GREEN BAY — When the IIHF’s 2015 World Junior Championship officially kicks off next Friday, Dec. 26 in Toronto and Montreal, Canada, three familiar faces for Green Bay Gamblers fans will be patrolling the bench and calling the shots for the U.S. Junior National Team, which aims to take home gold-medal honors for the third time in the last six years of the event.
Mark Osiecki, who received his first head coaching gig at the amateur level with Green Bay prior to the 1997-98 United States Hockey League season, will serve as headmaster for the United States’ roster. The former University of Wisconsin defenseman guided the Gamblers to their first Clark Cup championship in 1990-2000, finishing with an overall record of 217-146-44 over seven years with the organization. His 217 victories remain the most of any head coach in Green Bay’s storied 21-year history.
Following his tenure with the Gamblers, the St. Paul, Minn., native went on to serve as assistant coach for the Badgers from 2004-2010. Osiecki received his first head coaching position at the collegiate level with Ohio State University in 2010-11, going 15-184 in his inaugural campaign with the Buckeyes and holding true to a 43-43-14 mark by the end of his three-year stay with the program. Currently, Osiecki is in his second season as assistant coach of the Rockford IceHogs, an affiliate of the Chicago BlackHawks.
“I’m thrilled to accept the role of head coach for the U.S. National Junior Team,” Osiecki told USAHockey.com last April. “Each time I’ve been on the Team USA staff it’s been an extremely rewarding experience. I will incorporate a lot of what I learned from Phil Housley, Keith Allain and Dean Blais at previous tournaments, as well as what I gained from Mike Eaves at Wisconsin.”
Adding to the list of former Gamblers coaches who will contribute to young U.S. roster, Don Granato will serve as assistant to Osiecki on the bench once action begins later this month. The Wisconsin product who played alongside Osiecki also received his first head coaching position with the Gamblers, beginning in the club’s inaugural 1994-1995 and ending two seasons later. Green Bay’s best season under Granato came in 1996-97, going 41-11-2 with a Clark Cup finals appearance.
The Downers Grove, Ill., native is no stranger to coaching junior teams at the international level. Granato served as headmaster for the United States’ National U18 squad at last year’s world championships, which took home silver medal honors, and directed the U17 team to a championship at the under-17 world championship last January. Granato’s lone amateur coaching championship came with the ECHL’s Peoria Rivermen during the 1999-00 season.
Former Gamblers assistant head coach Kevin Patrick will also join Granato on the bench alongside Osiecki. Patrick, who for three years in the late 1980s suited up for the University of Notre Dame, played one season as part of the Green Bay Ice of the American Hockey Association in 1992-93. Though his coaching tenure with the Gamblers was somewhat short-lived — he was part of the staff solely during the 1997-98 campaign — he went on to become head coach of the Muskegon Lumberjacks from 2010-2012, and is now assistant head coach at the University of Vermont.
Exhibition play for the United States at the World Junior Championships is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 21 at 6:00 p.m. CT against a German roster featuring current Green Bay goaltender Kevin Reich and forward Marc Michaelis. The U.S. squad’s first preliminary tournament match will be Friday, Dec. 26 at 2:00 p.m. CT against Finland. TSN will have live streaming of each game throughout the event.
(P.S. – highly recommend following CBS Sports’ @chrismpeters for event updates)