USA Hockey today announced the schedules for its U.S. National Under-17 and Under-18 Teams. Both teams are part of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, based in Ann Arbor, Mich. The two squads' schedules include a total of 27 home games, set to be played at the home of the NTDP - the Ann Arbor Ice Cube.
The Ann Arbor Ice Cube will also host the 2009 North American Hockey League Top Prospects Tournament, February 18-20. Both NTDP squads will compete against all-star teams from three NAHL divisions.
The U.S. National Under-18 Team will play a total of 52 games against opponents from the NCAA Division I and III, the NAHL and the United States Hockey League. In addition, the team will also compete in two international tournaments and many of the players will finish the season at the 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation World Men's Under-18 Championship, taking place on U.S. soil for the first time in Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn., from April 9-19.
"We're very excited about our schedule this year," said Ron Rolston, head coach of the U.S. National Under-18 Team. "Playing some of the top teams in Division I and Division III and a tough NAHL schedule will challenge our team and prepare us for our international competitions culminating with the World Under-18 Championship in April.
The U.S. National Under-18 Team opens its season at home against the Indiana Ice of the USHL on September 12 at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube before heading to Blaine, Minn., for the sixth annual NAHL Showcase from September 17-20.
The squad will face 19 NCAA Division I opponents over the course of the season beginning with the University of Alaska Anchorage on September 25. Team USA will take on two teams that appeared in the 2008 NCAA Men's Frozen Four - the University of Michigan (October 4) and the University of North Dakota (December 19).
The schedule also includes an eight-game slate against NCAA Division III competition, including two games at the Babson College Invitational Tournament, November 29-30.
In addition to the four-game set the Under-18 team will play at the NAHL Showcase, the squad will play eight regular-season games against NAHL North Division foes and two against the defending Robertson Cup champion St. Louis Bandits. Along with the NTDP, the North Division will be comprised of the Alpena Ice Diggers, Mahoning Valley Phantoms, Marquette Rangers and Traverse City North Stars, as well as the NAHL's newest club, the Motor City Machine.
Also highlighting the U.S. National Under-18 Team's schedule are two international tournaments. Team USA will meet Finland, Sweden and Switzerland on home ice as part of the Four Nations Cup at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, N.Y., November 4-9. Team USA will also travel to Nykoping, Sweden, for the prestigious Five Nations Tournament February 3-8.
The U.S. National Under-17 Team will play approximately 56 games in 2008-09, including a 42-game slate against NAHL opponents and a trio of international events, including the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
"We are looking forward to another challenging schedule," said John Hynes, head coach of the U.S. National Under-17 Team. "Our team will have to be ready to compete while playing a demanding NAHL schedule and participating in three elite-level international competitions."
The Under-17 team, which begins its season with a four-game set at the NAHL Showcase, plays its first home game against NAHL North Division rival Marquette Rangers on October 17 at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube.
The squad will welcome new NAHL North opponent Motor City Machine to Ann Arbor for the first time on October 31. Team USA's only games outside of the NAHL North Division come on December 19 and 20, when it takes on the Springfield Junior Blues of the NAHL South Division in a home series.
The U.S. National Under-17 Team's schedule includes three international competitions highlighted by the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Port Alberni, B.C., December 29-January 4. Team USA will also compete in an Under-17 Four Nations tournament in Switzerland, November 5-9. February will bring the Vlad Dzurilla Under-18 Tournament, in which the U.S. National Under-17 Team will compete against Under-18 squads from Germany, Switzerland and Slovakia.
NOTES: USA Hockey's National Team Development program is entering its 12th season of play in 2008-09 . The roster for the 2008-09 U.S. National Under-17 Team will be announced later this week, while the roster for the 2008-09 U.S. National Under-18 Team will be released next week . John Hynes begins his sixth season as a head coach at the NTDP, while Ron Rolston enters his fifth season ... Rolston will also serve as head coach for the 2009 U.S. National Junior Team.