Throughout the tournament, this page will contain blog entries from Steve Balint on the U.S. Men’s National University Team & Christina Young on the U.S. Women’s National University Team, as they compete internationally and explore Erzurum, Turkey.
**Scroll down for Christina’s posts.**
*Their most recent entries will be listed first.*
Balint is a senior at Lindenwood University, where he has helped the team capture consecutive ACHA Division I National Championships.
Monday, February 7
Hello everyone, what a great experience we all had. We ended up coming in 6th place out of 12 countries, best finish to date. The women’s team finished 4th and had a strong showing for their first time in the World University Games. The relationships we have built have been the best part of this experience for myself. We traveled for 28 hours straight, then had a five hour drive back here to St. Louis. I hope everyone made it home safe.
The games in Turkey were fast and very skilled. Most of the countries send pro players, so it was a good measuring stick to see where you stand and I thought we did very well. Turkey was a good host and the people were very nice. It was a culture shock for some of us, but it feels great to be home. I just want to say thank you to USA Hockey for this opportunity and for the privilege to help convey messages on this blog. Thank you for reading, and I hope you are all well. Thank you most importantly for all the support we received from all of you! Thanks so much!
Tuesday, February 1
What a great few days it has been… The win over Spain has put us into the next round, where we will play Belarus. It should be a good game – they are very skilled, but so are we! The Spanish goalie was very good. He literally stood on his head and then did a cart wheel against us. Our team has been playing well, and we are building on our momentum.
The team went out to the mall a few days ago, and I was expecting it to be different, but to my surprise, it had the exact same things that we have back home. I was going to buy something, but it would be pointless. My dad is here as well, and he said he bought a wild rug that was made in 1920 (pretty cool). The parents have been doing well and they have been very supportive as have everyone who has been following us. The comments on the blog are great – we all truly appreciate your support and enjoy reading your wishes.
Last night, we went to a traditional Turkish restaurant and it was pretty neat. The food was pretty good as well – I had chicken and you can’t go wrong with that. Today we are off to watch the gals play Great Britain and then we have practice. I hope you are all digging yourselves out of the snow storm… Mom, don’t lose Truman (new puppy)! Thanks for reading and thanks for the well wishes!
Sunday, January 30
Today we played Slovakia and won 7-3. The team played really well – it was a must win game for us after dropping the last one. The game was fast, and the difference was that we capitalized on our scoring chances, and that obviously made the biggest difference. The Slovaks were big and fast, but we played physical and caught them off guard.
The food here is still suspect… I am the pickiest eater around and today, I forced myself to eat Chinese food. I wont even eat Chinese food at home, let alone come to Turkey and eat it. Hopefully it gets better or I’ll be losing some weight…
Anyways, we have tomorrow off from games and we have practice at 8 a.m. and a team picture, followed by the women’s game against Canada. Thanks for reading and talk to you soon with an update.
Saturday, January 29
I hope you are all well. Today isn’t over yet, but I have some down time to write to you all…
We played Kazakhstan last night and lost, but we actually didn’t play bad – just had a few miscues in the first period, but after that, we played pretty well. The bounces didn’t go our way, but we have to make our own luck. It’s a different style of hockey over here -very puck-controlled, and I love that.
Today, we had practice and went to eat. We were supposed to go watch the USA snowboarding team, but it was postponed due to fog, so we went to watch Russia play Czech Republic in hockey. Tonight we are off to watch the ski jump. It looks wild. We can see the ski hill and the jumps from our windows, and it looks awesome, and I’m really excited to see it. We play Slovakia tomorrow at 4 pm Turkish time, so I will write another update either tonight or tomorrow.
Friday, January 28
Hello again everyone. Last night was the opening ceremony and it was a blast. The show was phenomenal – a lifetime experience for sure. The stadium was packed with people screaming, yelling, flashing lights and it was just fantastic. The ceremony ended with a fireworks show that was second to none.
Today, we went to the rink to watch the women play (they won). We play Kazakhstan tonight at 8 p.m. Turkish time. It is going to be an intense, highly skilled game and we are really looking forward to it. We all really appreciate the support that we have been getting from everyone. It really helps being so far away. The people here have been so helpful and nice to us, and I think that everyone has adjusted well. I will send a update today or tomorrow with our game tonight… I hope everyone is doing well back home, and wish us luck!
Wednesday, January 26
Wow, what a trip. That was the longest I have ever been awake – 30 hours in total before I finally got a real sleep in. The flight from Chicago to Frankfort was good – we had a choice of movies and watched three all together to kill time during the trip. We arrived in Istanbul, and the culture shock hit – we all were in a little bit of shock. We have an internet cafe in the bottom of our dorm, which I’m in right now.
All of the dorms are very nice, all new and all very clean, and the people have been very nice and helpful here so far. The rink is awesome. It reminds me of a globe, and the ice surface is below ground level, so it feels like your skating in a bowl of cereal.
Anyways, I will put up another blog entry tonight, since we are off to practice and have a team meeting. Everyone on the team is well. Even though we have international plans, the phones still do not work, so email is the best way to get a hold of anyone. Thanks for reading!
Sunday, January 23
Today started out with a team picture and practice, followed by lunch and our game vs. Davenport University, based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The game was pretty eventful. We played well and had good team chemistry. The final was 6-2, with some pretty goals – the prettiest by# 9 Mike Lepre (Kent State). He skated in from the point made and nice move on a defenseman, went to his backhand and slid the puck through the goalie’s legs.
After the game, we came back to the hotel, ate and are relaxing watching TV, or playing cards. Tomorrow we fly out to Turkey – should be fun, but also a long trip. I’m not completely sure about the total travel time, but looking at a map, it’s pretty easy to figure out.
As for now, I’m just getting everything ready for tomorrow and making sure we all have the things we need. Keep checking in for updates, and wish us luck in Turkey. Thank you so much for reading!
Saturday, January 22
To start the blog off, I just want to say in this short time that I have been around the players and staff affiliated with USA Hockey, what a positive experience I have had. It has been so much fun, with the trip to Vermont over Christmas and now here in Chicago.
Tonight we played an All-Star team ranging from players who competed in the ACHA in prior years. What our team took from this game was confidence and camaraderie. We started off slow in the beginning, but then we went up 1-0 after the first and really came on at the end to pop three goals in and make the final 4-0.
Tomorrow, we are set to play Davenport University, before packing up and heading to Turkey. The team picture and practice await us before the game.
Make sure you check back throughout the trip for updates. I am not sure what the internet situation will be overseas, but I will try and update everyday, with happenings and most importantly, game updates. Thanks for reading and wish us luck.
Young is a senior at Michigan State University, and led her team’s defensemen with 10 points in 20 games, prior to joining Team USA.
Wednesday, February 2
Today we geared up to play Great Britain. This was the last game for us before the semifinals start on Friday. We needed a win and everyone knew it going into the game. I dressed for warm ups and would be re-evaluated after on whether I would be able to play in the game with my injury. Surprisingly, my ankle felt great and the swelling had gone down and there was almost no pain. After warm ups, I knew that my ankle was better and that I would be able to skate but it would probably be limited to playing time since the coaching staff wanted to make sure that it would not get injured again before semifinals.
After a few shifts in the first period, I already knew that I was playing well and that my ankle was holding up. For the rest of the game I was getting regular playing time – I scored a goal and assisted on a goal. Near the end of the period I reached out to keep the puck in the offensive zone and ended up landing on my right elbow. When I landed I felt a pop in my shoulder and I just knew that I dislocated it. I went directly to the bench and was in so much pain. After the game they had to take me to the medical room in the big arena. Our doctor tried to set it back in place but it was so painful that they eventually had to put some Lidocane in the joint to help with the pain. Once that started to work, they tried to set it in place again. It was hard for them to get it back in the socket because my muscles were tightening and spasming on their own. When it was popped back in, it hurt so much but it felt better. We ended up winning against Great Britain 8-1, and with that win, we move onto the semifinal round and play Canada again on Friday.
For dinner, we went to a traditional Turkish restaurant. It was nice to get out of the village and the dining hall for a meal. We had to sit on the floor on these pillows in this cozy back area. It was actually comfortable to just sit on the pillows and be around small round tables to make it an intimate and cozy environment for a meal. The food was wonderful. It was a plated meal, where you chose what you wanted from the plate and made a wrap out of it. The choices of meat included beef, chicken or mixed. Both beef and chicken were delicious but I preferred the beef since it was shredded and had a sauce on it. The dessert was cylindrical dough that had nuts in the middle and had a sweet syrup. I actually enjoyed the dough part, but I am not a big fan of nuts so I just ate around them. The dinner was a great experience to have and a great meal that made us all full and ready for bed.
Tuesday, February 1
We had practice in the afternoon, but I had to sit out since we wanted to make sure that my ankle would be better for the rest of the games. I wanted to practice and be out there with the team, but I wasn’t allowed to. We covered a new defensive zone coverage system, that would help the coverage in front and up high. I have been injured before and have had to deal with sitting at practice, but I have never wanted to practice so badly before. I would have traded spots with anyone out there to just be able to skate.
Later that night, the men took on Spain. The game was filled with intensity and hard work. The first two periods were scoreless. In the third period, we scored first and Spain answered right back. But then the men answered quickly with another goal. Then everything seemed to click and work out in front of the net. The men’s team won 4-1 in the end and it was a well-deserved win… They now move onto the quarterfinals with that win. Go USA!
Monday, January 31
Today we faced Canada, and we knew it was going to be a rough and fast game. Canada came out hard and we were just not all there and a bit sluggish. It could have been due to the fact that we played so great against Finland, but either way, it was the one bad day that we couldn’t afford to have. I was not able to finish the game due to my ankle, but I was hoping that our team would score at least one goal and pick it up a bit. We ended up losing, but we all knew we did not play our best in the game.
Later we traveled out into the city with the men’s team and some of the biathlon athletes to the mall. It was an interesting adventure to say the least. We were supposed to stay there for about three hours and I walked through it in about thirty minutes. It wasn’t that it was that small, but the stores were just similar throughout. There were three levels in the mall and the bottom floor had an arcade game area and a supermarket store and the middle floor had basically clothing and shoe stores.
The top had some athletic stores and the food court. The food court included Burger King, Sbarro and Popeyes, so a lot of us were happy seeing restaurants that we are used to. We ended up getting to leave early since a lot of people were bored and just walking around in circles for the entire time.
Sunday, January 30
Today we played Finland. Our day started off with getting breakfast and then having a team meeting about some systems that we would have to execute during the game. Some included a new rotation for the penalty kill, the forecheck, and the regroup in the neutral zone. During the game, all of these were executed well against Finland. We played well and stayed with them through the entire game. I was proud of the way we played, especially since Finland has five bronze medal Olympians and some current members of their national team.
Later that night, we went as a team to watch the men’s curling team take on Norway. It was actually my first time watching a curling match. It was fun to see them play and the strategy involved. They worked hard and ended up beating Norway that night.
Friday, January 28
Today we faced Turkey and we knew that it was going to be an easier task than Slovakia. We played hard and quickly got on the board. Megan Winters scored first and not even a minute later, Terra Payne got a goal. Other players scoring included Sam Redick, Shea Crawford, Erica Wynn, myself, Justine Ducie, Emily Nelson, Denise Rohlik, Ashley Rumsey, Ramey Weaver, Ally Arcibal, and Tiff Juha. Everyone on the team worked well and tried to use the game time to work on things. This helped us all realize that we have it in us to be a team and work together. I ended up going down on my ankle in the third period and ended up spraining it. So unfortunately I did not get to finish the game but I needed my ankle to get tended to by our trainer and our doctor. We ended up finishing the game with a shutout for our goalie, Katie Vaughan, and 15 goals on the scoreboard. As for the women on the Turkey team, they work hard every shift and really don’t give up. They are also probably the best team that shows an immense amount of sportsmanship.
Later that night, we went to go watch the men’s first game against Kazakhstan. They were
playing physical and great against them, but ended up losing 5-0. The game was fun to watch because no matter what happened with bad calls and injuries, they played through it and never gave up. It was also fun to be on the cheering side of things. We were joined by the biathlon athletes and some of the other skiers that are competing. It was great having a lot of the delegation there cheering on a team.
Thursday, January 27
Today was the first day of games for the women’s ice hockey teams. We were matched up against Slovakia and everyone was excited for the first game. Once the game started, we came out hard and were working hard every shift. Slovakia ended getting on the board first with a goal however. We did not let down in our intensity, but lost 5-1 in the end. Our men’s hockey team came and watched some of our game and supported us, which was nice to see some fans in the stands.
Opening ceremonies for the Games were later in the night and getting to our holding area was a fiasco, but when we got to the rinks, we found our area where we were supposed to line up and have our flag bearer. The flag bearer that would lead us through was the captain of the men’s hockey team. I actually was able to walk in the front line for the ceremonies with the head of our delegation, Gary. Being in the front line was definitely surreal and I am just happy to have been a part of it. It was exciting to be walking in the ceremony for an international competition and to represent our country. My parents actually came to Turkey to watch the games, and I spotted them in the large crowd, which was amazing!
Since the USA delegation was the second country to enter, we waited for the rest of the competing countries to enter into the building and to be announced. In the meantime, we decided to intermingle with other athletes from different countries and different sports. It was a great experience to meet other university athletes from many countries that are competing.
Wednesday, January 26
After a long day of traveling, we had to wake up and go practice in the morning. First, we went to go eat breakfast as a team and it was interesting seeing the food choices for breakfast. There were eggs, sausage links, oatmeal, and some cereal choices. We could all find something to eat with those choices and the fruit choices available.
Then we were on our way to the rink for practice and were taking everything in during the daylight. The practice was for us to get used to the ice and the boards and to get comfortable with each other. The ice was pretty bad during practice – it was warm in the rink so it was real soft and bumpy. The boards were very giving, so the puck would bounce well off of them if needed.
Later that day, we went to the flag raising ceremony in the athlete’s village. We were joined with the men’s curling team. It was great to meet some of the other athletes competing in other events at the Games. The ceremony had the head of delegations from the different countries come up and say a few words to the mayor of the athlete’s village and they received a commemorating plate for the 25th Winter Universiade in Erzurum.
Monday, January 24
Traveling is always interesting, but traveling with two hockey teams and all of the team staff is just a sitcom in itself. Everything started out great with getting everything packed onto the buses and getting checked in at the airport in Chicago. We all boarded our flight to Frankfurt, Germany that would take about 8 hours.
The long flight was filled with excitement while trying to control our anxiousness. A lot of us watched movies and played some card games to fill the time. We also tried to sleep a little on the flight but it was difficult for me to fall asleep, but that might have just been me being anxious to about getting to Erzurum already for the Games.
We arrived in Frankfurt and had to walk a mile or so to get to our connecting flight. It was a nice workout in between the long flights though. The flight from Frankfurt to Istanbul was easier for me to fall asleep, but we had a scary landing that definitely woke me up. The next issue was getting our visas before grabbing our luggage.
Once we got through customs, it was an ordeal trying to get all the luggage sorted and on carts to make our way to the check-in counters. The trip to the check in area was an interesting task with all the carts that everyone had for carrying luggage. Obstacles on the way included uphill ramps and ramps that went around corners, which were difficult for the guys that had the stick bags on two carts together. They eventually just took all of the baggage off and put it on the moving walkway ramp to get it up to the next level. All in all, there were a few speedbumps, but we finally got on the flight and made it into the athletes’ village in Erzurum.
Saturday, January 22
The letters U-S-A represent the country that we live in and now I am wearing them for a national team to represent our country at the World University Games. Today started with waking up for a team breakfast at our hotel and getting ready for our first practice together as a team. Upon arrival to the rink, we were greeted with a camera crew from FOX College Sports filming us getting off the bus and getting into the rink. Walking into our locker room was unreal, and I felt as if I was dreaming and I as going to wake up and it would all just be a dream. We all had our own seating areas with name tags and our practice gear and our white team jerseys hanging for show.
Practice was definitely a struggle at the beginning since we have never played together until this moment. By the end of the practice, things were flowing better and we were starting to show signs of chemistry. After we were all done, we left to get back to the hotel for lunch and a team meeting, and there was downtime for a nice nap. We then got ready to head back to the rink to play our first game together. The game was against the U19 Chicago Young Americans team. We played well for it being the first game together and only having an hour of practice as a team before. The first period was a slow start with difficulties on connecting and raising our level of play. We played more intense in the second and had a lot of chances with the chemistry growing. The third period was hard working and ended with us coming up short at the very end. We lost 3-2, but as Coach Mo said in the locker room “It doesn’t matter if we win the first game, just as long as we win our last.” Now we are all just relaxing and getting ready for a good nights rest before practice tomorrow morning. We all can’t wait to get to Turkey for the tournament!
Friday, January 21
Last week was the first week back at school for the second semester of my senior year at Michigan State University. It was full of getting back into the swing of being in class and having assignments and readings. Added to that was the stress of making arrangements for what I would miss while on my trip to Turkey to play in the Winter World University Games in Erzurum.
MLK day was like Christmas all over again. I received my Team USA apparel and some of the hockey equipment. It felt great to put on the clothing, because it made things seem more real and made me realize that the World University Games was coming up very soon.
Now it is Friday and I drove down with Charlie (Charlotte Hoium) and Terra (Terra Payne) to Chicago for our exhibition series. We had medical evaluations for the team in the afternoon to get cleared to play by the team trainers and doctors. Everyone was cleared to play and we then headed out for a team dinner. It was a shock to show up at this very nice restaurant and be greeted by diners there that saw our apparel and cheered for us and applauded us. Soon after we started eating, the Men’s team arrived and joined us for the lovely meal. After dinner, we had our team meeting where we discussed some systems for offensive and defensive zone coverage. We practice tomorrow and play the Chicago Young Americans (CYA).