SOCHI 2014

One Goal For Men’s Ice Hockey Team: Gold

By Paul D. Bowker | Jan. 01, 2014, 9:04 p.m. (ET)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The mission was to find a goal. Just one extra goal.

Candidates for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team are
introduced during a press conference at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex
on Aug. 27, 2013 in Arlington, Va.

The U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team was one goal away from winning the gold medal at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, losing the championship game in overtime to Canada. David Poile, general manager of the 2014 Olympic Team, was determined to find it for this year’s squad that will play for a medal at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games next month.

“I really feel we have a chance to win (the gold medal), and we expect to win,” Poile said Wednesday after the U.S. Olympic Team was announced following the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, which the Toronto Maple Leafs won 3-2 over the Detroit Red Wings in a snowy shootout in front of a record crowd of 105,591 fans at Michigan Stadium.

After bringing just three Olympians to the 2010 Games, the U.S. squad this year features 13 players who suited up for Team USA in 2006 or 2010. Twelve members of the U.S. team that lost to Canada in Vancouver will have a shot at redemption for a gold medal in Sochi.

The squad should not be at a lack for scoring prowess. Among the returning players is forward Patrick Kane, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks and the NHL’s second-ranked scorer this season with 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists). Toronto’s Phil Kessel has 20 goals, which leads his team and is tied for eighth in the NHL. The other returning forwards are David Backes, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Ryan Kesler, Zach Parise, Paul Stastny and Joe Pavelski.

On defense, only Brooks Orpik and Ryan Suter return from the 2010 team. Suter, an alternate captain in Vancouver, is the son of Bob Suter, a member of the “Miracle on Ice” team that won a gold medal in 1980. Team USA has not won a gold medal since.

Even for the players without Olympic experience, the squad is at no shortage of international experience thanks to the IIHF world championships, youth championships and the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, a two-year residency program that is based in Ann Arbor.

One of those NTDP alums, James van Riemsdyk, scored a goal for Toronto in the Winter Classic before being named to his first Olympic team. He played for the NTDP from 2005 to 2007 during which time he won a gold and a silver medal at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

“Since I came to Ann Arbor, something I’ve always wanted to do is play at the Olympics,” van Riemsdyk said. “It’s a huge thrill for me. I’m very excited about it.”

Kessel and Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard also played in the Winter Classic. 

Kessel was named to the men’s team shortly after his sister, Amanda, was named to the U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team. The Kessels will be the first brother-sister siblings to represent the United States in the same Winter Games in ice hockey. Phil Kessel said being in the Olympic Winter Games with his sister will be a “neat experience.”

The biggest roar from the crowd in Michigan Stadium was for Howard, who won at least 35 games in three consecutive seasons for Detroit. All nominations must be approved by the United States Olympic Committee.

“It‘s been a great 24 hours … very memorable for my family and myself, as well,” Howard said. 

Howard joins a goaltending trio that includes Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres, the tournament MVP in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings, the NHL 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner after leading the Kings to the Stanley Cup. Howard overcame a sluggish start to the NHL season and an injury to make the team.

“I know what Jimmy Howard can do, and I think the (selection) committee knows what he can do,” Poile said.

“The competition is fierce, but I think that’s a good thing,” Howard said of Miller and Quick. “We’ll be able to push each other.”

All 25 of the Olympic nominations are NHL players. The St. Louis Blues have three players on the team: defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, and forwards David Backes and T.J. Oshie. The Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Maple Leafs each have two players. In addition, Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma will lead the squad.

Poile said the selection for the 2014 team might have been more difficult than the selection for any other team just because of the available talent. The deep talent pool led to some tough decisions, however, notably leaving off a trio of 2010 Olympians in forward Bobby Ryan and defensemen Erik Johnson and Jack Johnson.

Poile said it was important to select 25 players who would create the best team chemistry. Instead of picking an All-Star team, he wanted leadership.

“We did not pick the 25 best players,” Poile explained. “We picked the 25 players we thought gave us a chance to win the gold medal.”


GOALTENDERS  
Name Current Team
Jimmy Howard Detroit Red Wings
Ryan Miller Buffalo Sabres
Jonathan Quick Los Angeles Kings
DEFENSEMEN  
Name Current Team
John Carlson Washington Capitals
Justin Faulk Carolina Hurricanes
Cam Fowler Anaheim Ducks
Paul Martin Pittsburgh Penguins
Ryan McDonagh New York Rangers
Brooks Orpik Pittsburgh Penguins
Kevin Shattenkirk St. Louis Blues
Ryan Suter Minnesota Wild
FORWARDS  
Name Current Team
David Backes St. Louis Blues
Dustin Brown Los Angeles Kings
Ryan Callahan New York Rangers
Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks
Ryan Kesler Vancouver Canucks
Phil Kessel Toronto Maple Leafs
T.J. Oshie St. Louis Blues
Max Pacioretty Montreal Canadiens
Zach Parise Minnesota Wild
Joe Pavelski San Jose Sharks
Paul Stastny Colorado Avalanche
Derek Stepan New York Rangers
James van Riemsdyk Toronto Maple Leafs
Blake Wheeler Winnipeg Jets

Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Paul D. Bowker is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org.

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