When this year's NTDP U17 team was announced, there was talk that this could be a pretty special group of players, and one of the more talented groups to come through the program in their impressive history. Nobody had any idea of just how good they could be though, and while it may still be too early if they'll go down as one of the best in program history, the '97s made a pretty convincing statement this past week, dominating some of the best in the world, winning six straight games by a combined score of 47 to 6 to win the gold medal at the World U17 Challenge.
The US cruised through pool play with win of 5-1 over Russia, 14-1 over Germany, 9-1 over Canada Atlantic, and 6-2 over Ontario, in their toughest test of the tournament. In the medal round, they obliterated Quebec 9-1 in the semifinal, before taking home a 4-0 win over Canada Pacific in the tournament finale.
Boston College commit Colin White led the tournament in scoring with 10 goals and 8 assists for 18 points in six games. Linemate Luke Kirwan(uncommitted) was second in tournament scoring with 13 points, and the third member of that top line, Jeremy Bracco(Harvard), had 11 points, tied for fourth in the tournament.
The US comes into this tournament with a pretty huge advantage in that they've been playing together all year, while everyone else is essentially an all-star team thrown together for this event. Still, while the US has traditionally been good in this event, they've never run through the competition like this before. In a tournament with the best talent in the world in their age group, none of the other teams looked like they belonged on the same ice as the US.
This will be the last year for the U17 Challenge in its' current format. Next year, instead of fielding five teams based on geography, Canada will only enter three teams into the tournament, made up of a mix of players from around the country.