The following notes are based off of watching a large portion of the inter squad scrimmage Friday night and the first half of the 10AM USA Maryland scrimmage Saturday morning.
The 2023 team is going to look incredibly different from the squad that captured gold in Israel in 2018. How much value will being being either a USA veteran or PLL veteran be for the coaching staff?
To quote Herb Brooks, I’m not looking for the best players, I’m looking for the right ones. The announcers constantly mentioned this idea was told to them as well by the coaching staff. Presumably this allows for some specialists to be in play on the offensive end of the field. Marcus Holman or Will Manny immediately come to mind.
Neither are the dodging threat they once were, but does the coaching staff prioritize their shooting over being multi dimensional? Ryan Brown was this exact role in 2018. But, he scored 25 goals, most importantly a hat trick in the gold medal game. Do you envision either of those two putting up those numbers? If the roster could be bigger, there would be room for one or both. Manny was on our first draft roster posted July 29th.
No idea why Mac O’Keefe isn’t at training camp.
The Canadians don’t have someone who can cover Micheal Sowers. Which means they are going to be under an incredible amount of stress to cover the second and third attackman. Deploying a specialist at attack would bail out the Maple Leafs. They may even be tempted to bump a pole up to the midfield. The Americans have an advantage in the midfield against their short sticks even if Currier takes a bulk of those shifts.
Friday night’s attack groupings were all over the map understandably so as the coaches were trying to test out combinations but the trio of Rob Pannell, Asher Nolting, and Brennan O’Neill seemed like an obvious waste of time.
Things ironed out Saturday morning with Sowers and O’Neill joining Matt Rambo. That’s your starting group. Or, you could go with McArdle in for Rambo to capitalize on the Waterdogs chemistry.
Either way, you’re getting the best ball carrier in the world in Sowers. The ball doesn’t die in his stick. Like some other right handed attackmen. He was exceptionally active off ball in ways other right handed attackmen are not.
Rambo, McArdle, O’Neill give you play making, multi dimensional left handed options. Rambo tends to score more of his goals off the dodge but you have hands free shooters in McArdle and O’Neill who can quite frankly do whatever he wants. He was effective in Ireland creating for himself or playing off the ball. He completely blew by Matt Dunn in his first attempt Friday night but just missed wide.
The chemistry between Sowers and McArdle with the Waterdogs and the second chance team up between Sowers and O’Neill is too alluring to pass up. Those are the best four attackmen and more importantly, they fit together.
Slot Matt Moore or Jules Heninburg or even Tom Schreiber down there for a quick blow during pool play blow outs. Rob Pannell and Grant Ament are names understandably being bandied about on Twitter. The ball stops dead in their sticks too much. Pannell might get the nod as a USA veteran. He still puts up points for the Redwoods but hasn’t been a member of a winning pro team in years. Graeme Hossack would make things very difficult for him.
Ament registered points Friday night thanks to being covered by a short stick defensive middie at X. He tallied an assist. And, registered another assist off a big little two man game. He wasn’t the same player this summer that he was in 2021. He was recovering from injury over the summer. Perhaps he still is, but Ament at his best is not better than Sowers.
Ament, Sowers, and Pannell aren’t going to wow you as stretch shooters. O’Neill can do that though. While you could argue that Wolf and Pannell were successful in 2018 for the US, any combination of those three will be a down grade to choosing two from the McArdle, Rambo, O’Neill trio.
Would playing a two man game against Canadian poles be a trap or is that over thinking?
We went into this weekend thinking Blaze Riorden and Kyle Bernlohr were the locked in as the netminders. Then, USA vet Jack Kelly had a great showing. If you want to get lost in worry, as good as Blaze has been the last two seasons, he won’t be tasked with shutting down shooters from the Whipsnakes or Waterdogs. He will be tasked with stopping his own Chaos teammates.
No matter what combination the US deploys on offense, the Canadians thanks to Andy Towers’ roster, will have a significant edge in chemistry. Dhane Smith and Justin Byrne are absolutely making the team. Challen Rogers, Chase Fraser, Chris Cloutier, and Ryan Smith would complete a six man unit. They could also select former Chaos member Curtis Dickson.
Trevor Baptiste did not dress Friday. Presumably he didn’t play Saturday although we didn’t watch closely enough. TD Ierlan had flashes of his college days on Friday night. Current Lehigh product Michael Sisselberger also popped. The coaches are going to have their hands full selecting two faceoff men. Prior to Friday, we wanted Joe Nardella and Baptiste. Regardless of who is chosen, this duo will be better than the Canadians. The challenge on game day will be clean wins and exits to avoid the Canadian wings.
Jack Hannah was a revelation Friday night scoring a hat trick on maybe four shots. Could the coaching staff give him an opportunity to pop in the gold medal game or will his shooting inconsistencies make them nervous?
We know who Rob Pannell is. We know who Sergio Perkovic is. We know who Marcus Holman is. How much better will Jack Hannah or Sam Handley be by next summer?
Handley and Connor Shellenberger, both on our initial and revised wishlist roster, were disappointing Friday night. Handley has a better chance to make the final roster due to size, athleticism, and position. Shellenberger appears to be a bit redundant.
The pole group will be revolve around supporting and compliment Matt Dunn, JT Giles-Harris and Michael Ehrhardt. Do attack dogs Jack Rowlett and Garrett Epple get the nod at the risk of taking a penalty in the gold medal game? Do they trust Eddy Glazener to be recovered from his achilles injury? Perhaps Jesse Bernhardt gets another opportunity.
Much like the face off group, the American defensive middie talent is light years ahead of the Canadians. Sign us up for any combination of Danny Logan, Ryan Terefenko, and Zach Goodrich.
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