Merry Christmas from the U.S. National Junior Team! Settled here in Buffalo, the team started its day with a team breakfast and lunch before taking the ice at KeyBank Center, home of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, for the first time.
TEAM PHOTO BILLS STYLE
Prior to practice, players and staff took tournament headshots and a team photo in their Bills-replica jerseys that will be worn against Canada in its outdoor tilt at New Era Field, home of the NFL's Buffalo Bills, on Dec. 29. Puck drop is set for 3 pm ET and the game will be televised live on NHL Network. Tickets are still on sale now here.
ANNUAL GIFT EXCHANGE
After practice, U.S. players took part in its annual gift exchange where gifts varied from sweatshirts, toques, and cologne. The gift to receive the biggest cheers was a large Dave & Busters bouncy ball stuffed inside a box.
Christmas Day practice closed with a team shootout that saw 2017 Buffalo Sabres draft pick Casey Mittelstadt (Eden Prairie, Minn./University of Minnesota) win with a slick shot. Mittelstadt wasn't the only one to score a head-turning goal, as defenseman Adam Fox (Jericho, N.Y./Harvard University) tallied a nice long-ranged wrister.
LOOK AHEAD: DENMARK TOMORROW
The U.S. National Junior Team will open play in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship tomorrow, Dec. 26, when it faces Denmark at KeyBank Center. Puck drop is slated for 8 p.m. ET and will be televised live on NHL Network. Tickets are on sale now here.
"The guys are ready to go," said Bob Motzko, head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team. "We want to be a little old-fashioned, where we methodically go about our business and buy into the team concept. This team is on a mission and we're ready to go."
TAKE FIVE: NORRIS, TKACHUK FOLLOW FAMILY FOOTSTEPS
Forward Josh Norris (Oxford, Mich./University of Michigan) and forward Brady Tkachuk (St. Louis, Mo./Boston University), who skated the last two seasons together at USA Hockey's NTDP (2015-17), are both following in footsteps of family members who have played and medaled in an IIHF World Junior Championship. To read the family ties, see yesterday's Notebook Entry.
BEST MOMENT IN USA HOCKEY HISTORY:
Norris: 1980 Miracle on Ice
Tkachuk: 1996 World Cup of Hockey championship
DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A PLAYER:
Norris: 200-foot player who's versatile with a lot of speed and skill that can score and make plays
Tkachuk: I'm a gritty power forward who uses his body to make space for himself and line mates.
ONE PERSON YOU'D LIKE TO MEET:
Norris: Justin Bieber
Tkachuk: Tom Brady
ONE AMERICAN NHL PLAYER YOU LIKE TO WATCH:
Norris: Auston Matthews
Tkachuk: David Backes