Poehling Proves Himself at World Junior Championship

Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Poehling was chosen as the 25th overall pick by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2017 NHL Draft. When he was asked about the draft for a preview story before his 2017-18 season with St. Cloud State hockey, Poehling acknowledged he was a high pick in the draft but said it was just the beginning for him.

“You’ve got to prove yourself going forward,” Poehling said. “(The draft) is a great moment, but it doesn’t prove anything yet, which is kind of motivation for me.”

More than a year later, he’s making a case for himself at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in British Columbia. In about six minutes during a third period in the preliminary round, Poehling scored a natural hat trick, matching his goal total with St. Cloud State this season.

The forward from Lakeville scored 14 goals and 31 points in his sophomore season with St. Cloud last year. Along the way, he won a bronze medal with the U.S. National Junior Team at the World Junior Championship.

His biggest highlight in the World Junior tournament this year was the natural hat trick in a span of 6:11 in the third period to tie Sweden and force overtime in the third and final preliminary game. The United States was down 3-0 through two periods and 4-0 at the 2:34 mark of the third period before four unanswered, third-period goals. The first came from U.S. captain and Roseville native Mikey Anderson with 10:26 left in regulation.

Sitting at a 4-1 deficit, Poehling scored his first goal on the power play with 6:35 to play on a tip right at the goalmouth. Then things got even more exciting in the final minute of regulation. With goaltender Kyle Keyser pulled for the extra man, Poehling’s tap-in goal with 35.6 ticks remaining got the United States within one at 4-3. When Sweden failed to clear the puck from the zone, Poehling capitalized with another goal 10 seconds later. His slapshot went top-shelf, stick-side to complete his hat-trick and complete his team’s comeback to erase the deficit.

Poehling jumped around the ice in jubilation. If there’s a place to shine offensively and show off your skills, the World Junior Championship is a great place to do it.

Unfortunately for the United States, Sweden scored the game-winner with 1:09 left in the 3-on-3 overtime to win the game 5-4 despite being outshot 33-29. Poehling was selected as the player of the game for the U.S. team. The overtime loss was the only blemish for the United States before the gold medal game.

So in a little more than six minutes Poehling scored three goals, something he’s managed to do in 16 games so far in his junior season as a forward with St. Cloud State. He also has a team-high 14 assists for a total of 17 points for the No. 1 Huskies.

The natural hat trick on the big stage at the World Junior Championship came on Dec. 29, just a few days before his 20th birthday the following Thursday. Poehling had five goals and three assists – tied for first among scoring leaders – in the World Junior Championship headed into the final game.

Poehling was selected to the U.S. National Junior Team for a second straight year, winning bronze in 2018. He scored a goal and two assists along with 14 shots on goal during the seven games last year.

Poehling helped Lakeville North to an undefeated season and the 2016 Class 2A championship in the Minnesota boys’ state hockey tournament. His teammates then and at St. Cloud include older brothers Nick and Jack Poehling. They experienced disappointment last year, becoming the second top overall seed in the NCAA tournament to get knocked out by a No. 16 team when St. Cloud lost 4-1 to Air Force last spring. They’re looking to rebound this season, which appears to be going well under new head coach Brett Larson who’s led the team to a 13-2-2 record so far.

The U.S. team defeated Russia 2-1 in the semifinals and will face Finland in Saturday’s gold medal game in Vancouver. The United States is looking for its fifth gold medal overall in the tournament and second in three years, winning in 2004, 2010, 2013 and 2017. It will also be the first time the squad has medaled in four straight years, earning bronze in 2016 and 2018.

In another Minnesota connection to the U.S. team this year, Stillwater native Noah Cates was the U.S. Player of the Game in the 3-1 quarterfinal victory over the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Cates scored the team’s first goal at 7:48 of the first period for a 1-0 lead with a nifty stickhandling move in tight on the goaltender, sliding the puck past and into the net.

Cates played the past three seasons in the USHL with Omaha. He has four goals and three assists in 16 games so far in his freshman season with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.

Other Minnesota connections include Hermantown native and UMD defenseman Dylan Samberg, St. Paul native K’Andre Miller on defense (University of Wisconsin) and Anderson, also from UMD.

Poehling started his collegiate career with St. Cloud at 17 years old in 2016-17. With his performance at the World Junior Championship combined with a solid season for the Huskies, hockey fans might be seeing him in an NHL uniform sooner rather than later.

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