PROVIDENCE — In a more perfect pandemic-less world, Nate Leaman just might be in his office at Schneider Arena on the campus of Providence College, reviewing a scouting report on this weekend’s upcoming Hockey East Conference rival and detailing the afternoon’s practice session.
However, with the start of the NCAA and Hockey East season on hold pending health and safety guidelines, Leman is instead in Michigan this week, orchestrating USA Hockey’s trials for the World Junior Championships.
“The one thing that I’ve learned is that every country has dynamic players, every country has first round draft picks, they all have great power plays,” Leaman said after Monday’s workout. “We have to be built the right way to succeed.”
Leaman was selected to coach Team USA, which will enter the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship seeking its fifth medal in six years after earning a record four consecutive medals: gold in 2017, silver in 2019, and bronze in both 2018 and 2016.
“Any time you have the chance to represent your country, it’s a proud moment, particularly in a tournament like the World Juniors,” Leaman said, often referring to his Friar staples of “culture, family and commitment” in his remarks. “It’s an honor to be asked. I look forward to the challenge ahead. We have one goal in mind and that is to bring home a gold medal.”
The Team USA camp is an evaluation process in selecting the U.S. National Junior Team that will compete in the 2021 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship Dec. 25, 2020, through Jan. 5, 2021, in Edmonton, Alberta.
Entering his 10th season at the helm of the Friars’ program, Leaman has had PC ranked among the top 20 teams nationally each year, highlighted by winning the 2015 NCAA championship that marked the first NCAA title in program history.
Leaman has been a part of two previous U.S. National Junior Team coaching staffs, including as an assistant coach for the bronze medal-winning 2007 squad that competed in Leksand and Mora, Sweden. He also served as an assistant coach for the 2009 team that played in Ottawa, Ontario. Leaman made his USA Hockey coaching debut as an assistant coach in 2005 at the IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship, where the U.S. won gold in Ceske Budejorke and Plzen, Czech Republic.
“It’s a dream come true, an opportunity that I’m looking forward to with the rising play in our country,” Leaman said. ‘It’ s a great challenge, a great responsibility. I look forward to building the best team that we can and go for the gold.”
The 2019-20 campaign is Leaman’s ninth as head coach at Providence, where his Friars have advanced to the Frozen Four on two occasions in the last five years. During his tenure at Providence, Leaman has coached 24 NHL Draft picks He has also coached a trio of Friars who were selected to play for the U.S. National Junior Team: — goalie Jon Gillies (2013, ’14,), forward Parker Ford “20) and Mansfsfield’s Erik Foley (2017), a member of the gold medal-winning team.
The 2021 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship will take place in Edmonton from Dec. 25, 2020 through Jan. 5, 2021. The 2021 U.S. National Junior Team is set to compete in Group B alongside Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic and Austria. Group A includes Canada, Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia and Germany. The group seeds were based on the final rankings of the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.
To date, the U.S. National Junior Team has claimed 12 medals, including four gold (2017, 2013, 2010, 2004), two silvers (2019, 1997) and six bronze (2018, 2016, 2011, 2007, 1992, 1986).
The Team USA roster includes a number of Hockey East student-athletes which Leaman is familiar with. In addition, two other Friars — Patrick Moynihan and Brett Berard — were invited to participate in the trials among the 39 players invited by USA Hockey to its 2021 U.S. National Junior Team Evaluation Camp in Plymouth, Michigan which began last week.
The other Hockey East affiliated members of Team USA include goalie Spencer Knight (Boston College), defenseman Jordan Harris (Northeastern), defenseman Zac Jones (UMass Amherst) and forward Trevor Zegras (Boston University). The roster also has forward Jack Drury (Harvard) and one-time BC Eagle Oliver Wahlstrom (AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers).
“The most important thing is that you have to be playing your best when it matters,” Leaman said of the format. “We have to have those dynamic players, but we also have to have a team that plays the right way. If you’re not playing your best, if you’re not functioning at a high level, you’re not giving yourself an opportunity.”