While you have read about Russia’s Matvei Michkov recently, there’s another player who finished the two group-stage games with six goals. Team USA forward Isaac Howard scored a hat trick in each of the games against Finland and Switzerland to lead his team to the group win.
That Howard leads his team in scoring and seems to battle for the scoring title with Michkov is no co-incidence. He just loves what he does and does what he loves. Or as he put it:
Team USA came to the Youth Olympics as defending champion and Howard has seen the puck go in a lot on the ice or from the bench. The Americans started with a 7-5 win against Finland followed by an 8-2 victory against host Switzerland.
Howard grew up in Hudson, Wisconsin, just a few miles from Minneapolis and St. Paul. In the meantime he has crossed the St. Croix River forming the state border to Minnesota where he plays for the Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault.
“My dad played hockey when I was a kid and got me into it. I followed the game since I’m 4 and love it,” said Howard, who likes to hang around with his friends in the village in the past time.
For 2022 he’s a candidate to be picked in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. Until then he cheers on his local team in the National Hockey League.
“I loved the Wild growing up, they were my favourite NHL team and they still are,” he said.
For Howard it’s the first experience with a Team USA jersey. While players know each other better at the World Juniors or the U18 Worlds, this U16 team was put together for the Youth Olympics just recently.
“We just got thrown together on the team. We all know each other from playing each other here and there but we got close really quickly and that helps a lot,” he said.
Can the Americans defend the title again? Beside Russia, Team USA is the only undefeated squad after the group stage.
“We go game by game, it’s all we need to do,” he said about the role of the favourite. “It’s going to be tough to defend the title. There are definitely good teams at the other side of the pool and with our group and our team we can definitely get gold and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The other side of the pool, that’s Canada and Russia who made it to the semi-finals as well. Canada will be the next opponent on Tuesday at 11:00 (5am ET, live stream).
“It will be fun.”