LAKE PLACID - Now that the men's under-20 U.S. National Hockey Team camp has wrapped up in Lake Placid, it's the coaches turn to do the hard work as the roster must be whittled down for the upcoming world championships.
The seven-day camp started with 45 of the top men's players in the country ages 20 and under and ended with Saturday's final exhibition game of the week, which saw the U.S. fall to Finland 3-2 in overtime.
One main goal of the evaluation camp was to give coaches an opportunity to look at the players who will ultimately be chosen to play for the United States at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships being held from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Ufa, Russia.
Team USA celebrates after tying the score at 2-2 with 2:43 left in regulation time. The U.S. lost the game 3-2 in overtime.
Photo/Richard Rosentreter/Lake Placid News
"We have a lot of tough decisions to make," U.S. head coach Phil Housley said after Saturday's game.
The camp featured exhibition games against Finland and Sweden. The U.S. played two split-squad matchups on the first competitive day on Monday, Aug. 6 and emerged with a win and a loss.
After the U.S. roster was trimmed to 35 players, the Americans posted a 2-1 record the rest of the way, which included a big 10-2 victory over Sweden, the defending junior world champions.
The U.S. had a chance to finish unbeaten but ran into a group of Finns not wanting to leave Lake Placid winless. In a see-saw game Saturday, Finland grabbed a one-goal lead on two occasions and then prevailed in overtime when its leading scorer, Miro Aaltonen, buried a shot 2:49 into the extra sudden-death period.
Binghamton native Tyler Biggs scored both U.S. goals in the game and finished the week with three goals and three assists. Last winter, Biggs skated for Miami University but is leaving the collegiate ranks after being picked in the first round of the 2011 National Hockey League draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Biggs said he hopes to skate for the U.S. at the junior worlds, which would be his first time playing for his country in an international tournament.
"I've been looking forward to playing on this team for a long time," Biggs said following Saturday's loss. "Representing the United States has been a dream of mine, and this could be my first and only chance. I hope it comes true, but a lot can happen over the next few months.
"We would have liked to finish unbeaten," Biggs added. "It was a close game, it was a tough game and it was a little scrappy out there. I know Finland didn't want to go home winless. For us, it was a lesson learned. One thing we did show is the U.S. plays hard-nosed, crash-the-net hockey."
Only one U.S. player on the roster, Seth Jones of Plano, Texas, wasn't picked in an NHL draft, and that's because the 6-foot-3 defenseman won't be eligible until the 2013 selection takes place. With a talent-laden roster, the Americans are hoping it will be their turn to wear the gold medals as the junior world champions.
"All of the guys came prepared for this camp," Housley said. "I was pleased with the week of work they put in. We have a great evaluation staff, and and we will have plenty of eyes on the guys as they play for their teams leading up to the world championships."