When the Mahoning Valley Phantoms host the Alpena IceDiggers this weekend, they’ll do so without the services of team’s leading goal-scorer Brandon Saad, as he will be in British Columbia playing for Team USA at the 2009 World Under-17 Challenge.
The event runs from Dec. 29 through Jan. 4.
Team USA head coach John Hynes says Saad is a perfect fit for Team USA at the Challenge.
"We're looking forward to having Brandon on our team," said Hynes, who also serves as head coach of the U.S. Under-17 Team. "He’s a very good player who's playing style and character are what we’re looking for when adding players for a major international event."
Saad, from Gibsonia, Pa., currently leads the Phantoms with 11 goals and is second on the team in scoring with 18 points.
The World Under-17 Hockey Challenge welcomes 10 teams, including five Canadian regional teams (Pacific, West, Atlantic, Ontario and Quebec) and the United States, Germany, Slovakia, Finland and Russia.
The U.S. National Under-17 Team has won the tournament twice (2001, 2002) in the 13 years it has participated. Team USA is coming off of back-to-back second-place finishes at the Challenge.
The Phantoms, meanwhile, open a two-game series with Alpena on Sunday at the Chevrolet Centre. The puck will drop for the North Division contest at 7:15 p.m.