A weary Jack Capuano was nursing a sinus infection when he returned to his Bangor home earlier this week after coaching a youthful United States National Team to the bronze medal at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Championships in Latvia.
The former University of Maine All-America defenseman, who is an associate coach with the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, led the Americans to a 6-1 record in the preliminary rounds and a 6-1 victory over Slovakia in the quarterfinals before eventual champ Canada topped the U.S. 4-2 in the semifinals.
The U.S. rebounded in the bronze medal game to beat Germany 6-1.
The Americans’ only other loss came in their tourney opener, 3-1, to silver medalist Finland. The U.S. had beaten Canada 5-1 in a preliminary round game.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this group,” said the 54-year-old Capuano, who previously was the head coach of the New York Islanders. “It was a great group. We had 10 guys who were playing in their first IIHF Tournament.”
The U.S. squad lost captain Justin Abdelkader and assistant captain Matt Roy, two important players, to injuries during the tournament.
“We had the best record in the tournament (8-2) and all the credit goes to the kids. They came together as a group, they played within the team concepts and their attention to detail was off the charts.”
Capuano called it a relentless group that bonded and had a rewarding experience as part of the team.
“They knew what it meant to play for their country and the sacrifices that had to be made day in and day out. They played for each other,” he said.
Capuano pointed out that unlike other teams, which leave roster spots open for NHL players to join them when their teams get eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, the U.S. didn’t add anyone.
He said the tournament was first class in spite of the “bubble” environment. He was used to the scenario as Ottawa played in the NHL’s North Division with all the other Canadian teams, which operated under strict COVID-19 guidelines this season.
Participants at the World Championships were confined to their hotels except for practices and games. He said the players and staff had access to large rooms with various activities such as ping-pong and there was a venue to watch movies.
He said the food was excellent.
The Winter Olympics begin on Feb. 4, 2020, in Beijing, China.
Capuano said that there are a number of top candidates for the head coaching job, including coaches who have guided teams to Stanley Cup championships.
“I would love the opportunity to be on that staff,” he said.
Capuano has one more year left on his contract with Ottawa and he said looks forward to having the chance to be a head coach again.
“We’ll see how the summer goes,” said Capuano, who is concentrating on spending some time with wife Donna (Stevenson) and the family right now.