The American under-20 hockey team had some behind-the-scenes help from a Buckeye when it took bronze in one of the most prestigious international tournaments last week.
Mark Osiecki, coach of the Ohio State men’s hockey team, was an assistant coach for the U.S. team in the 2011 International Ice Hockey Federation Under-20 World Junior Championships.
The tournament, commonly called the World Juniors, while not that popular in the U.S., is very popular in Canada and among hockey fans.
“Nine out of 10 households in Canada watched,” Osiecki said. “It’s the Stanley Cup finals; it’s the Olympics all wrapped up into one with young kids. The excitement and enthusiasm that’s surrounding that tournament with the kids is unbelievable. I mean they lay it out there on the line every single shift, every single game.”
OSU defenseman Curtis Gedig agreed.
“Oh, it’s massive,” said the West Kelowna, British Columbia, native. “You go into Tim Horton’s and they’re asking about it, asking the scores if the game’s on. It’s all over the advertisements. It’s nuts. Everybody is crazy about it.”
This year’s World Juniors was in Buffalo, N.Y., and concluded Jan. 5. The U.S. beat Sweden 4-2 in the bronze medal game and Russia came back from a three-goal deficit to beat Canada, 5-3, to win the gold medal game.
“It’s a tremendous honor to put on those colors and represent your country,” Osiecki said. “It’s a tough tournament where you learn a lot of things in a short period of time.”
OSU senior forward C.J. Severyn said it was important for the entire Buckeye program that Osiecki made the American coaching staff.
“To be given that honor to be the assistant coach for the USA team at the World Juniors is definitely a great accomplishment for him and for our team as well to get that kind of recognition,” Severyn said.
Osiecki and the Buckeyes were able to stop in Buffalo and see one of the American games while traveling to Vermont, Canada, for a tournament.
“It was nice that we were able to work that out and we were able to adjust our travel plans to make that happen,” Osiecki said. “Not so much for me, but it was more important for the players to be there and see that environment.”
Gedig said that despite being Canadian, he was rooting for the Americans, but only to a certain extent.
“You always want what’s best for your coach,” he said. “But when they were playing Canada, obviously I had to cheer for Canada.”
Osiecki had to miss the Buckeyes’ two games in Vermont but said he had no hesitation about leaving the team.
“No, not one bit,” Osiecki said. “I like the older kids we have here and I knew that they would take care of business, but more importantly I like the coaching staff we have.”
Osiecki was also an assistant coach last year when the U.S. won gold.