Men’s Division III hockey players set to represent United States at World University Games

By Tim Costello-November 23, 2022

The 31st edition of the FISU World University Games (WUG) is scheduled to take place in Lake Placid, NY in January 2023. The winter games have not been contested since 2019 in Krasnoyarsk, Russia as the 2021 edition scheduled for Lucerne, Switzerland were canceled due to COVID-19. This year for the first time, the USA hockey team participating in the WUG will be comprised of D-III players as the US takes a different direction from prior teams that participated in the games.

“I think it is really exciting for D-III hockey,” said USA head coach Mark Taylor. “It is a great recognition to the caliber of play at the Division III level here in the US that we have been given the opportunity to compete in the games for the very first time in January of next year. Many of the players have never had the opportunity to pull on the USA sweater and represent their country in any kind of international tournament so we know how special this opportunity is and look forward to representing our country and D-III hockey well, hopefully earning a medal.”

In the past, club level hockey players had represented the USA at the World University Games. This year the roster will be filled by current D-III players from across the country and with the tournament being played in early January, the players will be in the midst of their season and in good playing form coming together to represent their country in Lake Placid after the New Year. While the roster will be announced in early December (check USCHO for upcoming release), the staff managing the team selection and coaching for the tournament is already in place.

Former Middlebury head coach and Lake Placid native son Bill Beaney is the team’s general manager while the coaching staff boasts some top names in the D-III game from east and west. Hobart’s Mark Taylor is the head coach for the USA with Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Matt Loen filling the associate head coach role. Former Lawrence head coach Mike Szkodzinski fills another assistant role while Jack Ceglarski from Middlebury rounds out the impressive staff.

“It is great to have the regions so well represented across the staff,” noted Taylor. “I think it is a great group and knowledgeable about the different players and style of play as we start looking to finalize a roster in the upcoming weeks. Matt has won a national title at UWEC; Mike has a great pedigree at Lawrence and Jack brings his knowledge as a player in SUNYAC and coaching in NESCAC to support our building a competitive roster. I am really excited for this opportunity for our whole staff and of course the players.”

The tournament will see twelve teams in two pools of six teams each. The USA will play in Pool B against Great Britain, South Korea, Slovakia, Kazakhstan and Hungary with the top two teams in the pool advancing to the medal round against the top two teams from Pool A. Pool A participants include Canada, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Japan, Latvia and Sweden.

“I think that this time Lake Placid is a coming out party for the D-III players at the WUG like it was for college players back in 1980,” said Jack Ceglarski. “I don’t think it is going to take too much extra motivation to get a USA team excited to play an international tournament in a venue that has so much history for USA Hockey.”

With the tournament in the midst of the season, there isn’t time for a training camp so the players assembled will have to gel quickly within just a few practices onsite prior to their first game against Great Britain on January 11.

“Of course, there are a lot of unknowns,” said coach Mike Szkodzinski. “While the other guys on the staff have been focused on their current teams on the ice, I have been doing a lot of analysis and video work on identifying and sharing how we build out this roster. We have had great support from other coaches across D-III and want to give these players the best and most competitive experience possible. We want to play fast and take away time and space to force bad decisions. If you give good hockey players opportunities with the puck, they can hurt you at any level. Our goal is to medal and it would be great if we earned a spot in the final which will be broadcast on ESPN – not the Ocho – live!”

With the roster expected to be announced in early December, the coaches don’t have a lot of time left to cull through the available players for a final list that will arrive in Lake Placid and pull on the red, white and blue sweater for the first time in the World University Games.

“We are all so excited for this and for D-III hockey,” said UWEC head coach Matt Loen. “Our first goal is to put together a great roster. We probably have enough just on our west list now for a full roster and sure the east with more teams is large as well. D-I has the World Juniors and are used to managing an in-season tournament like this but this is all new to us. We have lot to consider with a roster of 23 players. Do we go with two or three goalies? What are injuries going to look like at the time of the tournament? There are lots of things to consider but I know our staff will do everything required to get the best team in place for January. We have to do it right and get the best players in D-III to showcase the talent and give us the best chance to succeed. It is a little nerve racking right now but our staff will work through it over the next couple of weeks so we can announce the team around the time players are hitting the semester break.”

Be on the lookout for the roster announcement early in December while the WUG kicks off for eleven days in January in Lake Placid and other local area venues. USCHO will be providing coverage of the tournament in January when the D-III players take center stage for the USA.

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