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Tuesday @ The Rink

CHAT LIVE With Junior National Team Head Coach Ron Rolston

Welcome to the CSTV.com moderated chat room!

On Tuesday, December 12 at 1:00 p.m. ET, USA Hockey Junior National Team head coach Ron Rolston enters the chatroom at "Tuesday @ The Rink", presented by CSTV.com and USCHO.com. Rolston, the head coach of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 team, will coach the U.S. team at the 2007 World Junior Championship, beginning December 26 in Leksand and Mora, Sweden.

Ron Rolston

Ron Rolston is in his third season with the National Team Development Program, serving as head coach of the U.S. National Under-18 Team. In the spring of 2005, Rolston lead the U.S. National Under-18 Team to the gold medal at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Under-18 Championships.

Rolston most recently was an assistant coach with the NCAA Division I men's ice hockey team at Boston College, where he began in June 2002. Prior to his appointment at Boston College, Rolston spent three years at Harvard (Mass.) University, where he was the top assistant coach from 1999-2002. In that position, he coordinated the team's recruiting efforts, directed the penalty kill, worked with the defensemen and oversaw the players' strength and conditioning program. Rolston, who has extensive experience with USA Hockey, served as assistant coach for the U.S. National Junior Team that advanced to the bronze-medal game at the 2003 IIHF World Junior Championship in Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Rolston also spent three years at Clarkson (N.Y.) University (1996-99) and five years at Lake Superior State (Mich.) University (1990-95). During his tenure at Clarkson, Rolston helped lead the Golden Knights to two Eastern College Athletic Conference regular-season titles and three NCAA tournament berths. At Lake Superior State, Rolston was a member of the coaching staff that guided the Lakers to five consecutive NCAA tournament berths, including two national championships (1992 and 1994). The Lakers also captured four Central Collegiate Hockey Association tournament titles in Rolston's five-year stint. He served his first four years with the Lake Superior as assistant coach, before being elevated to associate head coach for the 1994-95 season.

A native of Fenton, Mich., Rolston earned his bachelor's degree in Business Management from Michigan Tech University, where he was a three-year hockey letterman (1986-89) with the Huskies and served as an assistant captain during his senior season. Rolston was the co-recipient of the 1986-87 Norbert Matovich Memorial Award as Michigan Tech's most outstanding freshman.

** GET YOUR QUESTIONS IN NOW!!: Ron won't be stopping by until 1:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday, December 12th, and his time will be limited, so feel free to submit your questions now and we'll save them for his arrival!
CSTV.com Moderator: Good afternoon, and welcome to "Tuesday @ the Rink," presented by CSTV.com and USCHO. We're joined now by U.S. Under-18 team head coach Ron Rolston, who'll be coaching Team USA at the World Junior Championship.
Ron Rolston: Thanks for having me on, and thanks for all the people out there that are joining in on the chat. It's great to have excited and enthusiastic hockey fans out there.

Bill (New York): What teams do you see contending for the gold medal? Can the U.S. win the gold medal?
Ron Rolston: I think this birth year is extremely talented. I think there's a lot of teams that have a chance. Obviously, the Candians with their tradition - I think they've gone 15-16 consecutive round-robin games without a loss - they're going for their third in a row, and they certainly have the potential. The Czech Republic will be very talented. I think Sweden will be very good at home. The Finns always compete extremely hard, and they're in other pool. The Russians, with their skill level, are always a contender. I wouldn't count anybody out, but those are just some of the teams I think have the potential to win.

Jack (Trenton, NJ): Coach -- Jack Johnson didn't play last weekend against Notre Dame. Will he be available for the World Juniors?
Ron Rolston: Yes, he's going to be fine. He's the ultimate competitor, and he'll be healthy and ready to go for the tournament.

Mark (St. Louis): Coach Rolston, We are pretty excited about Erik Johnson here in St. Louis. How far away do you think he is in his development to make the transition to the NHL. Thanks!
Ron Rolston: I think with his size and ability, he's certainly very close to playing at that level. The thing that he needs the most is just maturity in the game and games under his belt, and learning the nuances of playing at that level. Part of the adjustment is the grind, and being able to play an 82-game schedule, plus pre-season games and possibly the playoffs, plus all the travel. The ability to be consistent is an adjustment for any player that's that young, even as talented as Erik is.

Joe (Boston): How difficult was it for you to limit your Minnesota take to five players?
Ron Rolston: I think the whole process was difficult, not only that Minnesota's very talented, and has a lot of very talented players, but it was a difficult process because of the depth of players in the U.S. We had to make some real tough decisions choosing the team, and there are a lot of talented players left out, just due to the depth and our focus on bringing the right group of guys to the tournament.

Peter (Framingham): As there appeared to be players in the college ranks that are having better seasons at this point than some of the players chosen for the team, how do you decide who to pick and why?
Ron Rolston: We ceretainly don't pick the team strictly on points. There's a lot of different factors to building a team, and alot of different roles players are put in. You can't just try to take the top point-getters and try to have a hockey team. It's a challenge putting together the pieces of the puzzle, and that's why you see some players, just looking on the Internet at their stats, that would be hands down on the team, but when you go about putting the pieces together, different decisions were made by the coaching staff.

Avan (Boston): Coach Rolston, Being a BU fan, I'm curious as to just how good Kevin Shattenkirk is and how much better do you think he can be at the next level? Good luck the rest of the season and at the World Junior Championships!!
Ron Rolston: Kevin Shattenkirk is an extremely talented player, and he's our captain with the 89 birth year here at the National Team Development Program, which speaks volumes of his character. He has the potential to be an elite player at the college level, and he already an elite player with his age group right now, but he certainly has to continue to develop. He has to continue to mature, continue to get stronger and work on the weaknesses in his game, but he's a terrific offensive defenseman with a lot of skill that can be a difference-maker in hockey games.

Randy Pray (Keeseville, NY): How did it feel to return to Potsdam to defeat a pretty talented Clarkson team earlier this year?
Ron Rolston: Any time that you play the college programs and can have that kind of success, it's a good feeling for our staff and the players, that they can compete at that level. We enjoyed that. We had to play hard, and we certainly got bounces and good goaltending and goos special teams play in that game. We certainly enjoyed it. Just going back there, I didn't view the game any differently. It's definitely good to go back there and see the people I had relationships with while I coached there. That's the best part of going back to those places where you were before - seeing the people - but as far as the actual game, you're just trying to get better as a hockey team and challenge your team.

Joe (Boston): A little off-topic, but what is your reaction to the news the Phil Kessel has testicular cancer?
Ron Rolston: Certainly, Phil was part of the program, and obviously our prayers and thoughts are with Phil at this point. It's certainly adversity in his life, and he certainly will fight and do what he needs to do in the recovery process. Everyone at USA Hockey has him in our thoughts and we wish him the very best in his recovery process. One of the very positive features in the National Team Development Program is just the camaraderie and feeling of family that you have while you're here, and certainly I know that the players that played with Phil in his time here with the program are thinking about him too and wish him the very best.

Harry (Williamstown, MA): Coach, nice game at Williams last Friday. How, and how early, do you select the players for the USNDTP -- does it start at the U15 summer festival? Earlier? And do you aim for regional balance, or do you just go where the talent takes you -- I notice this year has more eastern players than year's past. Keep up the good work.
Ron Rolston: The process actually begins at the Select-14 festival, and players at that point are tracked and watched while they're playing with their fall teams by our scouting staff here and regional scouts throughout the country. We start with a big pool, and through the process of watching them play on into the Select-15 festival, you start to whittle the numbers down who have the potential to be in the program, and then we have a March camp where we bring in the top 45 or so players at that age group. This March, we'll bring in the '91 group, and there'll be about 45 players who come for a three-day tryout. They'll have game evaluation and testing. At that point, we're trying to get as close as we can to the 22 players that we'll have in the '91 birth year.

Late Night Crimson10: Do you have aspirations to coach in the NHL? Or is there something about junior and college hockey that you're particularly fond of?
Ron Rolston: I certainly like coaching at this level because of the age that they're at and where they are in their development process. You have the ability to affect how they are as players and also as young men, so that's very appealing to me, but I think that like most coaches, I do have aspirations to continue to grow as a coach and coach at the highest level. It certainly would be a possibility for me if there was an opportunity that would arise at that level.

Nareski, Boston, MA: Do you think you have the same cemistry (players and staff) with this years Jr. Team as you did with the 2005 U-18 team?
Ron Rolston: Yes, I certainly do. One of the things about choosing the team that we have is the amount of character that we have in the lineup, and what we feel were players that could gel and work together and have good chemistry. I think it also helps having 15 of the players who were members of the National Team Development Program, so they are very familiar with each other and had relationships built before this tournament. The players that were chosen who weren't part of the NTDP, again, are certainly character players and have exhibited that they are good teammates and will fit in perfectly with where we want to go as a team.

Sean (Ionia, MI): How did being from such a good hockey family (brother Brian), influence your coaching career? What have you learned from watching him come up the pro ranks?
Ron Rolston: I think the biggest thing that influenced me along the way is just the love of the game and the passion to be part of the game of hockey. It's a great sport, and if I wasn't playing it, I wantred to be involved on a daily basis and coaching was something I watned to do as soon as I was done playing. Certainly, I'm very proud of my younger brother's career to date, and watching him grow over the years as a player who came up the USA system in terms of travel hockey and on to college hockey, World Junior tournaments, the Olympics, and World Cup tournaments. One of the things that impresses me most about him is his work ethic, and wanting to get better on and off ice year after year. I feel that has driven him to the success he has had. He just keeps getting better and his consistency as a performer keeps getting better every night.
CSTV.com Moderator: That is all the time we have with Coach Rolston this afternoon.
Ron Rolston: Thanks for being part of the chat today, and keep enjoying the great game of hockey.
CSTV.com Moderator: That does it for the first of our "Tuesday @ the Rink" chats. Check back at the top of the hour, when we'll be joined by Harvard head coach Ted Donato.

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