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Hockey: Golden break for Palmieri

MICHAEL BLASCO | Thursday, January 21, 2010

While most of the Irish were home with family over winter break, one player was skating in the biggest game of his life.
Notre Dame wing Kyle Palmieri was a key member of the U.S. World Junior team’s magical run to the gold in Saskatchewan, defeating Team Canada in a dramatic 6-5 overtime championship game on Jan. 5. The freshman was one of 11 Division I players on the team and the 13th Irish player in team history to be selected to the U.S. World Junior team.
Irish coach Jeff Jackson, who guided the 1997 U.S. World Junior team to a silver medal, expressed his joy for Palmieri’s success.
“It’s a great thrill for all of us to know he was part of a good medal team,” Jackson said. “What a great thrill for the rest of your life. You can win a championship, but when you win one for your country, you know the meaning behind it. It’s the ultimate team.”
The tournament marked Palmieri’s second opportunity to wear the red, white and blue after being a member of the U.S. National Under-18 team prior to coming to Notre Dame.
“It was such a honor to play, and it was incredible to put the U.S. jersey on again,” Palmieri said. “It’s definitely up there as one of the top moments in my life. I was proud to represent my country and, obviously, to win a gold medal for us.”
In seven games for the U.S. team, Palmieri finished third on the team in points with eight assists and a goal as the U.S. rolled to a 6-1-0 record. The team’s only blemish was a loss in the preliminaries against Canada on New Year’s Eve.
While the U.S. seized an early lead, Canada rallied en route to a 5-4 shootout win. Palmieri called the game a turning point for his team.
“I think after the first few games against Slovakia and Latvia, we kind of knew we could beat those teams as long we played our game,” Palmieri said. “We were surprised when we got that early lead and competed the way we did against Canada. I think that really helped our confidence. We knew they were just like us — a bunch of under-20-year-olds.”
The U.S. team found itself trailing early in the championship, but a goal set up by Palmieri tied the game at 1-1. The Canadians rallied late to bring the game into overtime. However, U.S. defenseman John Carlson’s winning slapshot from the left circle silenced the crowd as the U.S. team poured onto the ice in a jubilant 6-5 victory.
“It was a surreal moment,” Palmieri said. “Playing in Canada, against a team that had five straight golds … we went in there and surprised a lot of people.”
Jackson gave Palmieri a week off after the tournament before rejoining the team for last weekend’s home-and-away series against Michigan State. Palmieri felt the experience would energize him for Notre Dame’s push to make ground in the CCHA.
“I wanted to start the second half [of the season] strong,” Palmieri said. “I had a weak first half in my opinion, and I wanted to bring the energy back from the World Juniors and be productive in the second half.”
Palmieri and the rest of the Irish will travel to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., this weekend for a pair of games against conference foe Lake Superior State.