January 3, 2011

Coyle crucial to USA's chances of defeating Canada at WJC

by Kirk Luedeke

Team USA forward Charlie Coyle. (Getty)

BUFFALO -- If the U.S. National Junior Team is going to advance to its second consecutive gold medal game, then the services of center Charlie Coyle are essential in Monday’s semi-final match versus Canada at the 2011 World Junior Championship in Buffalo.

The East Weymouth, Mass. native and Boston University freshman has been outstanding in his first ever WJC (Under-20) tourney centering a line of fellow Bay Stater Chris Kreider (Boxford, Mass.) and Kyle Palmieri. Although new to this tourney, Coyle has been the thunder to his linemates’ lightning, but is quick to keep out of the spotlight when it comes to taking credit.

“Getting drafted is nice, but this is just as nice,” Coyle said of his year which included being a first-round pick of the San Jose Sharks in June. “Playing for your country; you don’t do it everyday. Not many people get a chance to do it, so it’s an honor. And I’ve been real fortunate to be playing with such good linemates as well. It’s been a great experience so far and it’s pretty special.”

Coyle was a standout at Thayer Academy, where his cousin Tony Amonte starred in the 1980s and has since returned to take the reins as head coach. Last season, he made a good decision to leave the prep ranks for the South Shore Kings of the EJHL, where he demonstrated the ability to play both a finesse and grinding style effectively enough to be the  28th overall selection by the Sharks.

“It’s something I try to do every night,” Coyle said of his penchant to play any kind of game his team requires. “I try to be a complete player and like I said before, I have great linemates who do a lot out there to help me be successful.”

Coyle leads Team USA in scoring with two goals and six points in four games. It’s a far cry from Brayden Schenn’s tournament-leading seven goals, 16 points in five contests, but his effectiveness in all zones has made the Terrier standout a critical cog in coach Keith Allain’s (Worcester, Mass.) scheme.

“Charlie’s been fantastic for us; you don’t need me to tell you that,” Allain said after USA’s 4-0 victory over Germany, when Coyle netted a goal and added an assist. “One of the areas when we put our team together in Lake Placid, we were young down the middle, and Charlie is one of those ’92 center icemen who’s come here and really done a wonderful job for us.”

The decision to accept some risk by giving Coyle the nod despite the fact that he was not a veteran of the U.S. NTDP in Ann Arbor has paid dividends for Team USA. For his part, Coyle recognizes the outstanding support he has from the other players surrounding him.

“Playing with a group of guys like this, against other countries and succeeding gives us a lot of confidence and myself too,” said Coyle. “It’s nice to see that—doing as good as we are against other tough opponents.”

Kreider, who was a prep school opponent with Phillips-Andover when Coyle was at Thayer. and has carried that rivalry to another level in the Hockey East, has enjoyed the chance to work in concert with the big centerman instead of against him.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Kreider told New England Hockey Journal. “Both players (Coyle and Palmieri) are extremely skilled. It’s fun because you learn a little something from each of them every day. So, it’s exciting to come down to the rink and get an opportunity to play with them.”

Beyond the challenge of facing Canada in the semi-final game Monday in which the winner will get the chance to play for gold while the loser can at best hope for bronze, Coyle has enjoyed a breakout season in just his first in the NCAA with BU.

“We have a well-rounded group of guys,” Coyle said when asked about his mates back at Comm. Ave.  “A lot of good freshmen stepping up and a lot of veterans like (David) Warsofsky (Marshfield, Mass.),  (Chris ) Connolly,  (Joe) Pereira (West Haven, Conn.).  And everyone’s chipping in. We have good leaders on the team. It’s just a great group of guys to play with; I’m happy with it.”

Coyle’s five goals and 14 points in just 17 games is good for fifth in team scoring, and if his performance in Buffalo is any indication, he’ll rack up a lot more offense with the Terriers before all is said and done this year. With the Beanpot Tournament right around the corner, that’s sure to bring a smile to his teammates who want the trophy back.

“The focus right now is on winning games here  (at the WJC),” said Coyle. “We’re playing as a team and winning as a team. We have a long way to go, but it’s helped the confidence for sure.”

A confident, productive Coyle is a welcome sight for Terriers fans and all USA supporters alike.