Trocheck, Pittsburgh kids hungry for Canada
The hockey rivalry between the United States and Canada, on the rise for many years, will have a distinctly Pittsburgh feel in its next installment.
Four local players will lead Team USA against Canada in the semifinals of the World Junior Championship on Thursday in Ufa, Russia. The game will start at 4 a.m. in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Vince Trocheck (Upper St. Clair), J.T. Miller (Coraopolis), John Gibson (Whitehall) and Riley Barber (Washington) are all playing significant roles for the Americans, who defeated the Czech Republic in a 7-0 quarterfinal rout on Wednesday.
Next is rematch against Canada. The Americans fell to the Canadians, 2-1, last week.
“Growing up,” Trocheck told the Tribune-Review on Wednesday, “you always watch the Olympics and the junior championships, and as an American, you always want that shot at Canada. We're so fired up. The intensity will be unbelievable.”
Team USA appears to be peaking. Trocheck believes the Americans will be better prepared to face Canada in the rematch.
“We're coming out twice as hard in this one,” he said. “We knew what we were getting ourselves into the last time we played. They're a great, great team. They have a lot of talent. But you know what? We're getting better every game. We didn't have the greatest game against them the last time. But that loss really lit a fire under our butts. We've been a different team since.”
The local players are huge contributors for the Americans. Trocheck is perhaps the team's best two-way center, a focal point of the penalty-killing and power-play units.
Miller is one of the tournament's finest power forwards.
Barber has emerged as a clutch goal scorer.
Gibson is perhaps the tournament's best goaltender.
Playing together one final time has been a thrill for the group.
“It's been quite an experience to play with all of these guys,” Trocheck said. “I've pretty much known Riley, Johnny and J.T. all my life. To kind of rekindle the flame one more time on the ice with these guys has been unbelievable for us.”
Speaking of unbelievable, the rivalry between Canada and the U.S. has become perhaps the biggest in hockey.
The guy who authored the most famous moment between the Americans and Canadians chimed in on Wednesday.
“It's going to be a great game, I'm sure,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby told the Tribune-Review.
Crosby scored the overtime goal in the 2010 Olympics that gave Canada the gold medal. America settled for silver.
“I think Canada and Russia always had a great rivalry because of the history of the teams,” Crosby said. “But lately, it's been the U.S. and Canada, and it's produced great hockey. I've been a part of it. It's a special rivalry.”
Trocheck, a Florida Panthers prospect who scored twice in a must-win game against Slovakia on Monday, would love to help the Americans get gold this time. Going through Canada is the only route to gold.
“We are confident,” Trocheck said. “We feel like we're on a roll, like we're finally playing our best hockey. I can't wait. We're ready.”
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1975.