Michigan hockey players Chris Brown, Jon Merrill named to U.S. World Junior roster, will miss Great Lakes Invitational
Photo courtesy of Sara Melikian, RPI
Chris Brown and Jon Merrill both know what it feels like to wear hockey sweaters with USA stitched across the front.
The two Michigan hockey players were both groomed in the USA Hockey National Development Program in Ann Arbor prior to joining Red Berenson's program. On Wednesday, Brown and Merrill learned they will be part of the junior world roster that will defend its world championship beginning Sunday in Buffalo, N.Y.
The U.S. captured the gold medal with a 6-5 overtime win over Canada in last year's world championships.
Both players will miss next week's Great Lakes Invitational at Joe Louis Arena, when No. 10 Michigan returns to the ice for the first time since The Big Chill At the Big House.
The Wolverines open GLI play Dec. 29 against Michigan Tech and with a win, would play either Michigan State or Colorado College in the championship game.
Brown, a sophomore forward, and Merrill, a freshman defenseman, were part of the 22-man roster that was announced Wednesday morning. Brown and Merrill were the only CCHA players invited to Buffalo after 44 players were invited to Lake Placid, N.Y., for initial tryouts.
Brown, who has scored twice for the Wolverines this season, scored two goals in the United States' 4-3 exhibition loss to Rensselaer Polytechnic on Dec. 19.
Merrill did not play in that game, but came into the tryouts fresh off scoring Michigan's first two goals in the Wolverines' 5-0 outdoor shutout of Michigan State. The freshman has been Michigan's only newcomer to make an immediate impact, scoring five goals and registering eight assists in 19 games.
"Most kids can't live up to their expectations that soon, but he did," Berenson said last week. "Right off the get-go, he showed he could play at this level."
Merrill showcased his talents throughout the first half of the season. But perhaps, his most impressive showing came in the Big Chill when he scored on his first two shots against Michigan State. But as excited as he was to be part of Michigan's outdoor victory, the Brighton native said he was looking forward to getting to Buffalo to take his shot at a spot on the U.S. roster.
"It's special - any time you can represent your country and put on that jersey, it's something you should take pride in," Merrill said after the Michigan State game. "To get the opportunity to have an opportunity to play for the U-20 team is just phenomenal."
The United States begins tournament play Dec. 26 against Finland and will continue play through Jan. 5. All of the games will be broadcast by the NHL Network. The United States wraps up its tournament warm-up games Thursday against Norway.
"There's a great combination of experience and talent on this roster," said Jim Johannson, general manager of the 2011 U.S. National Junior Team. "The fact that these decisions were so hard is a testament to where hockey has come in the United States."