While the men’s hockey team faced out-of-conference opponents over winter break, the defensemen duo of Phil Kemp ’21 and Jack St. Ivany ’22 travelled to Vancouver, Canada, to represent Team USA at the 2019 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. Previous members of Team USA include many hockey stars, such as the Buffalo Sabres’ Jack Eichel, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews and the Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane.
The championships, hosted by the International Ice Hockey Federation, ran from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria and Rogers Arena in Vancouver. Teams from 10 countries battled it out over 30 games for the trophy. To date, the United States has claimed four gold medals since the championships’ inaugural season in 1977. This year, the American team consisted of 23 U20 players from all over the nation, most of whom were either Division I college athletes or U.S. National U18 club members.
“I was very excited to get the opportunity to represent my country on the international stage,” St. Ivany said. “When I was younger, I would always watch the tournament on TV and would dream of getting an opportunity to play for Team USA, so it was surreal to hear that I made the team. At first there was an adjustment period because not everyone knows each other’s tendencies on the ice, but after a few practices together, the team started to become one. We were all there working towards a common goal, so everyone kind of put their egos aside and focused only on being a part of Team USA.”
On the shores of British Columbia, the Americans battled their way to a silver medal after narrowly losing 3–2 to Finland in the final. To get to that stage, the crew of NHL prospects played against, and beat, the likes of Russia and the Czech Republic in the knockout rounds.
The U.S. was placed into Group B alongside Sweden, Finland, Slovakia and Kazakhstan. The Stars and Stripes passed their first test against Slovakia with a 2–1 win, coming back from a goal down to win it all in the third period. Next, they defeated Kazakhstan in an 8–2 victory. The U.S. also won its third scalp of the group against Finland. But the Finns would return to take revenge in the championship game.
“My favorite moment from the tournament had to be our comeback in the third period against Sweden,” St. Ivany said. “We were down 4–0 and scored in the last 15 minutes of the game to send it to overtime. It was a very special moment to be a part of and really brought our team closer together.”
Although the contest ended in a 5–4 overtime heartbreak for Kemp and St. Ivany, the late rally epitomized the resilience that the team showed throughout the tournament.
The semifinal game against the Russians was particularly spectacular. The score was 2–1 in favour of the Americans as the game entered its third period. Down a goal and on a power play, the Russians pounced on an offensive advantage and slipped a shot past the American goaltender who had left the net. Just as forward Ivan Muranov was about to send the loose puck home, Kemp hooked the puck right off the goal line to keep the scores level.
“My mindset is always to play my game and play the role the team needs me to play,” Kemp said. “Against Russia, I was in the right place at the right time and was the benefactor of a great bounce. I think I just blacked out and went on instincts. I’ll take any bounce I can get.”
Kemp is a draft pick for the Edmonton Oilers, while St. Ivany was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers.
The final was a disappointing way to end what had been an impressive tournament. Team USA fell behind 0–2 early on in the third before rallying again by scoring twice in two minutes. As the game looked destined for overtime, American hearts were broken with 1:26 left to go. Finland’s Kaapo Kakko slotted home the decider, leaving the score at 3–2. Nevertheless, a second-place finish and a remarkable campaign made an unforgettable experience for the two Bulldogs.
“I was super pumped when I found out [that I was part of the team],” Kemp said. “I was close last year and ended up getting cut. So it was a good feeling hearing my name called. I was really pumped when I heard Jack’s name get called. [Being on the team] made us better friends for sure and was a cool experience to share and celebrate with him.”
The Yale team is set to hit the ice against Brown this Saturday at Ingalls Rink at 7 p.m.
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