Two Utah 15-year-olds got a taste of international hockey during an 11-day tour in the Soviet Union last month.
Matt Green, a sophomore at Viewmont High, and Jimmy Kilpatrick, a ninth-grader at Sandy's Butler Middle School, were part of a U.S. team vying against same-age Russian counterparts.The all-star squad of 14- and 15-year-olds, not surprisingly labeled "Team USA," was sponsored by the Massachusetts-based Euro-Ed Sports, a business that coordinates various international competitions. Green and Kilpatrick first applied for consideration and were later scouted while participating with a Utah all-star team at a national tournament in Denver.
Of the Team USA squad, only three members hailed from west of the Mississippi River - one from Texas and the Utah twosome.
During the 11-day stay in the Soviet Union, the Americans played five games in the three cities of Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev, finishing with an overall record of 0-4-1, with a 5-5 tie coming in Kiev.
The margin of defeat for Team USA was usually a one- or two-goal difference. "We didn't get wiped out, so we weren't too disappointed," said Green, a center who led his team in scoring with nine goals and four assists.
While Green was aiding the American attack, Kilpatrick was back as part of the defense, which included playing two games at goalie. In fact, he was in the net for the better part of the tie contest at Kiev and left the position with Team USA holding a 4-3 lead before the Soviets knotted the score at 5-all.
Since the majority of the U.S. players came from the New England area, the Utah pair had to adapt to a different style of play, trading force for finesse. "We hit a lot more in the West," Kilpatrick said. "There's more contact - that's just the way we play."
Meanwhile, the New England players are more accustomed to less-contact, more-passing schemes - much the same as international hockey is played.
The two roomed together during the tour of the Soviet Union, which worked well for a pair of former childhood friends. "We've known each other since we were four or five," said Kilpatrick, whose family lived in the Bountiful area years ago. "We played hockey and we hung around together."
Of course, many of the highlights - and the benefits - came off the ice. "Just meeting the people and seeing the culture and the different way they (the Soviets) live," recalled Green of the trip.
Kilpatrick agreed. "It was a good experience to see what other people go through and how they live. What I basically did was go through culture shock."
One of those "shocks" was the lack of drinkable water. "So during a game, you'd be dying of thirst."