U.S. team set to defend world title

The coach of Team USA, the defending world junior men's hockey champion, says the team north of the border should be considered the favorite heading into the 2005 tournament in Grand Forks, N.D.

"I think Canada is ... based on their past history,'' U.S. coach Scott Sandelin said Tuesday. "They have a lot of returning guys, too.''

USA Hockey rounded out its junior men's roster Tuesday by adding 10 players to the dozen named to the team in early November. The additions include Boston University's Chris Bourque, son of former NHL player and Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque.

The U.S. won its first world junior hockey championship in January when the Americans came from behind to beat Canada 4-3 in the gold-medal game in Finland.

The U.S. will have eight returning players from that team, including goaltender Al Montoya, who was selected the best goaltender in the 2004 tournament and was the sixth overall pick in the 2004 NHL draft by the New York Rangers.

The Americans will try to defend their title on home ice when the 2005 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship opens in Grand Forks and Thief River Falls, Minn., on Dec. 25.

"For me, what I'm trying to impress upon our team is that it's a challenge, but it's more of an opportunity to do something on our home soil,'' Sandelin said. "We're going there to win this tournament. We're going there to win and not just be successful.

"Our team is going to have a different identity than last year's team,'' he said, "and we feel very strongly with the makeup of our team that we can go in there and be very, very successful and win a gold medal.''

The United States is in a pool with Russia, the Czech Republic, Belarus and Switzerland. Canada is in the other pool with Sweden, Finland, Germany and Slovakia.

In addition to Bourque, the U.S. squad has added Robbie Schremp, a first-round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers and the Ontario Hockey League's player of the month for November; Boston College goaltender Cory Schneider; Michigan forward Kevin Porter; Minnesota defenseman Alex Goligoski; Clarkson forward Shawn Weller; St. Cloud State defenseman Casey Borer; Minnesota defenseman Nate Hegemo; Phil Kessel, a forward with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program; and Brian Lee, a high school defenseman in Moorhead, Minn.