For the US National Team Development Program, the annual IIHF Under-18 World Championship signal an end of a bond amongst players whom have been playing together for two seasons.
For forwards Riley Barber and Andrew Copp and defensemen Jacob Trouba and Patrick Sieloff, the U18 World Championship represent the end of a much longer tenured teammate relationship.
The relationship began as a trio in the 2005-06 season at the Peewee (U12) level when Sieloff, Trouba, and Copp played their first year with the Detroit Compuware program. The three would quickly mesh under coach Andy Copp, Andrew’s dad. It took just two seasons for the group to achieve success nationally, with the three winning their first National Championship at the 2007 Tier-I U12 National Championship in Buffalo, NY.
Barber would team up with the trio the next season, two years after moving from Pittsburgh to Detroit. The group would go on to win their second National Championship, this time at the U14 level, in 2009. In the six games it took to win the National Championship, the four registered points on 18 of Compuware’s 26 total goals.
“That year was really special for me because it was my first National Championship after finishing second when I played in Pittsburgh,” said Barber who buried a Sieloff pass to score the game-winning goal in the National Championship game. “Everyone was able to come together to win.”
The four stayed with Compuware for the 2009-10 season playing on the U16 team—their final full season of youth hockey. For much of the year, the Compuware team was considered the best in the Nation and was poised to make a run for their third National Championship in five years. The team end their season with 52 wins—the third most amongst all U16 AAA teams.
Compuware advanced to Nationals and went onto win their pool losing only to Shattuck St. Mary’s in the round robin. Compuware advanced to the semifinals after beating future NTDP teammates Ryan Hartman and Thomas Di Pauli’s Chicago Mission team 3-2 in overtime. Later that day, the team would lose to the North Jersey Avalanche in the semifinals 2-1 in overtime.
Walking back to the locker room, the players knew the semifinal loss was their last game together.
“In the locker room, everyone was down, players were crying,” said Copp who finished second in the National Championship with six points in six games. “We just thought that our time together shouldn’t have ended that way.”
Two of the four originally went their separate ways with Trouba and Sieloff going to the NTDP while Copp would begin the year between the U18 Compuware team, but was later added the NTDP in December. Barber played against the three after going first overall to the Dubuque Fighting Saints in 2010 USHL Futures Draft.
Henrik Samuelsson’s departure from the program to to play in Sweden in May made way for Barber, who was cut from the team two summers ago. The four would be reunited yet again on the NTDP U18 team this season.
“I was real excited when I found out this summer that Riley was going to be playing with us,” Trouba said. “It’s great to be reunited with all of these guys again for one more year.”
Larger reunions between the ’94 birth year Compuware players have occurred seemingly every other weekend with five former teammates on USHL rosters this season.
“It is kind of neat when we get to play against each other and we’re still good friends off the ice,” Sieloff said. “It’s kind of funny because we never thought we would be playing against each other.”
With this being the last year the four are eligible to play at the Development Program, another partial breakup between the four is in store as three of the four are headed to college next season.
Trouba is slated to stay in Ann Arbor at play at the University of Michigan. Copp, who has balanced hockey and playing quarterback at his Ann Arbor high school, will focus on hockey fulltime next season heading off to play for the Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL).
Barber and Sieloff, on the other hand, will stay together as both signing letters of intent in November to play hockey at Miami (Ohio) University for next season.
“I talked to him about going to Miami and he told me how great of a place it was and I finally checked it out and fell in love with it,” Barber said. “We haven’t really talked about living together next year, but we probably will though.”
Much like the last breakup, the four are focused solely on the final task at hand in winning the USA’s fourth straight Under 18 World Championship, but they realize their time of all playing together is nearing a close.
“That last year [with Compuware] we all knew in the back of our minds that we wouldn’t be all together again and the last National Championship tournament was kind of the culmination of our time together,” Copp said. “It’s much like the U18s are to this group of guys, but this time we want to end it right.”
With a World Under-18 Championship.