15 AHL grads make U.S. Olympic team

Fifteen American Hockey League alumni are among the 23 players named Monday night to represent the United States at the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.

“We are extremely pleased with our team and feel very confident that we’ve put a solid group together that will best put us in a position to compete for the gold medal,” said Team USA general manager Don Waddell, himself a former AHL player and executive. "The selection process was an extremely difficult one and that’s a terrific statement for hockey in the United States. It means our talent pool in this country continues to grow."

Goaltender Rick DiPietro, at 24 the youngest member of Team USA, was an AHL All-Star in 2002 and led the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to a berth in the Calder Cup Finals that spring. His American crease-mates will be Robert Esche, a 1999 AHL All-Star, and John Grahame, who won a Calder Cup championship with Providence in 1999.

Former AHL defensemen named to the team include Jordan Leopold, John-Michael Liles, Aaron Miller and Mathieu Schneider. AHL grads at forward will be Jason Blake, Craig Conroy, Brian Gionta, Bill Guerin, Mike Knuble, Mark Parrish, Brian Rolston and Doug Weight.

The head coach of the U.S. men’s Olympic team is Peter Laviolette, head coach of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. Laviolette won the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the outstanding coach in the American Hockey League in 1998-99, when he guided the Providence Bruins to a 56-win regular season and the Calder Cup title.

AHL alumni Mike Sullivan, now head coach of the Boston Bruins, and Keith Allain, goaltending coach for the St. Louis Blues organization, will serve as the team’s assistant coaches. Team USA opens its Olympic schedule on Feb. 15 against Latvia.