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Local players Tkachuk, Frederic, Woll, Brown playing well for Team USA in World Junior Championship

By: Warren Mayes

St. Louis is playing a big role in the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship with four players on the U.S. team.

Team USA ( (2-0-0-1/W-OTW-OTL-L) meets Finland in its final preliminary round game at 4 p.m. Sunday (Dec. 31) at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y. The contest will be broadcast on NHL Network.

The U.S. squad overcame a two-goal deficit to defeat Canada 4-3 on Friday (Dec. 29) in its third preliminary round game. Brady Tkachuk, of St. Louis, who plays for Boston University, and Kieffer Bellows, who is with the Portland Winterhawks, scored in the shootout and Jake Oettinger, who plays for Boston University, didn’t allow a shootout goal in sparking the U.S. team to victory.

The U.S. won the gold medal in the 2017 tournament by defeating Canada 5-4 in a shootout in the championship game

So for the first time since their gold medal epic was decided in a shootout last year, the arch-rival hockey powerhouses went the distance again Friday in a snowy, preliminary round spectacle that ended as a USA victory in front of a frozen crowd at New Era Field, the first game ever played outdoors at the international level.

In addition to Tkachuk, the U.S. roster also has St. Louis natives Logan Brown, Trent Frederic, and Joseph Woll playing. Last summer, Brown was drafted by Ottawa while Frederick was taken by Boston and Woll by Toronto.

Tkachuk likely will be drafted this summer. He aims to become the fourth family member to earn a medal at the World Junior Championship.

His father, Keith, was part of the first-ever U.S. National Junior Team to earn a medal when the U.S. won bronze in 1986 before Brady’s older brother Matthew, did the same in 2016. Then last year, cousin Casey Fitzgerald helped the U.S. win gold at the event in Montreal.

It’s definitely a very prestigious tournament and it’s an honor and privilege to be on this team,” Tkachuk said. “There’s a bunch of great guys on the team and a bunch of great hockey players. It’s going to be a lot of fun, especially this year with the outdoor game.”

A freshman at Boston University after spending the last two seasons with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, Tkachuk’s playing career already is a blend of the ones paved by his dad and brother.

Keith followed his U.S. National Junior Team bronze medal with one season at Boston University before enjoying a 19-year NHL career with the Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues and Atlanta Thrashers. Matthew, meanwhile, skated two seasons with the NTDP and is now in his sophomore campaign with the NHL’s Calgary Flames.

The chance to continue following his older brother and father is something the youngest hockey-playing Tkachuk enjoys.

“It’s awesome being in the same category as them,” Brady Tkachuk said. “Just for [my dad] to watch is extra special and awesome. It’s a little different now because it’s better televised and there’s more talk about it.”

Brady himself already has an international medal to his name after captaining the United States to a gold medal at the 2017 IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship last April.

“I think for [my dad] it’s pretty special for him to see what we’re doing and I think he’s really proud of us,” Brady Tkachuk said. “For me, one of the biggest goals of the year was to be on this team. I’m really excited about this. We have a great team and we have a bright future ahead for our team.”

The U.S. opened the tournament with a 9-0 win over Denmark. Woll, who plays at Boston College, made 17 saves in goal. Tkahuk and Brown each had assists in the victory.

With the victory, the United States has set a new record for most consecutive U.S. wins in World Junior Championship play at nine straight victories. Since a 2-1 semifinal setback to Russia at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, the United States has reeled off nine straight wins in tournament play, besting its previous record of eight-straight wins set by the 2004 and 2005 U.S. National Junior Teams.

The nine-game win streak includes a pair of medal-game wins, including bronze in 2016 and gold last year. Other notable moments in the win streak is Team USA’s first-ever playoff round victory over Russia (4-3 semifinal SOW) and a thrilling come-from-behind 5-4 gold medal-game victory over Canada. Last year’s two victories over Russia and Canada each marked the first time a team defeated two teams twice en route to claiming a gold medal. During that span, the U.S. has outscored opponents, 46-18.

However, the win streak stopped in the second preliminary game.

Tkachuk scored a goal but the U.S. National Junior Team fell to Slovakia, 3-2.

Woll finished with 22 saves in his second game.

Tkachuk was named U.S. Player of the Game.

Now, the U.S. is set to play Finland and move on to the medal round.

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