Under-18 roster has NHL pedigree
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FREDONIA, N.Y. -- The Fredonia State Blue Devils will get a first-hand look at one of America's top NHL-producing amateur teams Thursday night in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The Blue Devils (4-5-3) will meet the U.S. National Under-18 team at 7:30 p.m. in the Ann Arbor Ice Cube, home rink to USA Hockey's National Team Development Program (NTDP).
The game will be broadcast locally by WCVF (88.9 FM) and will be webcast by WDVL The Inferno.
There were over 35 NTDP alums on NHL rosters during the 2007-08 season. Since 1996, the NTDP has produced 152 players drafted by NHL teams, including 31 first-round picks. Three of those first-rounders were No. 1 overall picks: Rick DiPietro (New York Islanders, 2000), Eric Johnson (St. Louis, 2006), and Patrick Kane (Chicago, 2007).
Current Under-18 members include sons of two former NHL players. Ryan Bourque's dad, Ray, had a Hall of Fame career with the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche (another son, Chris, made his NHL debut last season with the Washington Capitals). John Ramage's dad, Rob, played 15 seasons with seven NHL teams.
In addition, players on the current roster have already made verbal commitments to some of the top college programs in the nation, among them Boston College, University of Denver, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
This is the first time Fredonia State will play an U.S. Under-18 team. They will also meet Jan. 13 at Steele Hall.
"We are approaching the game," Blue Devil head coach Jeff Meredith said, "as a tremendous opportunity for our student-athletes to represent Fredonia and the SUNYAC Conference. ... This team (the Under-18s) regularly beats Division I teams and (on Nov. 1) beat Harvard 4-0."
The Under-18s do not play in a league. They schedule mostly NCAA Division I and junior teams, but also play against NCAA Division III teams (they are 4-0 so far this season, including a 7-2 victory Sunday at Middlebury) and in three international tournaments. Last month at Lake Placid, the Americans defeated Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland to claim the Four Nations title.
In playing a team of such high caliber, Meredith said the key is for the Blue Devils will be to remain patient and wait for their scoring chances, even if it means sacrificing puck possession in order to stay in good defensive position.
"We will have to be very organized and together in our system, especially our defensive zone coverage," he said. "Honestly, we look at it as a great chance to play a fantastic team. We need to have a certain level of respect, but not too much respect. We cannot play timid or afraid, we have to get after them when we have the chance and play controlled when we cannot pressure them.
"Knowing the difference between the two of these situations can make all the difference."
Meredith said Fredonia State's all-time leading scorer, Jeff Lupu, will be a guest speaker at the Blue Devils' pre-game meal Thursday in Ann Arbor. Lupu, a resident of Rochester Hills, Mich., totaled 234 points over four seasons in the mid-1990s. He was a Division III All-American and a two-time Blue Devil captain, and is a member of the Fredonia State Athletics Hall of Fame.