Two Wolverines will miss the Great Lakes Invitational Tournament because they’ll be representing the U.S. in the IIHF World Junior Championship tournament Dec. 26-Jan. 5. Freshman defenseman Jon Merrill (5-7–12) and sophomore forward Chris Brown (2-8–10) are the only players from the CCHA on this year’s roster, which features 14 collegians: seven from the WCHA, four from Hockey East and one from the ECAC.
Both Merrill and Brown have earned gold with U.S. teams before. Merrill, who is tied for fourth among Wolverines in scoring this season, played for Team USA when it won the gold medal at the 2010 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. Brown did the same thing in 2009. Both will be missed at the GLI, as Michigan is a team that very much plays as a team this season.
Kyle Palmieri, who would have been a sophomore had he remained with Notre Dame, is back to defend the gold medal he earned with Team USA last year. Palmieri has nine goals and four assists with the Syracuse Crunch (AHL) this season.
The CCHA will also be represented on the coaching staff. Mark Osiecki, in his first year as head coach at Ohio State, is one of the assistants for Team USA this year. Two other names familiar to folks in the CCHA are also connected to the team. Joe Exter, the goaltending coach for the National Team Development Program, and Jason Hodges, the head athletic trainer for the NTDP, are on board as well.
If you get a chance, you absolutely want to watch this tournament. Not only is it amazing hockey, but it’s in Buffalo, N.Y., this year, a great hockey town. The NHL network is carrying the tournament again this year (here’s the schedule), and once again USCHO staffer and my good friend Dave Starman is part of the crew. Last year, Starman was the highlight of the broadcast team. Joining him this year will be CCHA Associate Commissioner Fred Pletsch, long-time hockey broadcaster Gary Thorne, and former Wolverine and all-around good guy (and great broadcaster), Billy Jaffe.
Last year’s run to the gold medal was magic. I’m still a little bitter about Port Huron, Mich., native Jack Campbell, the goaltender who originally committed to Michigan but who instead opted for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL, but I’m happy he won his gold and I’m happy he’s back to defend it.