Jake Sanderson begins World Juniors by playing significant minutes

US World Junior Championship coach Nate Leaman had a simple explanation for why UND defender Jake Sanderson played so many more minutes than anyone else in the first pool game on Sunday night.

“He’s just as good a player as we have in our country,” said Leaman, who also serves as head coach at Providence.

Sanderson is going to play big minutes in this world championship for juniors, and it started during the U.S. 3-2 victory over Slovakia in Red Deer, Alberta.

Sanderson played 22 minutes, 24 seconds, a significant amount more than any other American. Next was defender Brock Faber, who played 18:42.

Whitefish, Mont., – the product played 6:52 in the first, 8:24 in a dominant second and 7:08 as the Americans sealed the victory in the third. Sanderson drove the first power-play unit from the top, as he does at UND.

“Twenty-two to 23 minutes will be pretty average for what we play for him,” Leaman said. “We have one of the best players in the tournament and we need him on the ice. I was happy with his game.”

UND second time Tyler Kleven played 16:45 in the tournament’s opening victory.

The United States used goals from Minnesota freshman Matthew Knies, Michigan freshman Mackie Samoskevich and Notre Dame sophomore Landon Slaggert to build a 3-0 lead.

The Americans scored two goals in the third period to make it a close finish.

Two National Collegiate Hockey Conference players picked up assists – Minnesota Duluth second defender Wyatt Kaiser and St. Cloud State rookie defender Jack Peart.

“Our guys held together and made a tough fight,” Leaman said. “It’s a good first step for our group. We have to keep working hard and improving before we play against Switzerland on Tuesday.”

The Americans play against Switzerland, Sweden and Russia in pool games this week before they are likely to advance to the quarterfinals.

Sanderson and Kleven will be with the World Junior team until the medal matches on January 5th. Then they return to UND’s next regular season series against Cornell on 7-8. January.

Sanderson and Kleven, both Ottawa Senators’ draft picks, are trying to join Jonathan Toews as the only UND players to have won two golds at the World Juniors. They were both part of the U.S. gold medal team last season.

US preliminary round schedule

Sunday – USA 3, Slovakia 2
Tuesday – vs. Switzerland at 15.30
Wednesday – against Sweden, at 20.30
Friday – against Russia, at 20.30

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