James Sanchez (1998)
6’ 2″ - 190 lbs
Hometown: Northbrook, IL
USA U18/University of Michigan
Growing up in Northbrook, Illinois, James Sanchez was a diehard University of Michigan Wolverines fan.
“My parents were Michigan fans too,” he said. “We didn’t have any Michigan alumni in my family; we just up cheering for them.”
Sanchez’s youth teams frequently played in the state, and his youth teams attended Wolverines games several times each year. Next year he will join the Wolverines as a player.
On Jan. 21, however, Sanchez got a preview for what that might be like when he and his U.S. National Under-18 teammates took on the Wolverines at Yost Ice Arena.
Despite the National Team Development Program losing 5-2, Sanchez said the experience was a thrill.
“It was awesome to play there,” he said. “All week, I had been excited to play there. I never played at Yost prior to that game, but I had been there to watch games. The game was cool. I remember scanning the arena during warm ups and looking at the crowd. It was cool to look down and see the team I’m going to be playing for next.
“You could hear the student section, but once you got on the ice, you really couldn’t hear too much.”
Now Sanchez is focused on finishing his time with the NTDP on a high note. The 6-foot-1, 184-pound forward has seven goals and 16 points this season and credits the program for his development and growth.
“My game has grown both offensively and defensively since I came into the program,” he said. “It has really changed my game. I wasn’t really focused on the defensive zone or penalty kill, but now I am. I know I have to buckle down and take it to the next level. Honestly, my game has grown in so many different levels. I have learned how to attack the net and definitely worked on my shot.”
Sanchez credits the intense practices for helping him develop as a player.
“Practice really ties into games,” he said. “Coach [Danton] Cole knows what he wants us to do. We can go back and see on video that we have done something in practice before. It is the little things. We work on the penalty kill in practice, and you can see the improvement. The repetition makes you think.
“It’s the old clichÃƒƒƒ© that practice makes perfect. That is what we do — we will do it over and over again until we get it right.”
Wearing the USA sweater never gets old for Sanchez, especially in international competition.
“It’s been a huge honor,” he said. “This is our last year wearing it, and that second year shows us that we still have things to come.”
Part of the things to come is the IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship next month in North Dakota. It’s an event Sanchez can’t wait to participate in.
“We need to keep training and start working on doing the little things off the ice that will help us perform at the level on the ice,” he said. “In our U17 year, we had to grind through the whole year and we didn’t win too many games. This year, this team is going to battle for each other each night.
“We finished first at the Five Nations in Switzerland in November. It really helped us to show what we need to do as a team to be successful. We can use that to remember that we need to do the little things [when it comes to the world championship].”
One of his best memories has been spend spending time with his teammates. It’s a special bond that the players share.
“Going to the rink and seeing the guys every day, it never gets old,” Sanchez said. “It’s fun to be with teammates. We go to battle each day and we have build that trust and will be brothers for life.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.