When Chase Phelps was selected to USA Hockey’s U.S. Under-18 Select Team that will compete in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament next week, Tom Ward wasn’t shocked.
“He’s as good as any player in his age group in the country,” said Ward, Phelps’ coach at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. “When you watch him play, he’s a big, strong, good-skating guy. It’s not a surprise.”
Phelps, who will be a senior at SSM this fall, was one of 13 forwards and 22 players named to the team, which will compete in Breclav, Czech Republic, and Piestany, Slovakia, beginning on Saturday and running until Aug. 10.
“It was an honor,” Phelps said. “It’s always a good thing to go and represent your country. It’s kind of a big thing and I’m really excited and pumped up for it.”
Team USA enters this year’s tournament as the defending champion after beating Slovakia 5-3 in last year’s title game. Phelps is the first SSM player named to the team since Teddy Doherty made the 2011 squad that finished fifth.
“We have had a lot of guys have the opportunity to play on those teams,” Ward said. “It’s one of those things where guys were able to show what they can do and it’s a big shot in the arm for them. It proves they are getting better at our school and in our program, and good for them to get a chance to play for Team USA.”
Phelps, who finished his junior season at SSM with 23 goals and 60 points on the Prep team, had to make it through several cuts before he was named to Team USA. He made the section team before getting invited to the Minnesota High Performance Spring Festival. He was then one of about 20 Minnesota players selected to the USA Hockey National Camp in Buffalo, N.Y. On July 3, the roster was announced, and Phelps was one of eight Minnesotans (36 percent of the roster) on the team.
The other Minnesotans are high school players Jack Dougherty (St. Thomas Academy), Nick Wolff (Eagan), Dylan Malmquist (Edina), Austin Poganski (St. Cloud Cathedral) and Jake Wahlin (White Bear Lake). Minnesota products Paul Bittner and Keegan Iverson, who both played for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League last season, were also selected to the team. The team is coached by former Maine associate head coach Bob Corkum.
The team spent a few days in Washington D.C. skating at the Washington Capitals’ practice facility before flying overseas. Its first game is an exhibition against the Czech Republic on Saturday. It’s first tournament game is against Finland on Monday. The championship and third-place games are on Aug. 10.
“I’m expecting to go over there and do everything I can to help the team win a gold medal,” Phelps said.
Reach Sports Reporter Josh Berhow at 333-3119, or follow him on Twitter.com @joshberhow