The U.S. National Under-18 Team opens the 2013-14 season this weekend with a pair of games at the United States Hockey League Fall Classic East in Indianapolis.
Team USA will face the Chicago Steel on Friday before meeting Youngstown on Saturday.
“The big thing is we are getting back into hockey shape and battling to make sure that we understand the level we have to compete at,” said head coach Danton Cole, whose squad reported to Ann Arbor, Mich., on Aug. 26. “It’s not summer hockey anymore, and as hard as you try to approximate it, you can’t.
“We did not have a ton of changes from last year, but we are trying to cement the things we did last year so we get them fairly good. The things we are tweaking in practice, we keep going over to make sure everyone gets it. This weekend will be a good test for us as we will find out more about our team.”
The U.S. National Under-17 Team begins its 2013-14 schedule this weekend with a pair of home games against the North American Hockey League’s Janesville Jets on Friday and Saturday at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube. Face-off is set for 7 p.m. both nights.
“I want the kids to just play and play as hard as they can,” head coach Don Granato said. “We always measure competitiveness and work ethic for our team. It is two things we have control over.”
The squad, under the direction of third-year head coach Granato, is comprised of some of the top American-born players in the 1997 birth year. The U17s will compete against teams from the Minnesota Elite League, NAHL and United States Hockey League. In addition, the squad will play in three international competitions during the course of the season.
The 2013-14 season will be the second time in which Granato has coached the U17 team.