Michigan will have the chance to see a couple of its young stars compete for their national teams later this month.
On Thursday, it was announced that freshman forward Matty Beniers would be suiting up for Team USA at the 2021 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships — taking place in Riga, Latvia. Beniers will be joined at the tournament by freshman defenseman Owen Power, who was named to Team Canada’s roster.
The collegiate teammates will now face-off as international rivals.
Beniers has prior experience playing for Team USA, as he was part of the World Juniors team that won gold in January. Beniers had a quiet tournament, with just one goal and two assists, but the experience is something that will stick with him forever.
“I think that’s one of the best moments of my life so far, definitely the best hockey moment I’ve experienced,” Beniers said in January. “It was just an awesome experience to play with such great players on my team and definitely an awesome experience to play with such great players against us.”
After helping Team USA win gold at World Juniors for the first time since 2017, Beniers is hoping to help the team end a much longer medal drought at the World Championships. Team USA has not won gold since 1960, and most recently won Bronze in 2018.
At just 18 years old, Beniers will be the youngest member of Team USA. Youth was no issue for Beniers during his freshman campaign with the Wolverines, as he racked up 10 goals and 14 assists on the year and earned a spot on the Big Ten all-freshman team. He’ll hope to build on his Juniors performance and collect the second gold medal of his young career.
Power, meanwhile, will make his long-awaited debut for Team Canada. The defenseman was expecting to compete with Beniers while playing for his country at World Juniors but, facing the prospects of missing the first half of the collegiate season due to COVID-19 protocols with the Canadian team, Michigan coach Mel Pearson made a controversial decision to hold Power out of the tournament.
“I think the decision to have me stay here and play was fine. I think either way it was a good decision,” Power said after not going to Juniors. “I think just being able to stay here and just develop with the team was a good decision.”
The extra time with the Wolverines paid off for Power as he finished the season with 16 points — fourth among all Big Ten defenseman. He was also a valuable asset on the power play. Power’s abilities can help Canada earn its 27th World Championship gold medal, and its first since 2016.
After Michigan pulled out of the NCAA Tournament due to COVID-19 issues, the World Championships will be a chance for the pair to experience postseason hockey in some capacity. It is also another opportunity for Beniers and Power to bolster their draft stock, as both players are expected to be top ten picks in the NHL draft this July.
The tournament will run from May 21 to Jun. 6. Beniers and Power won’t have to wait long to face each other — the US and Canada are slated to play on May 23 during the group stage. Depending on how things shake out, they could square off again with a gold medal on the line.
Following impressive seasons in Ann Arbor, the freshman phenoms will now add another milestone to their careers: taking their talents to the international stage.