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Miracle on Ice, the sequel? U.S. Hockey confident they'll contend for a medal without NHL stars

PARK CITY — Jordan Greenway could be playing hockey in the NHL.

In fact, he was drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the second round of 2015, but the New York native chose to refine his game at the collegiate level, playing wing for Boston University, instead.

Now a junior, he delayed his move to the NHL again in hopes of fulfilling a life-long dream to represent his country in the Olympics.

Greenway was one of two players representing USA Hockey at the Olympic Media Summit in Park City and said he’s pursuing that dream a lot sooner than he ever envisioned thanks to the National Hockey League’s decision not to allow its players to participate in the 2018 Olympic Games. NHL stars have been allowed to participate in the Winter Olympics for their home countries since the 1998 Games.

“I feel very fortunate for this opportunity,” Greenway said. “I didn’t think it would come this soon, but I’m going to take full advantage of it.”

Greenway participated in the press conference alongside Denver University standout Troy Terry and U.S. men’s hockey coach Tony Granato, who also coaches at the University of Wisconsin.

“We will have NHL-caliber players on our team,” Granato said. “We will have players that play on our team that will advance to the NHL and be stars in the NHL after.”

Granato said the 25-man roster will be filled from three places – professionals in Europe, minor league players not bound by NHL contracts, and from the collegiate ranks.

“I think there’s an elite group of players that are playing professionally in Europe that we will kind of build our team around.”

Granato said if the NHL continues with this policy it could bolster college programs as players opt to try and make an Olympic roster, something Granato himself did in 1988. In addition to participating in the Games as a player, the coach was also an assistant in the 2014 Games.

During Monday's press conference players even invoked the ‘Miracle on Ice’ of 1980 when Team USA, made up of amateurs, defeated the mighty juggernaut Soviet Union team in the Lake Placid Games. While Greenway brought up how inspiring that was, Granato pointed out that most of the players he’d assembled wouldn’t have been born when that gold medal was one.

Still, he suggested the same kind of energy surrounds the selection and hopes for the 2018 Olympic team.

“I think that we have lots of players in our country and in our talent pool that will give us the same kind of excitement that we had in Lake Placid,” Granato said. “This is a great opportunity for these guys, and it’s a great opportunity for players who now have a chance to play in the Olympics and move on and do what Mark Johnson and Neal Broten and Kenny Morrow did after the Olympics.”

The three players he named from the 1980 team all followed up their Olympic triumph with NHL careers.

Neither coach nor their players is worried about team chemistry as most of those being considered by the coaching staffs — about 100 athletes — have played together or against each other in junior, international or collegiate competition.

"We're looking at a talented, energized group of players that will give us the best chance to win," Granato said. "This is going to be a team that the American people and American hockey fans will be proud of."

He also doesn’t anticipate any reluctance on the part of college coaches to let their players miss two weeks of the season. “I think it’s a tremendous honor for their programs to have them represented on the Olympic stage,” Granato said, pointing out that college programs have many purposes. “Our job is to provide growth opportunities for players.”

Greenway acknowledged he’d miss a fan-favorite tournament, the Bean Pot, if he makes the Olympic team, which will be announced in January, but he’s willing to make that sacrifice.

“It’s a huge stage, and a once in a lifetime thing,” he said of the Olympics. “It’s an opportunity that I have to take.”

Granato said he believes the same countries that contend each Olympics will be in the mix in PyeongChang in February despite the absence of NHL stars.

The U.S. men will play pool games beginning Feb. 14 against the same teams they competed against in Sochi — Slovenia, Slovakia and Russia. The quarterfinals begin Feb. 21.