A pair of Wisconsin rookie defensemen, Ryan Suter (Madison, Wis.) and Jeff Likens (Barrington, Ill.), are two of 16 players named to the preliminary roster for the 2004 U.S. National Junior Team, USA Hockey announced today. The team will play in the 2004 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Hockey Championship, held Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Finland.
Suter returns to the team after playing in the tournament last season, while Likens makes his first appearance at the event. A 2003 first-round draft pick of the NHL's Nashville Predators (seventh overall), Suter was honored with the 2003 Bob Johnson Award by USA Hockey, given annually for excellence in international competition. The Badger rookie spent the previous two seasons with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP), helping teams to gold medals at the U-17 World Challenge and the World U-18 Championship.
Likens also spent the last two years with the NTDP and won gold at the U-17 World Challenge. He paired with Suter on the blue line last season as part of the NTDP U-18 squad.
Both will play under Badger head coach Mike Eaves at the 2004 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship this winter. Eaves will direct the squad in the 10-nation tournament. Current Badger assistant coach John Hynes will assist Eaves during the tournament.
The championship, which features the world's top ice hockey players under 20 years of age, takes place in Hameenlinna and Helsinki, Finland.
The final 22-player roster will be announced Dec. 2.