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Minnesota Hockey: Casey Mittelstadt and Ryan Lindgren Lead US Junior National Team into World Championships

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The two Gophers will play large roles in the US title hopes

Ryan Lindgren will be wearing an A for team USA in the World Juniors Tournament
nhl.com

Minnesota Golden Gophers Casey Mittelstadt and Ryan Lindgren will both play large roles on the United States World Junior team that will look to bring home the Gold Medal in the U-20 World Championhips that begin Tuesday in Buffalo, New York. The US will be looking to win back to back gold medals for the first time in the tournaments history, and for the fifth time overall. The US previously won gold in 2004, 2010, 2013, and 2017.

This will be the first World Juniors tournament for Mittelstadt and the second for Lindgren. He was apart of the US team that won the gold medal a year ago. He had one assist in the tournament. This year Lindgren will wear an “A” as one of three assistant captains for team USA.

Team USA is the favorite going into the tournament which is being held in Buffalo this season. The US is in Group A for the opening round-robin preliminary rounds. The US will play Denmark, Slovakia, Canada, and Finland in the preliminary rounds with the top four teams in each group making the medal round. Even though the US and Canada finished first and second a year ago and be all rights should have been placed in opposite pools, the teams were placed in the same pool so that the teams could play a preliminary round game outdoors at New Era Field—the home of the Buffalo Bills. That game will take place on Friday December 29th at 2:00.

It will be an interesting experience for Casey Mittelstadt who will be under extreme scrutiny. Mittelstadt is expected to be one of the stars of the US team and will be playing in the city he will very soon be calling home. Mittelstadt was the 7th overall selection in the NHL draft by the Buffalo Sabres last summer and depending on how the Gophers do down the stretch may be back in Buffalo as early as the end of March (or one more year in Dinkytown would be really nice Casey...) He will be looked upon to be a scoring threat for the US squad and will hopefully put on a show in Buffalo in the KeyBank Center—the home of the Sabres. He already had this highlight shootout goal in practice on Christmas Day.

Mike Morreale of NHL.com has a bit more on Casey’s probable linemates:

The top line could be left wing Casey Mittelstadt (Buffalo Sabres), center Logan Brown (Ottawa Senators), and right wing Kailer Yamamoto (Edmonton Oilers), which dominated at the World Junior Summer Showcase in August with a combined 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in five games, and had 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in seven games to help the U.S. win the bronze medal at the 2016 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. Motzko also could separate them by moving Mittelstadt to center on a different line to spread the offense.

Lindgren will be looked upon to play some solid defense for Team USA. He and Harvard’s Adam Fox will be the top defensive pair for the US squad and so they will be expected to both help in the offensive game and on the power play, but also to serve as a shut down team on the top Canadian, Finnish, Swedish and Russian lines and as penalty killers. Fox is the much more offensive threat, so don’t be surprised to see Lindgren be the save man back a lot and be the more physical threat on the blue line.

The rest of the US squad is made up of several notable names in Minnesota. Bob Motzko the coach of St. Cloud State will lead the US team for the second year in a row. The rest of the US roster includes eight additional native Minnesotans besides the Gopher pair led by five players from UMD. That includes brothers Mikey and Joey Anderson, the latter of which will wear the captains “C” for the US squad. In goal it will be a trio of northeastern goalies as the most likely pair will be Jacob Woll of Boston College and Jake Oettinger of Boston University and a Lakeville native. Another Lakeville native, Ryan Poeling of St. Cloud State will be another player the US looks to for a scoring punch.

The US starts round-robin play on Tuesday night when they play Denmark at 7:00PM. They play Slovakia at 7:00PM on Thursday the 28th, then the outdoor game against Canada at 2:00 PM on Friday the 29th, before completing round robin play on New Year’s Eve at 3:00PM against Finland. The quarterfinals will be on January 2nd, the semifinals on January 4th, and the medal games on Friday January 5th.

Mittelstadt and Lindgren will miss the Gophers series against Army this week for sure, and depending on how the US fairs may miss one of the games against #1 St Cloud State the following weekend. That series was moved to Saturday/Sunday to allow Motzko to be back on the bench for the Huskies but its unclear of either of the Gophers or Huskies in the tournament will be back and ready to go by Saturday.

All of Team USA’s games will air live on the NHL Network. Good luck to the red, white and blue in bringing home the gold once again!