Union's Gostisbehere gets gate as U.S. advances at WJC
by Shawn Hutcheon/Contributor
The preliminary round has concluded at the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships. Team USA, which finished in third place in Pool A, will advance to the quarterfinal round and take on the Czech Republic on Wednesday.
The team started strongly with an 8-0 win over Germany, only to be followed by losses to Russia and Canada by identical 2-1 scores. USA rebounded to defeat Slovakia, 9-3, in a final must-win match.
Of course, the Americans are well represented by players with New York and New Jersey ties that have been instrumental in the squad’s success.
Leading on the blue line is Union College sophomore Shayne Gostisbehere. Chosen by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2012 NHL Draft, Gostisbehere is on the top tandem and quarterbacks the USA power play. In four WJC games, the 19-year-old has scored one goal (power play versus Germany) and one assist for two points. He is a plus-3 and has accumulated 25 penalty minutes. Fifteen of those penalty minutes came against Slovakia when Gostisbehere was assessed a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for slashing. Gostisbehere has been steady on the blue line and is upon for his strong defensive zone presence.
Blake Pietila, drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the fifth round (129th overall) in 2011, has been a steady defensive forward for Team USA. The Michigan Tech University sophomore is no stranger to international competition, as he was a member of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Under-17 and Under-18 teams before heading off to college. In the 2013 World Junior Championships, Pietila has contributed two assists and is a plus-4. He has registered six shots on goal.
A name familiar to New York Ranger fans, J.T. Miller, is one of three returning American players from last year’s WJC. He is one of four alternate captains on the club. Miller, like Pietila, is a product of USA Hockey’s Team Development Program having spent four seasons there before being drafted in the first round (15th overall) by the Rangers in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. This season he has appeared in 26 games with New York’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Connecticut Whale. At this year’s World Junior Championships, Miller has registered one goal and two assists in four games. He has sent eleven shots at opponents’ nets. In the tournament, he has been a workhorse, using his speed to win races to loose pucks and constantly setting up teammates for scoring opportunities. Off the ice, he is looked at as a respected leader by the players around him.
Team USA will rely on these three players to get them deep into the medal round and onto the gold medal podium. Gostisbehere, Pietila and Miller have what it takes to get them there.
1) Jersey Hitmen (25-5-0-0-0) - The top junior club in the Eastern United States continued its winning ways last week by defeating the Philadelphia Revolution (6-0) and the Springfield Jr. Pics twice (6-4, 4-1). Jersey continues to lead the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s Southern Division and the overall standings. They will take look to continue a winning streak that is, currently, at nine games at the EJHL Showcase in Marlboro, Massachusetts. The Hitmen will open their second half schedule versus the Palm Beach Hawks of the EJ South league.
2) New York Bobcats (16-11-0-1) - Winners of three of their last ten games, the Bobcats have dropped from first place in the Atlantic Junior Hockey League to sixth, however, they are only four points out of second place. Last week, the ‘Cats did not have any AJHL games scheduled. After the New Year, New York will return to action at the Eastern Junior Hockey League Showcase where they will face off against the top ranked junior team in New England, the Boston Jr. Bruins on January 4th.
3) Rochester Jr. Stars (13-11-0-3-0) - After posting a loss (5-1) only to be followed by a victory (4-2) over the Springfield Jr. Pics (5-1), the Stars are in fourth place in the EJHL Northern division. Rochester will be off until the new year when they will return to the ice on January 4th against the Bay State Breakers in Marlboro, Massachusetts.
4) New York Apple Core (12-14-0-2-0) - Coach Frank Bretti’s club is in fifth place in the EJHL’s Southern division but trail fourth place Bay State by just two points. After dropping an 8-2 decision to the Jersey Hitmen last Thursday, NYAC swept a two game set (3-0, 3-1) from the Bay State Breakers. The Core will enjoy the holidays then return to action on January 5th versus the Philadelphia Revolution in Marlboro, Massachusetts.
5) New Jersey Rockets (11-13-3-1) - Coach Bob Thornton’s squad registered victories before Christmas over the New Jersey Titans (6-0) and the Philadelphia Little Flyers (5-0) to move ahead of the Titans in the AJHL standings and now reside in eighth place in the standings. After the 2013 arrives, the Rockets will hit the ice against the EJHL’s Springfield Olympics, ranked tenth in New England, at the EJHL’s Showcase.
6) New Jersey Titans (11-17-1-0) - The Titans entered the holiday break with a loss to the New Jersey Rockets and found themselves relegated to ninth place in the AJHL. The Titans will make a weekend trip to New Hampshire and Massachusetts to take on the Northern Cyclones and Boston Jr. Rangers on January 12th and 13th.