Alex Racino is hoping the second time is the charm.
For the second straight year, Racino has qualified for a Team USA Hockey development squad as one of the top 20 boys in his age group in the entire country.
That means he again earned the right to represent America in an international tournament, and this time when they compete in the Czech Republic August 9-14, he wants the squad to go all the way to the top.
“Right now the team is looking really good,” Racino, a member of the U18 Select squad, said. “We have a great chance of bringing the gold medal home. We have a lot of skill and great body size.
“Last year we had a lot of injuries and that kind of held us back. Everybody was short-winded because we were missing some of our star players. We ended up going 3-2 and we were honestly happy with that with the competition there. The top kids from around the world are there.”
At that 2009 U17 tourney, held in Fussen, Germany, Team USA defeated Germany 3-1, Switzerland 4-3 and Germany 9-6, but dropped games to Slovakia (3-2) and Czech Republic (2-1) and finished third overall.
America will scrimmage Slovakia on Aug. 7, then play the Czech Republic, Russia and Finland in pool play, hoping to earn a berth in the final two rounds.
The 6′ 3″, 180-pound, 17-year-old forward talked about what it took to make the cut from literally hundreds of top players from around the country. He attended a try-out camp that pared that number to 144, then traveled to Rochester, NY, for a week-long camp to reach the final 20.
“It was just pretty much busting everything I had,” he said. “I had to make sure I was the best player on the ice every shift.
“This was my second year making the team so it wasn’t anything new, but it still felt great. Last year I was in shock. This year I was in shock, but it wasn’t the same because I had been there before. I just want to try to bring Team USA the gold medal. I’ll try to improve every shift and try to help everyone else become a better player.”
MHS coach Chris Marlowe noted how special an accomplishment Team USA is for Racino, who will play for the Saginaw (Mich.) Spirit this fall, at the major junior level.
“I think it is an honor to have someone from our town on that team,” he said. “That is a very, very select group.
“I think it gives our boys hope that they can make that next level after high school. We not only have Alex playing for Team USA and the OHL (Ontario Hockey League), Jake Hauswirth is very close to making the big show (the NHL). We have two other boys playing midget majors up in Marquette for the Electricians in Norman and Matt Purmal.
“Obviously I’d love to have those guys on my high school team, but I’m also very happy for them getting to that next level and wish them well. I think Alex Hauswirth may still be playing and Josh Dallman is playing junior college in New York. You can’t judge the success of our youth program on the success of the high school team.
“We have a high number of players continuing on compared to the numbers in our youth program. We have a lot of opportunity here with this beautiful (Smith Center) facility. I wish more people would take advantage of the opportunities in the sport.”