MINNEAPOLIS- In life, sometimes it takes a new path to help better understand and appreciate the path you just finished. It's not regret. Not knowing what is taken for granted until it's too late is a consequence of hindsight. For Tyler Motte, wearing the red, white and blue of the United States is one of those realizations.
"Obviously wearing the Team USA jersey for a couple years you get a little used to it," the Michigan freshman, who spent his last two seasons in Ann Arbor playing for the United States National Development Team, told SB Nation College Hockey. "This year it gets taken away from you. So you get excited for opportunities like these to put it back on."
Motte is one of 29 players at Mariucci Arena this week for the US National Junior Team Training Camp, vying for a spot on the United State World Junior Team. An 18 year-old, who led the US with 5 goals at the 2013 U-18 Worlds this past April, Motte now looks to do the same with the under-20 tournament.
The 2014 World Junior Championships run from December 26-January 5, 2014 in Malmo, Sweden.
This season, Motte, a 4th round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in June, left the United States development program and been adjusting to college. The St. Clair, Michigan native currently has 8 points (5G-3A) in 14 games for Michigan. That includes an overtime winner October 19th against New Hampshire. Fellow freshman and WJC camp participant J.T. Compher assisted on the play.
Still, leaving the Development Program to go up the road in Ann Arbor has been a good adjustment for Motte.
"It takes a little bit to get used to, obviously college classes and things like that," he said. Once you get settled in after a couple weeks it's a pretty good routine obviously playing just weekends with a couple weekday games here and there.
"Once you find a routine, it's pretty easy."
While the series against New Hampshire has been the only time Michigan has played on Olympic-sized ice, which the WJC will be contested upon, the added speed and room on the ice doesn't seem to faze Motte. He's a versatile player who plays in all situations at Michigan. That experience can only help when it comes to making a roster where Motte is one of several players on the bubble.
Only 23 players (20 skaters and 3 goalies) will be a part of the United States WJC team when it begins.
The 5'10", 180 lbs forward, however, is on the smaller side. Motte is an 18 year-old in a tournament where most of the players are 19 years old.
"Everyone that I talked to has said that this tournament is for men only," 2014 USA World Juniors head coach Don Lucia said prior to the start of camp, which runs until tomorrow (December 18). "You have to have some of those big bodies out there too."
If he's going to make the United States roster, it is likely Motte will be playing a bottom-six role. He spent much of the first four practices playing on the same line with a plethora of forwards; guys who are also on the bubble. For the team's exhibition game Tuesday evening against Minnesota State the freshman forward's versatility will be utilized on the third line with two bigger bodies in 6'1", 185 lbs Quentin Shore (a sophomore at the University of Denver) and 6'2", 207 lbs Hudson Fasching (a freshman at the University of Minnesota).
That's fine with him, saying "obviously with the guys on this team I won't be needed as much in the power play position, but killing penalties is one of my favorite parts to the game.
"I'm pretty comfortable playing in a role like that and I think it's something you need come tournament time."
Regardless if he is able to realize the dream of once again representing the United States this year, Motte hopes to take the experience of camp back with him to Ann Arbor for the second half of the season.
He's one of three Michigan players (Compher and sophomore Andrew Copp are the others) in camp. The team has exceeded all expectations and looking to win the inaugural Big Ten regular season title. The Wolverines, whose 22 year streak of making the NCAA Hockey tournament was snapped last season, are currently 10-2-2.
That includes the last game before heading to Minneapolis, a 2-2 tie against Ferris State at Yost Arena. Tyler's older brother C.J. is the Bulldogs goalie and stopped a couple chances on his younger brother. Although it was a new experience - normally he doesn't get a chance to watch C.J. play and they had never faced each other, Motte tried at the time to go on with his own regular business.
"It was special, Tyler said." I just tried to have the mindset of ‘just another hockey game.' Obviously it was tough and a lot of pressure and a lot of people looking our way. Looking back at it now it was a special moment, but at the time it was just another hockey game."
Familiar sounding, isn't it?