PLYMOUTH, MICH. - With the Americans down by a goal with more than a minute to play, Erik Foley took to the ice and stayed there until the final buzzer sounded. Ultimately, Team USA couldn't get the equalizer in a 2-1 world junior camp loss to Finland, but Foley's usage was notable.
“Foley again was a real bright spot," said coach Bob Motzko. "He's a big body, plays a north-south game and gets the puck deep in the zone. He's a big, strong athlete, so he can stay out there and not lose a lot of energy. He deserved to be out there, he's been playing real well.”
Drafted 78th overall by Winnipeg in 2015, Foley has been one of Team USA's top players at the National Junior Evaluation Camp (NJEC) in Michigan. I've been following the Massachusetts native since seeing him at the Select 17s festival a few years ago and from there to the USHL (with Cedar Rapids) and now Providence College, he is always getting in the mix during games. And the best part for Winnipeg fans? He's the type of player that can bring value on any line, be it scoring or depth.
Foley's freshman NCAA season got off to the worst possible start, as he sustained a concussion in the pre-season and missed the first two games of his college career. But for a kid who works hard, playing on a team that prides itself on working hard, it was simply an obstacle that had to be overcome.
“I came back a little slow from that and it took me awhile to get going," Foley said. "My first half was a bit of a learning curve and in my second half I got going. It was tough, but I got through it. The coaching staff and the boys helped me through it and I was very appreciative of that.”
Not only was Foley trying to get up to speed quickly upon his return, but he was also playing for a Friars squad that had just won the national championship the season prior - so the team had a target on its back every game. Foley was cool with that, though.
“I liked it because you got everyone's 'A' game," he said. "No one was falling asleep at the wheel when they played us and as a team and as individuals, it made us better.”
In the end, the powerful left winger put up 19 points in 36 games. That's pretty good for a freshman who had a false start, not to mention a teen playing on one of the conference's best teams.
Heading into his sophomore campaign, Foley knows he'll have to keep progressing. The Friars lost their top-four scoring forwards to graduation over the summer and Hockey East is never an easy schedule.
“Everyone will have to step up to the plate," he said. "And make the best of the opportunity they are given.”
With the way Foley has played early on in his career - and especially the way he has buzzed around the NJEC for Team USA, that shouldn't be a problem for the Jets prospect.