COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Former University of New Hampshire goaltender Ty Conklin (Anchorage, Alaska) was one of 17 players selected by USA Hockey to a preliminary roster for the 2004 United States Men’s National Team. Team USA will compete at the 2004 International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship, to be held April 24-May 9 in Prague and Ostrava, Czech Republic. The remaining six members will be named later this month to fill-out the 23-player roster.
The announcement was made by 2004 U.S. Men’s National Team General Manager Larry Pleau (St. Louis, Mo.); Assistant General Manager Don Waddell (Atlanta, Ga.); Senior Director, International Administration Art Berglund (Colorado Springs, Colo.); Senior Director, Hockey Operations, Jim Johannson (Colorado Springs, Colo.); USA Hockey President Ron DeGregorio (Salem, N.H.); USA Hockey Executive Director Doug Palazzari (Colorado Springs, Colo.); and USA Hockey Vice President & International Council Chairperson Tony Rossi (Chicago, Ill.). Pleau and Waddell will serve those same roles for Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey 2004 later this year.
Immediately following the 2004 IIHF Men’s World Championship the IIHF will use the tournament’s final standing, along with previous event results and criteria, to rank the world’s top-10 hockey-playing nations. The top-eight countries will then automatically qualify for the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy. The United States is currently ranked seventh.
“We’re very pleased with those who have accepted our invitation, and we have a high number players who want to be a part of the USA Hockey program,” said Waddell. “This year’s IIHF Men’s World Championship will be a key tournament for the future of USA Hockey, and we're glad that players have realized the importance.”
Ten forwards were selected to the preliminary roster, nine of whom competed in the National Hockey League this season: Bates Battaglia (Chicago, Ill./Washington Capitals), Dustin Brown (Ithaca, N.Y./Los Angeles Kings), Matt Cullen (Virginia, Minn./Florida Panthers), Chris Drury (Trumbull, Conn./Buffalo Sabres), Jeff Halpern (Potomac, Md./Washington Capitals), Ryan Malone (Pittsburgh, Pa./Pittsburgh Penguins), Richard Park (Seoul, South Korea/Minnesota Wild) and Erik Westrum (Minneapolis, Minn./Phoenix Coyotes). Another forward named was Andy Roach (Mattawan, Mich./Mannheim Eagles) from the German Elite League.
Four defensemen were also selected to the preliminary roster, three of whom competed in the NHL this season. They include Jeff Jillson (North Smithfield, R.I./Buffalo Sabres), Paul Mara (Ridgewood, N.Y./ Phoenix Coyotes), and Aaron Miller (Buffalo, N.Y./Los Angeles Kings). Rounding out the defensemen is Brett Hauer (Edina, Minn./Geneva-Servette) who has previous NHL experience and currently plays in the Swiss National League. All three goaltenders were also named to the preliminary roster: Conklin (Edmonton Oilers), Mike Dunham (Johnson City, N.Y./New York Rangers), and Alex Westlund (Flemington Village, N.J./Yaroslavl Lokomotiv) of the Russian Elite League.
Seven of the 17 players have represented the United States in prior IIHF Men’s World Championship competition, including Cullen and Hauer, who were members of the 2003 U.S. Men’s National Team which competed last in Finland. Hauer also skated in 1993 and 1995, while Cullen was a National Team member in 1999. Halpern competed at the 2000 and 2001 World Championships, while Battaglia played alongside Drury in 1998. Two players -- Dunham and Hauer -- were teammates on the 1994 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team that competed in Lillehammer, Norway, while Drury, Dunham and Miller were together in the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, as Team USA earned the silver medal. Dunham was also a member of the U.S. Men’s Olympic Ice Hockey Team in 1992.
Ten members of the team have played for the U.S. National Junior Team, including newcomers to the Men’s National Team, Brown and Grier. Brown, the youngest member of the 17 named to the Men’s National Team, competed at two IIHF World Junior Championships (2002 and 2003). Grier was a member of the Junior Team in 1995, along with Park who played in both 1994 and 1995. Miller was a member of the team in 1991 with Dunham, who also played in 1992. Other previous National Junior Team members are Battaglia (1995), Cullen (1996), Drury (1996) and two-time members Jillson (1999, 2000) and Mara (1998, 1999). Westlund helped lead the U.S. to a first-place finish at the 2003 Deutschland Cup.
The team will be led by head coach Peter Laviolette (Franklin, Mass.), who also served in that capacity for the 2003 U.S. Men’s Select Team and guided that squad to its first-ever title at the 2003 Deutschland Cup. He will be joined on the coaching staff by Washington Capitals assistant coach Jay Leach (Philadelphia, Pa.), and Greg Poss (Nuremberg, Germany), current head coach of the Nuremberg Ice Tigers of the German Elite League (DEL). Team USA competes in Group B of the 2004 IIHF Men’s World Championship alongside Slovakia, Ukraine and Finland in Ostrava, Czech Republic. The U.S. begins the tournament playing each team in its Group in a round-robin format. Following the Preliminary Round, teams are re-seeded within their Groups according to points (two points for a win, one point for a tie and zero points for a loss).
The top-three teams in each Group advance to the Qualification Round to play in three cross-over games against the opposite Group in its bracket (for example, if the U.S. advanced it would play against the top-three teams in Group A). Teams carry points into the Qualification Round based on competition against teams that also advance.
Following this round, the top-four point leaders in each of the two brackets (Groups A & D and Groups B & C) advance to the single-elimination Quarterfinal Round on May 5 and 6. Teams are re-seeded to determine match-ups. New points acquired in the Qualification Round only carry-over if they come against teams advancing to the Quarterfinal Round. The four winning teams in the Quarterfinal Round advance to the Semifinal Round on May 8 and the Medal Round on May 9.