Column: Meet your new miracle on ice

Tony Granato, United States olympic men's hockey coach, speaks during a news conference in Plymouth, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

The 2018 PyeongChang Games will have a noticeable lack of star power.

For the first time since 1994, the NHL isn’t allowing teams to send players to the Olympics. Instead, squabbling between the NHL and the Olympic Committee will cause Olympic teams to round out their rosters with some less than familiar names.

There might be less talent than the fans are used to, but what the product on the ice lacks in household names, it will more than make up for in storylines. Most of the members of Team USA and Canada are realizing dreams that they never would have thought possible. Just like the 1980 Olympic Team, this isn’t a Dream Team but a team full of dreamers.

The Olympic Athletes from Russia are the favorites to take home gold with a trio of elite former NHLers in Iyla Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Andrei Markov. However, the field is still wide open for Team USA to make a run to the medal podium. With a motley crew of former and future NHL stars, the red, white and blue could go from a bunch of nobodies to Olympic legends just like 1980 counterparts.

Let me introduce you to the 2018 Men’s Olympic Hockey Team.

Forwards: Brian Gionta is the elder statesman and team captain. The 39-year-old right-winger has the most impressive resume of anyone on the roster with 588 points in his 15-year NHL career and a previous trip to the Olympics in 2006.

Chris Bourque and Mark Arcobello are two other players with NHL experience gracing the team’s lines. Bourque, son of Hall of Famer Ray Bourque is currently leading the ANHL in points after flaming out of the NHL after 50 career games. Arcobello was league MVP of the National League in Switzerland last year.  Broc Little and Garrett Roe join Arcobello as some of the NL’s top point-getters suiting up for Team USA.

A lot of this team’s offense is also going to come from its youth.

Troy Terry, Jordan Greenway and Ryan Donato get to put down their college textbooks for a couple weeks as they’re expected to do a bulk of the offensive work for the team. Terry played a crucial role in helping the US win gold in the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, scoring three straight shootout goals to beat Russia in the semifinals and the game-winning goal in the gold-medal game. Greenway was also on that gold-medal team and Donato is one of college hockey’s most prolific goal scorers.

Defenseman: Matt Gilroy is the team’s most prolific blueliner. Gilroy won the 2009 Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s top player and is currently playing in the KHL after 225 career NHL games.

Will Borgen rounds out the quartet of current college players on this team. Borgen has helped lead St. Cloud State to be among the nation’s elite teams.

Borgen will be sharing the blue line with someone that had already made his NHL debut when Borgen was in elementary school. James Wisniewski brings a veteran presence to the back end of the team. With 552 career NHL games, Wisnewski brings another veteran presence to the team.

Goaltenders: How far Team USA can go will largely depend on expected starting goaltender Ryan Zapolski. A streaking goalie can carry his team by himself and Zapolski has proven he can play with the worlds’ best. Zapolski played in Finland the last five seasons before make the switch to Russia’s Kontienental Hockey League this season. In the KHL, Zapolski has posted a 1.68 Goals Against Average, which is encouraging considering most of this tournament’s elite talent is going to come from the KHL. Zapolski hasn’t been named the official starter but Brandon Maxwell and David Leggio are his expected backups between the pipes.

Coaching: Tony Granato is the man in charge of shaping this roster of veterans, NHL flameouts and college kids into a medal winner. Luckily, Granato has had a hockey career that should allow him to connect with everyone on the roster. After a 14-year NHL playing career, Granato spent over decade bouncing around the league as a coach and is now the head coach at Wisconsin. Keith Allain, Chris Chelios, Ron Rolston and Scott Young join him on the bench. Overall, it’s a group of hockey minds whose experience will be invaluable to a team with a lack of time to learn how to play together.

So there’s the rundown of your 2018 Olympic team. If you don’t commit the names to memory right now, that’s fine.

You just might never be able to forget them in a couple weeks.


Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at bryan.lambert@uconn.edu.