December 31, 2012

Vesey helps lift U.S. into quarterfinals at WJC

By Shawn Hutcheon

Harvard's Jim Vesey played a big role in Team USA's win over Slovakia Monday. (Getty Images)

The 2013 World Junior Championships preliminary round has concluded in Ufa, Russia and Team USA has advanced to the quarterfinals. The Americans will face off against the Czech Republic in Wednesday’s match. After winning their opening game against Germany (8-0), Team USA lost back to back games against Russia and Canada.

Coach Phil Housley’s squad needed a victory in its final opening round tilt versus Slovakia in order to advance and that’s where players with New England ties took over and led the club to a 9-3 victory.

After being reduced to a limited role and little ice time in the three previous games, Housley inserted Harvard University freshman Jim Vesey (North Reading, Mass.) onto the club’s top unit with J.T. Miller and Johnny Gaudreau (Boston College) against Slovakia. The move paid off as Vesey used his skill, speed and exemplary vision to set up three consecutive first period goals, including the game-winner for Team USA. The assists were the first points for the Nashville Predators draft pick. He is also a plus-2 and has three shots on goal in the tournament. After the win over Slovakia, a satisfied Vesey told the NHL Network, “I was able to show what I can do today.” Housley said he does not plan on changing the lineup in the playoff round, which is good news for Vesey.

Gaudreau entered the tilt with Slovakia with zero points in the WJC but was another player with New England ties who was instrumental in the victory over the European power. He was the benefactor from Vesey’s contributions, as Gaudreau broke his goalless streak. The Calgary Flames draft pick finished the night with two goals and one assist against the Slovaks. Overall, the Boston College Eagle had his best game of the tournament. After four games, Gaudreau’s plus-minus is even. He has taken 15 shots on goal in the tournament and will need to continue his explosive style and goal scoring if the USA is to play for the gold medal.

The third member of the New England delegation, goaltender Jon Gillies (Portland, Maine), saw action in the third period in the team’s tournament opener against Germany. The Providence College Friar, and Calgary Flames draft pick, stopped all seven shots he faced to preserve the 8-0 victory for Team USA. He has served as the American’s back up puck stopper in each game since that contest.

Power Rankings

1) Boston Jr. Bruins (21-6-0-0-0) - BJB is on its holiday break and did not play last week. They lead the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s Northern Division with 42 points. The Jr. Bruins will return to action in the EJHL’s Winter Showcase on home ice in Marlboro, Massachusetts January 4, 2013 versus the Atlantic Junior Hockey League’s New York Bobcats.

2) Islanders Hockey Club (19-7-0-0-1) - The Islanders kept pace with the idle Jr. Bruins last week by defeating the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (4-1) and the Boston Bandits (4-1). IHC trails the Jr. Bruins by three points. They will return to the ice on January 4th in the EJHL Showcase against the Boston Jr. Rangers of the AJHL.

3) Valley Jr. Warriors (19-10-0-0-0) - VJW won both ends of a two game series last week in Connecticut versus the Oilers (6-2, 6-5). They remain in third place in the EJHL’s Northern Division. The Warriors are one point in arrears of the Islanders. After the holiday break, Valley will face off against the AJHL’s Walpole Express on January 4th in the EJHL Showcase.

4) South Shore Kings (18-11-0-3-0) - The Kings have picked up ten wins in their last twelve contests to bolt into second place in the EJHL’s Southern Division. South Shore is enjoying the holidays and will return to the rink on January 4th at the circuit’s Showcase with a tilt versus the AJHL’s Northern Cyclones.

5) Northern Cyclones (17-6-1-2) - The Cyclones have not been in action since their December 14th AJHL victory over the Connecticut Wolfpack. Northern will be back on the ice at the EJHL Showcase where they will take on the South Shore Kings.

6) Connecticut Wolfpack (17-6-2-1) - The ‘Pack is in a tie for second place in the AJHL with the Northern Cyclones and trail the first place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights by four points. Connecticut is observing the holidays and will face off against Quebec’s College du Alma at the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s Showcase.

7) Walpole Express (17-6-2-0) - Walpole’s last game action resulted in a victory over the New Jersey Titans (2-1). The Express, fourth in the AJHL, will skate in the EJHL Showcase on January 4th against the Valley Jr. Warriors.

8) Boston Jr. Rangers (13-4-7-2) - Recently, the Jr. Rangers occupied first place in the AJHL, they now sit in fifth place but are just six points from returning to the top perch. They look to go on a long winning streak starting with a match at the EJHL Showcase versus the Islanders Hockey Club on January 4th.

9) Bay State Breakers (15-13-0-0-2) - The Breakers swept a two game series (7-3, 5-2) from the Portland Jr. Pirates last week allowing them to move into third place in the EJHL’s Southern Division. After the holidays, Bay State will take on the Rochester Jr. Stars in a league tilt at the circuit’s Showcase on January 4th.

10) Springfield Jr. Pics (15-14-0-0-1) - The Pics enter the holiday season on a three game losing streak. They sit in fourth place in the EJHL’s Southern Division, trailing Bay State by one point in the standings. Springfield will return to action on January 4th at the league’s Showcase versus the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs. The match will count toward the league standings.

11)  Boston Bandits (12-13-0-0-1) - Boston dropped two tilts last week to the South Shore Kings (3-2) and the Islanders Hockey Club (4-1) but remain in fifth place in the EJHL’s Southern Division. The Bandits are three points behind fourth place Rochester Jr. Stars. Boston will appear at the circuit’s Showcase on January 4th taking on the EJ South representative Potomac Patriots.

12) New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (11-12-0-0-2) - Last Friday, the Monarchs went up against their former longtime coach, Sean Tremblay and his Islanders Hockey Club looking to defeat their former leader but it was not to be as the Islanders left Hooksett, New Hampshire with a victory (4-1). After the holiday break, NHJM will travel to Marlboro, Massachusetts to face off against the Springfield Jr. Pics in a league game at the EJHL Showcase.      

13) Laconia Leafs (7-17-4-0) - The club from Northern New Hampshire did not play last week in observance of the holidays. The Leafs currently occupy eleventh place in the twelve team AJHL. They are one point behind tenth place Philadelphia Little Flyers. Laconia will get back to action on January 9th in the first match of a two game series in Hudson, New Hampshire versus the Northern Cyclones.

14) Connecticut Oilers (7-16-0-2-1) - CT has lost three consecutive contests and reside in sixth place in the EJHL’s Southern Division. They are seven points ahead of seventh place Philadelphia Revolution. Last week, the Oilers lost both games of a two game series to the Valley Jr. Warriors (6-2, 6-5). Connecticut will hit the ice again on January 4th against the AJHL’s Washington Jr. Nationals.

15) Portland Jr. Pirates (7-23-0-1-0) - The Jr. Pirates will open the EJHL’s showcase against the Space Coast Hurricanes of the EJ South circuit on January 4th. Portland has lost eight of its last ten contests and resides in last place in the EJHL’s Northern Division.

Shawn Hutcheon can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.