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U.S. National Under-17 Team Takes On NAHL-Leading Phantoms Tonight

THIS WEEK: The U.S. National Under-17 Team travels to Boardman, Ohio, to take on the North American Hockey League-leading Mahoning Valley Phantoms tonight at 7 p.m. EST.

U.S. HEAD COACH JOHN HYNES: John Hynes is in his fourth season with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program. He has amassed a career record with the NTDP of 111-65-8-5 (W-L-T-OTL). Hynes has earned a gold (2006) and a silver medal (2004) at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Under-18 Championships as a head coach and a gold (2002) as an assistant. In 2005, Hynes led the U.S. National Under-17 Team to a first-place NAHL North Division regular-season finish and a North Division playoff championship, marking the first time this double feat was accomplished by the NTDP. Prior to his arrival in Ann Arbor, he spent time as an assistant coach at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and the University of Wisconsin.

U.S. HEAD COACH JOHN HYNES ON THE WEEK AHEAD: " This will certainly be a tough one-game road trip for us to Mahoning Valley. They have continued to play at a high level since the last time we played them. It will be a challenge for our young squad to take on the league leaders, but we are looking forward to it."

GAME NOTES - Mahoning Valley Phantoms: The Phantoms hold the best record in the NAHL at 24-7-1 and are riding an 18-game winning streak dating back to late October. Mahoning Valley's last loss came on Oct. 21 to the U.S. National Under-18 Team by a count of 10-1 ... The Phantoms topped the U.S. National Under-17 Team 8-3 and 4-1 on Dec. 1-2 during the winning streak ... Fans can watch the game live via internet webcast at Mahoning Valley Phantoms Official Site.

TEAM USA PLAYER NOTES- U.S. defenseman Nick Pryor (Woodbury, Minn.) and forward Kelen Corkum (Newbury, Mass.) will both be out of the lineup versus the Phantoms due to injury ... Ryan Grimshaw (Rochester, N.Y.), who played last weekend with the U.S. National Under-18 Team, will be back in the line-up on Wednesday.

TIS' THE SEASON: USA Hockey's National Team Development Program completed its annual Toys for Tots drive on Tuesday. For the second consecutive year the NTDP gathered more than 1,000 toys and $1,000 in cash donations for underprivileged Ann Arbor-area youth.

INTERNATIONAL FESTIVITIES ON THE HORIZON: The U.S. National Under-17 Team will host the Toys for Tots Four Nations Cup at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube from December 29, 2006 - January 2, 2007. National teams from Finland, Germany, and Sweden will join Team USA as the NTDP hosts its second Four Nations event of the season. Team USA will play December 29 (Germany), December 30 (Finland), and January 1 (Sweden). The third-place and championship games will be held on January 2. Tickets for the event are available by calling (734) 327-9251 extension 16.

LAST WEEK: The U.S. National Under-17 Team split a weekend series with the Marquette Rangers last weekend at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube. On Friday night (Dec. 15), the Rangers shut-out Team USA 3-0. On Saturday night (Dec. 16) Team USA topped Marquette 4-2. Jordan Schroeder (Lakeville, Minn.) led the way offensively with three points (2-1) and Michael Clemente (Great Falls, Va.) was strong in net, stopping 23-of-25 Rangers attempts to earn his third victory of the season.

ABOUT THE NTDP: Founded in 1996, USA Hockey's National Team Development Program was created to prepare student-athletes under the age of 18 for participation on U.S. National Teams and success in their future hockey careers. Its efforts focus not only on high-caliber participation on the ice, but creating well-rounded individuals off the ice. Located in Ann Arbor, Mich., the 46 players in the program are split into two squads - the U.S. National Under-18 and Under-17 Teams. In the eight years NTDP players have been eligible for the draft, 124 players have been selected, including the number one overall selection in both 2000 (Rick DiPietro) and 2006 (Erik Johnson).
 

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U.S. Nat'l Under-17 Team Falls to Phantoms, 3-0

BOARDMAN, Ohio -- The U.S. National Under-17 Team fell 3-0 tonight to the North American Hockey League-leading Mahoning Valley (Ohio) Phantoms at the Boardman Ice Zone.

The Phantoms tallied two goals in the opening frame, including a goal from Chirs Fairbanks with one second left in the period. Mahoning Valley outshot Team USA 28-to-16 through two periods.

Team USA played tough in the third period and outshot the Phantoms 12-to-7, but were unable to beat Mahoning Valley's netminder Ryan Zapolski. Brad Phillips (Farmington Hills, Mich.) stopped 32-of-35 Phantoms attempts in net for Team USA.

The U.S. National Under-17 Team is off until hosting the 2006 Toys for Tots Four Nations Tournament at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube from Dec. 29 - Jan. 2, 2007. Team USA will play the top under-17 teams from Finland, Sweden and Germany in the round-robin event.
 

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Jets Sign Former Moorhead Spud

Fargo (ND) Fans may soon get a glimpse of another former local high school hockey star skating for the Fargo-Moorhead Jets Junior A Hockey team. The team officially added former Moorhead High Spud forward Matt Becker to the roster this week. Becker was a member of the Spuds through the team's 2005 State Tournament run and was a high school teammate of current FM Jets' goaltender Beau Christian

Becker spent last season with the North American Hockey League's Billings Bulls scoring 18 points (7 goals) in 51 games. He was injured in an off-ice accident last spring, but has been skating with the FM Jets since October.

With the addition of Becker, the FM Jets have six players on their roster with local ties including Fargo natives Elliot Okland, Jon Halstenson, Marc Harrie and Grant Larson and Parker Metz along with Moorhead native Beau Christian.

The FM Jets (19-9-1, 39pts) lead the Central Division and are on the road at the Alexandria Blizzard on Friday night at 7:30pm. It's the team's last game until Dec. 29th.

The FM Jets Junior A Hockey Club is in its fourth season as members of the North American Hockey League. The NAHL is the nation's largest Junior A hockey league and is now in its 31st year of operation. For more information, visit fmjets.com or call (701) 235-2354.
 

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Rangers stop Phantoms streak at 19

MARQUETTE, Mich. - Stephen Ritter made 36 saves and Neeco Belanger scored a shorthanded goal with 2:38 remaining in the third period to give the Marquette Rangers a 3-2 win over the Mahoning Valley Phantoms at Lakeview Arena. The loss snaps the Phantoms 19-game winning streak.

Belanger skated with the puck from his own blue line down the right wing. As he entered the Phantoms zone, he flipped the puck between a defenseman's legs as Belanger skated alone into the slot. He roofed a wrist shot over the left shoulder of goaltender Ryan Zapolski for his 11th goal of the season and the Rangers first win over the Phantoms in seven tries.

The Phantoms pulled Zapolski for an extra attacker with 1:03 left, but could not pull even as they lost for the first time since Oct. 21.

Mahoning Valley, 25-8-1, took advantage of five power play opportunities in the first period to take the early lead. On a five-on-three advantage, Chris Fairbanks caught Ritter out of position and fed Chad Boeckman in the left circle.

Alone with the left side of the net open, Boeckman easily scored his ninth goal of the season at the 10:15 mark for a 1-0 lead.

But the Rangers fought back in the second period with a pair of power play goals. With two seconds left on a five-on-three advantage, defenseman Derek Grogan floated a wrist shot from the right circle that beat a screened Zapolski over the shoulder. Grogan's second goal of the season tied the game at the 11:36 mark.

Marquette, 11-18-2, took the lead five minutes later, two seconds after another five-on-three advantage expired. Brodie Zuk took a rebound off the backboard in the right circle and fired a slap shot that handcuffed Zapolski. Zuk's 12th goal of the season gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead with 3:23 left in the period.

The Phantoms peppered Ritter in the third period with two more two-man advantages and six power play opportunities in the period. But the Rangers goaltender stood the test and had a little luck along the way.

Eric Ringel was robbed by Ritter point blank in between the circles with 15 minutes remaining. With nine minutes left, Matt Quigley hit the crossbar to the right of Ritter after taking a pass from Nathan Longpre.

Then, with 6:40 remaining, the Phantoms tied the game. Longpre's shot from the left circle deflected off Ritter's stick and popped straight in the air. The puck landed to Ritter's left and bounced off defenseman Jason Cohen's skate into the net. Longpre's goal was number 14 on the season.

Mahoning Valley played without the services of defenseman Trent Bonnett. Bonnett suffered a broken jaw in Wednesday's 3-0 win over the U.S. National Team when he was hit with a puck. He is expected to miss a minimum of four weeks.

The Phantoms out-shot Marquette 38-29 as Zapolski made 26 saves in the loss. Mahoning Valley was 1 for 13 on the power play while the Rangers finished 2 for 7. Both teams will face-off again on Saturday at 7 p.m.

The Mahoning Valley Phantoms are owned by the B.J. Alan Company- Phantom Fireworks and are headquartered in Youngstown, Ohio.
 

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Chorney Named Captain of U.S. National Junior Team

LEKSAND, Sweden -- Defenseman Taylor Chorney (Hastings, Minn./University of North Dakota) was named captain of the 2007 U.S. National Junior Team today it was announced by U.S. Head Coach Ron Rolston (Fenton, Mich.).

Chorney is making his second appearance on a U.S. National Junior Team after having played in all seven games for Team USA at the 2006 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.

In addition, Rolston named defenseman Kyle Lawson (New Hudson, Mich./University of Notre Dame) and forward Jim Fraser (Port Huron, Mich./Harvard University) as alternate captains. Both are playing on their first U.S. Junior National Team.

Team USA is currently preparing for its opening game of the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship against Germany on Tuesday (Dec. 26). Opening faceoff is set for 9 a.m. (EST) in Leksand, Sweden. The game will be televised live in the United States on NHL Center Ice. In addition, a live audiocast of the contest can be heard at usahockey.com.

NOTES: Team USA won both of its exhibition games earlier in the week, including a 6-3 victory over the Czech Republic on Wednesday (Dec. 20) and a 5-3 victory over Switzerland on Friday (Dec. 22) ... Team USA and Germany will meet Tuesday (Dec. 26) for the first time in the World Junior Championship since Dec. 31, 1996, when the U.S. earned an 8-0 victory in the preliminary round. All-time, the U.S. is 15-3-0 against Germany in the World Junior Championship ... The 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship will feature athletes under the age of 20 on international teams including the United States, Belarus, Canada, Germany, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland ... The U.S. National Junior Team is coming off a fourth-place finish at the 2006 World Junior Championship in Vancouver, British Columbia ... Eight members of the U.S. National Junior Team are returning from last year's team, including Taylor Chorney (Hastings, Minn./University of North Dakota), Frazee, Gerbe, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Brian Lee (Moorhead, Minn./University of North Dakota), Mueller and Jack Skille (Madison, Wis./University of Wisconsin).
 
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