U.S. missing boat on Schremp

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:20 PM ET

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Federal elections on both sides of the border have nothing on the politics involved with the selection of the Canadian and U.S. teams for the world junior hockey championship. Questions were raised in the Ontario and Quebec leagues when Hockey Canada named 14 Western league players to its 22-man roster.

And now, with the defending-champion U.S. losing round-robin games to Belarus and the Czech Republic, USA Hockey is taking heat for its roster and especially its treatment of forward Rob Schremp of the London Knights.

Schremp, who came into the tournament with an OHL-leading 26 goals, has spent a lot of his time on the bench, although when it was apparent the U.S. was going to be hard-pressed to score against the Czechs on Thursday, he began to get a regular shift in the second period.

It remains to be seen what role he'll have tonight when the U.S. plays a sudden-death quarter-final against Sweden.

Schremp is one of only four major junior players on the U.S. squad, joining Dan Fritsche of the Sarnia Sting, Patrick O'Sullivan of the Mississauga IceDogs and Ryan Callahan of the Guelph Storm.

Observers will suggest USA Hockey will pick a U.S. college player over a major junior. The same with Hockey Canada, people saying there's a bias toward Canadians who go south to play hockey and receive a free education.

While many scouts are questioning the lack of use of Schremp by U.S. coach Scott Sandelin, from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, it seems the politics, while it may have been there in the past, have been eliminated.

In the case of the U.S., it could be they just didn't pick a very good team.

The U.S. holds a summer camp, then names its 22-man roster in December. Canada holds a summer camp, then a selection camp in December.

A perfect example of a questionable choice by the U.S. is defenceman Brian Lee, a 17-year-old who plays high school hockey in Minnesota.

Matt Lashoff, a solid blue-liner in the OHL with Kitchener, was excluded.

Backup goalie Cory Schneider of Boston College has played seven games this season and allowed three of the five goals scored by Belarus.

Knights goalie Gerald Coleman, an American, leads the OHL in goals-against average but didn't get a sniff.

And there are other question marks with the U.S. team.

"Coaches tend to bring the people they know and the people they're comfortable with and in most cases it works for the teams that have the talent," said Columbus Blue Jackets head scout Don Boyd, who lives in London.

"You try to build the chemistry and you don't always bring the best players, you bring the team that's going to fit together the fastest. And sometimes players are expected to play an entirely different game than on their own team."

Sheldon Ferguson, head scout for the Carolina Hurricanes, was head scout for Hockey Canada from 1992-95, winning gold three times.

"I was involved with it for four years right in the trenches and I can say there was absolutely no politics involved," Ferguson said.

"Never once in my four years was it even mentioned to me we should make sure we have an equal number of guys. Our mandate was to put the best hockey team on the ice.

"Canada has a strong western flavour this year and that's where the good players are."

Ferguson said the fact the U.S. does not hold a selection camp works against it.

"There are kids they miss because they only get a look at them at their summer camp. That's a long time at this age group from August to December," he said.

Boyd can't explain why Schremp hasn't played much.

"Am I surprised? He's capable of doing certain things and they need goals. Maybe they'll move him up in the lineup and he becomes a real contributing factor.

"The key is that they come into every game with a good attitude, working hard."


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