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Fourth Annual North American College Hockey Championships Set For April

Bill Wilkinson, head coach of the first-year program at Wayne State University and a veteran of 18 years behind a college bench, will serve as head coach for team USA in the fourth annual North American College Hockey Championships set for April 15 at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan and on April 16 at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario.

A 1970 graduate of St. Lawrence University, Wilkinson served 17 years as the head coach of Western Michigan University from 1982 to 1999, compiling a record of 313-301-53. He was a three-time CCHA Coach of the Year and steered his Broncos into the playoffs in 14 of his last 15 seasons. In the spring of 1999, he was named the first head coach of Wayne State University in Detroit, which is competing in the inaugural campaign of college hockey's sixth and newest playing conference, College Hockey America.

The North American College Hockey Championships will match Team USA against Team Canada in a two-game series. The Palace will host college hockey's best seniors on Saturday, April 15, with a game #1 face-off set for 3:00 p.m.

The next day, the two squads meet again at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario (2:00 p.m.) to determine bragging rights in this not-so-friendly rivalry.

The series is played under the auspices of the American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA), whose member coaches select the 20 players from NCAA institutions that make up the Team USA roster.

"We are taking this series very seriously after last year's results," said Joe Bertagna, AHCA Executive Director and the former Goaltending Coach of the Boston Bruins. "We are no longer worrying about each of our leagues being equally represented on the roster. We are putting together the best 20 seniors in the country."

Team Canada swept Team USA a year ago in the two games played in Detroit and Toronto. The squads split single games in the inaugural years of the event, Canada winning in 1997 and the U.S. rebounding in 1998.

Unlike traditional all-star games, this series serves as a showcase for many of the seniors who are looking to solidity their prospects for professional careers.

"Nearly every National Hockey League club sent scouts to last year's games and their presence was not lost on the players who responded with two spirited games," added Bertagna.

The Team USA staff, in addition to Wilkinson, incudes:

  • General Manager Greg Drechsel: a scout for the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League, Drechsel enjoyed an outstanding playing career at Colgate University and served the college game as an assistant coach before becoming a scout. He will play a major role in assembling Team USA.
  • Coach Bruce Crowder, Northeastern University: a former national Coach of the Year at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Crowder has made the Northeastern University Huskies a force in Hockey East. A graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Crowder enjoyed a successful professional career with the Boston Bruins before beginning his coaching efforts as an assistant at the University of Maine.
  • Coach Mike McShane, Norwich University: last year's College Division Coach of the Year, McShane too is an alumnus of the University of New Hampshire. After successful stints as head coach at St. Lawrence University and Providence College, McShane applied his expertise at Division III Norwich and has done wonders. His current team continues that streak as he was recently named ECAC East Coach of the Year for this season, where the Cadets are 22-1-1 overall and 16-0-1 in their division.
  • Coach Tom Newton, Michigan State University: representing the nation' assistant coaches on the staff, Newton brings 20 years of coaching experience to the staff. For the past 10 years, he has worked alongside of college hockey's winningest coach, Ron Mason. Prior to arriving in East Lansing in 1990, Newton was an assistant to Bill Wilkinson at Western Michigan and Head coach of Kent State University. He is a graduate of Bowling Green.

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