU thread at USCHO where his prejudice is on display for all to see. This is a good blog, but anything to do with the Gophers should looked at skeptically because there is an obvious agenda in play.

Anonymous said...

Hey you genious fans, this Sam kid ain't nothing until he completes his development, college, and makes it to the pro's. We'll see where the ego's get checked at the door, cuzz this NTDP team is not that good........yet!

Anonymous said...

Hey pipe down's not what you have done in the past, but what your future endeavors hold! Just another pipe dream, I bet!

Anonymous said...

This Sam Loftquist has been a game controller with his coverage D skills for at least 5 years. His D-skating speed, skill and determination are incredible against the best players. And when the opposition “cheats” to put extra pressure on the forwards…”whoosh” it’s a score by Lofquist like lightning.

He frustrated our Jr. Gopher AAA team (non-winter AAA is big time in Minn.) all the time. We only won when he was out. I watched him stop the best of the best and break games open over and over in Minn. tournaments. He has been a highly skilled clutch scorer- and a very smart, rugged and tough one-on-one D- since I first watched him in elite pee wee games. I’m not surprised that he came through one more time in the big game against the best players for Team USA. It sounds like this blog’s take on him misses the boat on Loftquist’s elite game…but his advise is good for all players to follow.
Go Team USA!

M. Raymond said...

Development of fine motor skills is non-existent in American hockey, I fear. I am a product of the French Canadian path to discovering and developing great hockey players. In the end, in hockey, it’s about elite ability in the finer skills of shooting to score (not just “shooting on net 10 times and one will go in”- the rally call of grinder and ignorant coaches), passing (and catching passes) to move the goalie and stick handling…this is the highest priority in hockey that wins games. It takes years and years to develop these skills- it should not be ridiculed or diminished by the ignorant---Only after this, does “gross motor” skill and muscle development matter.

It appears that the NTDP is a 2 year commando boot camp to toughen the mind and body for war- and this is good- but this is not what makes hockey players great- but it helps.

Exception to the conventional wisdom: Bernie McBain’s Minnesota 88s were trained for 5 years, year round, in the fine motor skills, under tough discipline. The only game stats they kept were the # and quality of passes made. Nothing else. That’s the common denominator to Erik Johnson, Kyle Okoposo, Peter Mueller, Jaimie McBain, Ryan Flynn, Stoa, Carman, Mosey, Trent Palm. McBain was a part of Lofquist’s training program since he was 8 or 9. In addition, shooting to score under pressure takes 5-7 years to master, and that is if your coach is a master and your pedigree is strong. These skills don’t just fly out of a monkey’s behind.

Unfortunately “gross motor” muscle development is over-rated and is what has become the definition of “being athletic”. Great NFL quarterbacks, over time, win games and championships based on being “fine motor skill” athletic superstars- under pressure. NHL and College hockey needs more great “fine motor skill” athletes like Gretzky, et al. The grinders, speedsters and thugs are so plentiful and have populated the coaching, scouting and opinion writer ranks that they LOCK OUT many potential “fine motor skill” superstars because of how they look in the the weight room and dryland games or how they look coming off the bus. Real elite hockey players come through in the toughest times- with their high level skill and character- which takes years and good genetics to develop. Their physical strength is angular strength and I don’t know how to measure it in the weight room because these muscles can only be developed by “doing” for years.

If a kid performs as a star by scoring the only 2 goals against the world’s best hockey players his age, then give him the credit he deserves. Admit your lack of understanding to this important aspect of the game and move on. Of course, the grinders and thugs will always try to bully and intimidate everyone off of there game because they never “had it”, so it is important to work under pressure as well. In the end this young man will continue to perform on the ice when it counts because he has already been through the toughest anyone can dish out or try to take away from him.

Wildcat Mountain Man said...

I was beginning to think that these Minnesota fan-duds were blowing allot of smoke about this Lofuist, so I thought that I'd check in to see who the team usa was playing tonight friday 1-12-07---Marquette of the nahl. I was looking for something smartass to say to these Mn-dudes and oops! Loquist scored to win the game with 5 seconds left in overtime! I guess I'll be eatin from Scobie Doo's filled poop bag with this blog's writer.
We're not worthy, oh great one.
You still better get more muscle, at least by the time you're 26, like tiger woods finally did, so you can take off your shirt on Saturday Night Live. Or mybe consider changing your committment to UNH!

Anonymous said...

i think it's important to remember that these are just kids. i thought chris's blog was an honest assessment, and i appreciated it. i don't appreciate the undue pressure that is put on the kids by their parents. these parents often pose as impartial third person bloggers. why do they do it? i guess, every parent thinks his or her kid is the next wayne gretzky or bobby orr, and they want the whole world to know it. i personally know of a half dozen parents who think their kid is surefire nhl star quality material. maybe some of them are. but most aren't. and at what cost? i've watched fathers literally destroy their families trying to live a dream vicariously through their kid. the bitterness lasts a lifetime, not just from the kid who is being pushed. but from the siblings who are left in the cold. i know, from personal experience. heed my warning and chill out all of you parents, enjoy the journey. this should be a fun time of life for your kid. i personally don't believe in these elite programs. and it's not just me, herb brooks didn't like them either. by the way, stop blogging as if you're someone else! we're on to you.

Gerry Dresow said...

I stand behind my previous comments. I emailed you earlier outlining my enthusiasm and bias, complete with names and cell numbers. Contact me, if you’d like.

Anonymous said...

i don't know what you are talking about. be careful.

Gerald Dresow said...

On 1/6/07 I sent an email outlining my enthusiasm and bias to because I think that you have a good blog.

Anonymous said...

Dude, errrrr Dad, I researched all the pro football leagueges since the 5o's. The NFL,, ,CFL, AFL, WFL, USFL, XFL, and no one named Lofquist ever played in any of these. What up jeremy a. errr gerald dresow err gerry dresow err Wcm man.? Errrrr dad?

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Anonymous said...

Just call me Gopher-Digger:

Gordy Lofquist was a Middle Linebacker with the Minnesota Vikings and Sam Lofquist is his son, I believe. Randy Poltl (DB) says Gordy was his room-mate when they played on the road in the early part of the season (when Randy played with the Vikings in 1974). Minnesota had the NFL’s top defense that year. This was a team that went to the Super Bowl that year and the year before. (web search: “Gordy Lofquist WFL football”; SDSU Collegian archives from AP wire story 8/74: “Lofquist on Vikes’ Squad”).

Sometime before Thanksgiving of 1974, I think that Gordy’s contract was voided by the NFL office under the WFL blacklist rule (to stop ex-NFLers from jumping from the WFL back to the NFL) which was used to suppress any possibility of viable free agency in the NFL at the time. His apparent offense: he had been drafted (played d line in college) and had a contract in the WFL (Chicago Fire) - was traded to another WFL (N.Y.) team that folded before his arrival. Gordy Lofquist then signed with the MN Vikings as a free agent joining all-pro Jeff Siemon at middle linebacker. This seems to be common knowledge with other former linebackers Fred McNeill and Matt Blair. I think that the NFL determined that he was never waived from the defunct WFL (N.Y.) team and they blacklisted him for the duration of his (multi-year?) contract. I believe that there was some sort of undisclosed settlement for damages years later (1989?). There are no other official records of Lofquist other than news/wire services and early season game programs.

I think that Craig (Kraig) Lofquist, who was drafted by the Pittsburg Steelers (1965), and Gordy Lofquist are brothers.

Anonymous said...

they are not brothers..not even related

Anonymous said...

I Burton Martinez have been trying to keep up with Sam and did coach him when he was young and he was a great hockey player then and he is a really good guy now. I hope Sam reads this and knows I am and always will be behind him all the way to the stanley cup and the olympics. And anybody that thinks Sam is weak, you might be sorry for those words when you see him play. Over and out solder carry on Mr. Loftquist from Lt.Burton Martinez. see ya soon Buddy