With the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia still about 20 months away, this year's World Championship in Sweden and Finland doesn't exactly function as a 2014 preview, but it does give some former USHL stars a chance to put their talents on display on behalf of the United States.
|Max Pacioretty, Kyle Okposo, Justin Abdelkader|
(Photo: USHL Images)
The 16 countries competing in the World Championship are divided into two groups of eight. The top four in each group will move on to the single-elimination quarterfinal round, which starts next Thursday, April 17. For the first time, every Team USA game will be televised stateside, with NBC Sports Network providing coverage. View the broadcast schedule and get additional media coverage from USA Hockey here!
Former Sioux City Musketeer Max Pacioretty (Montreal Canadiens) has five points (1g, 4a) in three games for the United States, which beat France and Canada before falling to Slovakia Monday. Kyle Okposo, who won the Clark Cup with Des Moines in 2006 and currently plays for the New York Islanders, is tied for fourth on the team with three points (2g, 1a). 2009-10 NTDP defenseman Justin Faulk, who is a candidate for the NHL's rookie of the year after a sterling debut in Carolina, has put up four points (1g, 3a) and a team-best plus-4 rating.
Team USA next takes the ice against Belarus in the Finnish capital of Helsinki Thursday at 9:15 a.m. Eastern time. For a full list of USHL alumni in the tournament, read the league's official press release here.
As predicted right here, the Waterloo Black Hawks finished off the Lincoln Stars Monday night to advance to the Clark Cup Final for the first time since 2008. Although I said it would take the full five games, the Hawks ended the Western Conference Final with the first four goals of Game 4, which was contested on their home ice of Young Arena.
University of New Hampshire commit Jamie Hill scored a pair of goals as Waterloo built a 4-0 lead through two periods. Goalie Stephon Williams (Minnesota State-Mankato), who came to the Hawks in a Feburary trade with Sioux Falls, was flawless until the 2:33 mark of the third, when Lincoln star (pun intended) Kevin Roy netted his first of back-to-back tallies to start the visitors' attempt at a huge comeback. The Brown University recruit ended up with seven playoff goals to go with 54 (and 104 total points) during his landmark regular season.
After eliminating the West's No. 1 seed, Waterloo will now be faced with the task of outdueling the powerhouse Green Bay Gamblers in a best-of-five series for the hardware. Since the Hawks were in the East for many years prior to switching conferences with Dubuque last summer, Waterloo and Green Bay have some recent playoff history. The two franchises - which have played a combined 53 USHL seasons - met in the 2009 and 2010 postseasons, with the Gamblers prevailing both times.
Green Bay makes its third consecutive appearance in the Clark Cup Final, as it beat Fargo in five games two years ago before Dubuque snatched the crown in four matches last spring. Since I predicted the conference final round accurately, I'll take a shot at the title series. Waterloo has been frisky, but the sheer depth of Green Bay prevails: Gamblers in five games.
Game 1 is scheduled for Green Bay's Resch Center Saturday night. For a full schedule and more of a preview, visit USHL.com!