The Bethel men’s hockey team defeated the USA U-18 National Development team by a score of 4-2 Oct. 15.
By Sebastian Studier | Sports Reporter
Oct. 15 became a special night at the National Sports Center Super Rink when the Royals started their season and exhibition campaign with a gritty 4-2 win against a young and highly talented USA U-18 National Development team.
The USA U-18 development team seeks to identify elite ice hockey players under the age of 18 and to centralize their training. The young men on this squad spend their season playing against other top players from different countries, junior hockey teams, and college hockey teams.
Team USA came into their matchup against Bethel with a 9-0 record, tallying wins against the Division I programs of Michigan State, Notre Dame, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech and St. Thomas.
After the Royals defeated and held team USA to their lowest goal total of the season, team USA would go on to win their next four games, defeating two more Division I programs in RPI and Army. Team USA currently sits with a 13-1 record with their only blemish coming at the hands of Bethel.
Bethel’s head coach Chris McKelvie knew how big of a game this was going to be after realizing that the arena was going to be sold out during warmups. McKelvie also knew that the majority of the fans would be rooting against the Royals, having come to watch the talented future NHL draft picks competing for Team USA.
Coming into the game, McKelvie and his team made sure that they were only worried about themselves. Bethel’s first week of practice was dedicated to building a foundation of playing to what his team is good at and not worrying about the opponent.
“We knew how good they were, we knew how fast they were, how skilled they were and we knew their record coming into it, so there was no point in us spending too much time on any of that,” McKelvie said of team USA.
McKelvie believes that this win accelerated the validation that his team was seeking after an intense offseason of training. McKelvie’s players put a lot of work into strength and conditioning during the offseason after he and his coaches put a major emphasis on “making sure every individual gets better this summer.”
“If we would have lost that game, we would still be confident in the work we put in,” McKelvie said.
“I think our style of play absolutely surprised them in terms of physicality. I also think the level of play at Division III hockey also surprised them,” – Chris McKelvie, head Bethel men’s hockey coach
Bethel goalie Travis Allen was instrumental in the upset win, saving 32 of the 34 shots he faced. McKelvie believes that Allen made not only a high amount of saves but also made timely saves in big moments. McKelvie not only praised Allen but also praised the work of his entire defensive core after they held this high-flying offensive unit of team USA to a season-low two goals.
McKelvie believes that his team may have caught USA off guard in this game.
“I think our style of play absolutely surprised them in terms of physicality. I also think the level of play at Division III hockey also surprised them,” McKelvie said.
McKelvie thinks that it is a possibility that team USA did not come into the game prepared for what Bethel had to throw at them.
Travis Allen gives the credit to his entire team and believes that they were all up to the task.
“No goalie can ever win a game without the guys in front of him,” Allen said.
Allen believes that playing team USA served as a great “measuring stick” for the Royals.
“They’re an incredible team, so being able to play against some of the best is pretty cool,” Allen said.
Like his coach, Allen believes that his team’s physicality was instrumental in Bethel’s victory.
“Being a little bit less skilled of a team, we got to find other ways to slow them down,” Allen said. “I think physically in our systems, we were able to do that.”
Allen thinks that the atmosphere at the rink helped the Royals, with a jam-packed crowd and the Bethel players from the bench “hooting and hollering” whenever their teammates made a big play.
Dan Muse, the head coach of team USA also praised the performance of Allen.
“Goaltending was outstanding for them that night. He did a great job,” Muse said.
“We knew they were going to be a really hard-working team, and that’s what they were,” – Dan Muse, head coach of team USA
Muse doesn’t think that Bethel necessarily caught his team off guard because he knew what Bethel was going to bring to the table.
“We knew they were going to be a really hard-working team, and that’s what they were,” Muse said.
Muse was impressed with the way that the Bethel players sacrificed during the game by blocking shots and taking away second chances from his players. He realizes that it is still early in the hockey season and looks at this game as a learning experience for his players.
“Right now, it’s about finding ways to get better every day, finding ways to learn from wins, finding a way to learn from a loss,” Muse said.
McKelvie recognizes the buzz that this win created across the hockey community with the news being posted all over social media and with him and his players receiving texts from other coaches and players congratulating them on the win.
“It is a really cool memory for our guys,” McKelvie said.
Although McKelvie believes that this was a huge moment for his team, he does not want it to distract from what is ahead. McKelvie wants his players to stay present in the moment and continue to get better every single day.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t count for anything in the regular season,” McKelvie said.
The Royals have started their regular season with a couple of impressive 8-1 and 8-2 victories over Finlandia University on Oct. 28 and 29. Bethel will look to continue to ride this wave of momentum as far as it will take them this season.
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