U.S. players eye OHL return

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Danny Fritsche and Patrick O'Sullivan have their eyes on a bronze medal today as the U.S. plays the Czech Republic, but then it's back to the OHL, along with teammate Rob Schremp of the London Knights. Fritsche, who plays with the Sarnia Sting, and O'Sullivan, captain of the Mississauga IceDogs, will then turn their attention to the Knights and an OHL crown.

The Knights play host to the Memorial Cup and are in the tournament as host team. But there's room for one more.

"It's always tough when you leave such a high level of play here," said O'Sullivan, who, along with Fritsche, played last year as the U.S. beat Canada in the final.

"It's such an emotional roller-coaster, then to go back to junior, but our team (the IceDogs) has a chance to go really far in the playoffs this year.

"And just like last year, I'm going back to a winning team, which is a lot better than going back to a team that's struggling. So hopefully it won't be too big of a letdown."

The IceDogs won the Eastern Conference last season, then lost to Guelph in the final.

It's ironic that with all the U.S.college talent, the U.S. goals in a 7-2 loss to Russia in Sunday's semifinal came from O'Sullivan and Schremp.

There are only four major junior players on the U.S. team, all from the OHL.

O'Sullivan doesn't think USA Hockey has anything against Americans in the Canadian Hockey League.

"Maybe there has been in the past, but the last two years its just been a case of picking the best players, regardless of where they play," he said.

"(But) it's good to have two OHL guys score. It shows that going to the OHL is a good decision, that guys who go there can succeed as well as guys who go to college."

Hockey Canada is proposing that the CHL limit the number of Americans on each team to two.

"That's an issue for Hockey Canada," said Doug Palazzari, executive director of USA Hockey, when asked about the issue yesterday.

"There's really no reason for a player to leave the U.S. because we have good hockey programs here, but I'd be very, very amazed if the CHL wants that.

"I think with a league that has nine franchises in the U.S., they'd have some legality issues."

Fritsche is returning to a different situation than O'Sullivan as the Sting are currently out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

But Fritsche said he's not looking for a trade and he's been told by management he won't be dealt.

He's played only two games this season after shoulder surgery in September.

"I love being in Sarnia, it's a great place. I've had no problems being there," he said.

"Before I came, my GM (Alan Millar) told me that I'm more important to them being there than being traded off, so I'm going to go back to Sarnia. He said there's been a lot of teams offering deals, but he wants to keep me."

Fritsche said he'll be ready to play in Sarnia.

"This is always a good tournament, especially for me only playing two games so far in Sarnia. It's such a fast pace, you go back and you're always on top of your game."

Fritsche, property of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets, hopes to eventually play for the U.S. in the World Cup and the Olympics.

"It's really been the ride of a lifetime. Unfortunately, we can't be going for a repeat this time."

LONDON-BORN PLAYERS WHO HAVE PLAYED IN WORLD JUNIOR TOURNAMENT

Player Year Location Result

Jeff Carter 2004 Helsinki silver

Mike Van Ryn 1999 Winnipeg silver

Van Ryn 1998 Helsinki eighth

Dwayne Hay 1997 Geneva gold

Eric Lindros 1992 Fussen sixth

Lindros 1991 Saskatoon gold

Lindros 1990 Helsinki gold

Scott Thornton 1991 Saskatoon gold

Jeff Hackett 1988 Moscow gold

Player Year Location Result

Craig Billington 1986 Hamilton silver

Billington 1985 Helsinki gold

Doug Crossman 1980 Helsinki fifth

Brad Marsh 1978 Montreal bronze

Marsh 1977 Banska, Czech. silver

Rob Ramage 1978 Montreal bronze

Ramage 1977 Banska, Czech. silver


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