U.S. National Junior Team defenseman Patrick Sieloff has been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride the last two weeks. As of a week ago, the burly blueliner didn’t even know if he’d be in Ufa, Russia, much longer.
As Team USA took the ice against Germany in its World Junior Championship opener, Sieloff was watching from the stands. An injury issue with one of the other U.S. defensemen left the Americans in a bind with their final roster decisions for the D corps. As a result, the U.S. staff decided to take a little extra time before finalizing the roster. Sieloff, along with Boston University freshman Matt Grzelcyk, were waiting to find out which one of them would be the last defenseman named to Team USA.
“That was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in my hockey career,” Sieloff admitted about the wait.
Before the U.S. game against Russia, Sieloff was notified that it was indeed him that would be the final player on Team USA’s World Junior roster. That revelation came with mixed emotions for the Calgary Flames second-round pick because of his close personal friendship with former National Team Development Program teammate Grzelcyk.
“We knew that one of us was going,” Sieloff said. “He’s one of my best friends already, but for us to go through that together, it wasn’t easy, but we stuck together and said ‘Whatever happens, happens. We both made it this far and we did our job and it’s just their job now.’ That’s kind of how we went about it.”
The current Windsor Spitfires reargaurd dressed as the seventh defenseman in games against Russia, Canada and Slovakia, but saw his ice time increase as the tournament went on. A one-game suspension to Shayne Gostisbehere for the quarterfinal against the Czech Republic meant Sieloff would need to be called upon even more.
“It’s never good to have a player go down, especially to suspension, but when that happens, players have to step up,” Sieloff said.
With the shortened bench, Sieloff found himself reunited on a pairing with Jacob Trouba, a player Sieloff had been teammates with throughout youth hockey and at the NTDP the previous two seasons.
“It’s good to get back with him,” Sieloff said of teaming up with his longtime friend. “It’s been a while. It’s always good to have a player like that on your side.”
Sieloff, who is from Ann Arbor, Mich., said he felt pretty good about how he and Trouba played together.
“We’re easy to read off each other,” Sieloff said. “We’ve played for seven or eight years together, so a couple of months split, it hasn’t been bad at all. We play with other players now, but when we do get the chance to play with each other, it just gets back to normal, reading off each other and knowing how we play.”
Though it was tense for a few days there for Sieloff before the tournament began, he’s making the most of his time in Ufa by doing whatever he’s asked.
“I knew coming in, if I was going to make this team, I wasn’t going to be a top guy by any means, I was going to be a guy that was just doing what I do and playing my game,” he said.
Playing his game could come in handy in the rematch against Canada on Thursday in the semifinals.
“These are the games I look forward to,” Sieloff said. “Canada-U.S. is one of the biggest rivalries out there. It isn’t a toe-drag game, it isn’t a high-end skill game. It’s get the puck deep, who’s hitting the most, who’s blocking shots — and that’s the kind of game I love.”
Even though it’s been a rollercoaster ride, it’s been well worth it for Sieloff.
“Looking back right now, it’s crazy, we’re a couple games away from having the chance to go for a medal,” he said. “It’s awesome.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.