California Hockey Players Lead Way on Hlinka-Gretzky Roster

California Hockey Players Lead Way on Hlinka-Gretzky Roster
Hockey sticks and puck in a file photo. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Dan Wood

USA Hockey on July 24 named four players from Orange County and one each from Los Angeles County and Northern California to its under-18 select roster for the upcoming Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in Slovakia.

The tournament, named in honor of former Czech hockey star Ivan Hlinka and Canadian icon Wayne Gretzky, is set for July 31–Aug. 5 in Breclav and Trencin, Slovakia. All Team USA games, beginning with its 10 a.m. July 31 opener against Czechia, are scheduled to be televised by the NHL Network.

The six California-based players are the most from any state, two more than Massachusetts and twice the number of Minnesota and Illinois.

Defenseman Tanner Henriks of Mission Viejo and forwards Trevor Connelly of Tustin, Colin Frank of Ladera Ranch, and Chase Stefanek of Yorba Linda represent Orange County.

Henriks, who has committed to play college hockey at St. Cloud State, and Frank were members of the Anaheim Junior Ducks in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League last season. Connelly, who played for the Tri-City, Nebraska Storm in the junior United States Hockey League (USHL), is a Providence College commit. Stefanek, who played at Mt. St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, is bound for Harvard.

Forward Aidan Park of Playa Vista is committed to attending the University of Michigan after having played prep hockey at Shattuck St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minnesota, last season. The lone representative from Northern California, defenseman Tory Pitner from El Cerrito, played for the Youngstown, Ohio Phantoms in the USHL and is headed for the University of Massachusetts.

Seventeen members of the 23-man roster are committed to college hockey. Nine of the players participated on last year’s under-17 team that competed in the Five Nations Tournament in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

In addition to Czechia, Team USA will face Germany and Sweden in Group A of the tournament. Canada, Finland, Slovakia, and Switzerland make up Group B.

Team USA has won the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup just one time, in 2003, since the tournament’s inception in 1991. It has finished second nine times, most recently in 2016, and third on three occasions.

Dan Wood is a community sports reporter based in Orange County, California. He has covered sports professionally for some 43 years, spending nearly three decades in the newspaper industry and 14 years in radio. He is an avid music fan, with a strong lean toward country and classic rock.