Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli has kept himself busy this past week by taking the reins of Team USA at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. The under-18 event is always a premier pre-season destination for scouts and top prospects, and the talent for the red, white, and blue has yet to disappoint.
Donatelli’s squad is 3-0 and secured itself a spot in the semifinals by taking down Finland, Switzerland and the host country, the Czech Republic.
The U.S. had a tough task right out of the gate against a Finnish program that has risen to the peak of international junior hockey at multiple levels over the past few years. The two teams tussled to a 3-3 draw at the end of regulation and went to sudden death overtime. St. Cloud State commit Ryan Poehling found the back of the net 4:36 into overtime for the deciding goal, the first of many big contributions from Poehling in the tournament.
Sasha Chmelevski proved to be the x-factor against Switzerland in Team USA’s second game, scoring twice– including the game-winner– and added one assist. Team USA went on to win, 4-3, once again.
In game three, Poehling stepped up in a big way once again and recorded a hat trick within 11 minutes of the second period as the U.S. went on to defeat the Czechs, 4-2. Although Poeling’s individual effort stole the headlines, Donatelli believes his team team has gotten stronger with every game and their victory over the hosts was their finest effort yet.
“I thought we played exceptional tonight,” Donatelli told USA Hockey reporters after the win against the Czech Republic. “We really elevated our game and executed the game plan. It was one of our best games of the tournament so far.”
Next up for Donatelli and the rest of Team USA is Russia in the semifinals. Russia is also undefeated in the tournament so far, and even knocked off Canada, 2-1, in their second game. Russia’s defeat of Canada guaranteed that the reigning Hlinka Tournament champs of the past eight years would not even medal this year.
On the opposite side of the bracket, the Czech Republic takes on Sweden.
The U.S. has medaled at the Hlinka Tournament 12 times since its inception in 1991, but has only captured gold once (2003). Donatelli’s team looks to take another step closer to adding gold medal No. 2 to the United States’ trophy case Friday, Aug. 11 in its game against Russia, scheduled for a 11:30 ET start time.