UND’s Grimaldi on World Juniors rosterGRAND FORKS — USA Hockey officials made their rounds in the last month, trying to identify which players it will bring to this year’s World Junior Championship.
By: Brad Schlossman, The Dickinson Press
GRAND FORKS — USA Hockey officials made their rounds in the last month, trying to identify which players it will bring to this year’s World Junior Championship.
One guy was a no-brainer.
University of North Dakota redshirt freshman forward Rocco Grimaldi, who has led the Americans to a gold medal in every international championship he’s played in, is one of 27 players on the preliminary roster.
Four cuts will be made after camps in New York City and Helsinki, Finland, but it’s a good bet that Grimaldi will be in Ufa, Russia, come Dec. 26 — the opening date of the World Juniors.
Grimaldi, who has 11 points in 14 games for UND this season, was expected to be a strong candidate for last year’s team, but he had to sit out the event because of a knee injury he suffered at UND.
The U.S. ended up finishing seventh — one of USA Hockey’s worst finishes ever in the event.
Grimaldi’s history has been golden.
“Many, many memories,” Grimaldi said. “Many great memories.”
His first international event was the World Under-17 Challenge in Timmins, Ont. The Americans went 6-0, won gold and Grimaldi finished as the tournament’s leading scorer.
A few months later, Grimaldi was bumped up to the Under-18 to play in the IIHF tournament. Despite being one of two 1993-born players on the squad, Grimaldi led the Americans in scoring and again came away with gold.
Two years ago, Grimaldi finished third on the team in scoring and helped the Americans go U18 gold once again.
“Both U18 tournaments were memorable in their own ways,” Grimaldi said. “The first one, we lost to Sweden and had to battle our way back to make the quarters. We rolled from there. The second one, we had to win overtime games in both the semifinals and the championship.”
This year, there will be a large spotlight on the World Juniors. With the NHL lockout, it will receive top billing around the world.
“There will be more people watching and there will be more at stake,” Grimaldi said. “I guess I like that. There will be a lot of really talented players — NHL players and close-to-NHL players. I’ve played with and against a lot of these guys for years and years. It should be fun to see how I match up against them.”
Grimaldi will play for UND in its next two series against Denver and at Michigan Tech. After that, he will fly to New York. Grimaldi will miss the series against Holy Cross on Jan. 4-5.
Grimaldi will return for a home series against Colorado College on Jan. 11-12.
Other Western Collegiate Hockey Association players on the initial roster are Wisconsin defenseman Jake McCabe, Minnesota defensemen Mike Reilly and Brady Skjei and Michigan Tech forward Blake Pietila.