Three players within Cyclone Hockey will trade in their cardinal and gold jerseys for ones that display USA when they represent the United States in the 2013 Winter World University Games from Dec. 11 to 21 in Trentino, Italy.
For the past year and a half, the coaching staff of the U.S. Men’s National University Team and ISU coach Al Murdoch, who is the general manager of the team, have evaluated more than 150 university hockey players to play on the world stage in Trentino. Of the 23 players who were picked for the team, three of them are Cyclones.
These Cyclones are goalie Matt Cooper, forward Jon Feavel and forward J.P. Kascsak, who is alternate on the team, which means if another player couldn’t make the trip, he could step in.
All three Cyclone players are excited to play for their nation in the Winter World University Games, which only take place every two years, but they also see this as an opportunity to grow as hockey players.
“It will be a great experience to develop my game,” Cooper said. “And hopefully I develop mentally and physically, so I’m prepared for that next level of hockey when I come in next year.”
Cooper and the others on the U.S. team will be playing against players that have already reached that next level of hockey, however. The U.S. team’s first three games in the Winter World University Games will be against Sweden, Latvia and Italy, which are made up of players who mostly have professionally hockey experience.
Murdoch said that being able to play this professional talent is a tremendous learning and maturing opportunity for his players, as they are able to learn skills that they can use when they return to the states.
“Our players will come back and say, 'This is what they do in this situation, here’s how they execute the power play, this is how their penalty kill works,'” Murdoch said. “It makes them better players.”
The U.S. team will also face a different style of play in Trentino. Kascsak said that American-style hockey is more physical due to the smaller rinks, compared to European-style hockey, which is more skilled based and a faster style of play.
Playing in the Winter World University Games is also a great way to get noticed by pro scouts, Kascsak said.
“Pro teams out there will be watching,” Kascsak said. “You’re pretty much getting your name out there and getting to represent USA hockey. It is a great opportunity. So much can happen from it.”
Murdoch said most Cyclone Hockey players who participate in the Winter World University Games go on to play some form of pro hockey. He pointed to former Cyclone Hockey captain Brent Cornelius, who went on to play professionally in Ukraine because of a connection he made by playing in the games.
The U.S. team has never won the gold medal at the Winter World University Games, but Murdoch said the team is slowly working its way to the medal rounds.
“The first time we went [to the Winter World University Games] we finished ninth or 10th,” Murdoch said. “The next time we went we got closer to the top six. And I think in the third or fourth time we were in the top six. It is the manner of getting to the medal round—which is the top four—and I think we are due to do it this time.”