LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - Team USA went through it's final full team practice at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp on Friday and head coach Don Lucia said the fatigue from a long camp was evident.
"You can see they are a little tired," he said. "It wasn't as much of an evaluation just to go through some concepts more than anything else."
While the focus is on which players will ultimately make the roster in December, this week's camp has been a learning experience for coaches as well.
"This is enriching for coaches to be here with different staff members you don't work with and to trade ideas and concepts," Lucia said. "You get some different drills and ideas you bring back to your own team."
One final game remains for Team USA and it's against rival Canada on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. Lucia and the rest of the USA Hockey staff will make their final decisions on lineups and starting goaltender later Friday evening.
"We'll have a meeting this afternoon to let the guys know who is going to play in tomorrow's game and have one more day to evaluate our personnel before we all break," Lucia said.
One of the last drills Lucia put his team through on Friday was a small-area, cross-ice game with the smaller surface area split into two zones. The game was fast paced and required quick thinking for skaters and goalies.
Stepan said small-area game drills are helpful for a variety of reasons but stressed the biggest benefit came from the practice at creating separation from opposing players.
"If you get that two feet of separation on somebody on an Olympic sheet it opens up all the time in the world," he said.
The camp can at times be intimidating for new players who have to endure practices, games, roster cuts, media interviews and downtime at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Three players on Team USA, Henrik Samuelsson, Quentin Shore and Zach Stepan, had the inside scoop on the camp because relatives had been in their shoes before.
"He just said the biggest thing to do is just play your game and don't try to be anything you're not," said Stepan, who's cousin Derek participated in the camp and won a gold medal in 2010. "It's kind of fun to have the family ties, it definitely helped me prepare for the camp, knowing what I was coming into."
Samuelsson's brother Philip also attended the camp and told his younger brother to just enjoy the experience.
"He told me it was a great way to start off the season," he said. "You come in here and play against Sweden and Finland and now Canada's here so you can't ask for a better start to the season.
Quentin Shore's brother Drew spent time at the camp and helped his younger sibling prepare for the weeklong grind of practices and games.
"The biggest thing I knew was to just prepare yourself each day and taking care of your body to make sure you can be your best every day was the best advice I got," he added.
The last day of camp features a doubleheader of rivalry matchups. The games don't count in any international standings but fans should expect hard fought games.
North Americans have their sights set on the 1 p.m. ET game between Team USA and Canada, but a similarly storied rivalry also flavors the 4:15 p.m. between Finland and Sweden.
"It adds a little bit of spice to it," Shore said of the USA and Canada game. "I'm excited to go out there and try to represent our country and beat Canada."
If you are in Lake Placid on Saturday be sure to come down to the 1980 rink where tickets are still available for purchase. Click here to buy tickets