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New Canaan's Pacioretty named to U.S. Olympic hockey team

Updated 2:39 pm, Wednesday, January 8, 2014

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  • TAMPA, Fl. - DECEMBER 28:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens races down ice for the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Tampa Bay Times Forum on December 28, 2013 in Tampa, Florida. Photo: Scott Iskowitz, Getty Images / 2013 Getty Images
    TAMPA, Fl. - DECEMBER 28: Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens races down ice for the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Tampa Bay Times Forum on December 28, 2013 in Tampa, Florida. Photo: Scott Iskowitz, Getty Images

 

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Outwork everyone as a high school hockey player? Check. Average more than a point per game during a one-year stay at the University of Michigan? Check. Make it to the NHL and lead your team in points the last two seasons? Check.

But New Canaan's Max Pacioretty didn't stop there.

On New Year's Day, the Montreal Canadiens left-winger was selected to represent his country on the 2014 U.S. Olympic hockey team.

"I am not sure how much the NHL was on Max's mind when he was at Taft, but I can tell you this: Every time he laced up his skates he was determined to show everyone that he was the best skater on the ice," said Dan Murphy, who coached Pacioretty during his junior and senior high school seasons at Taft School.

Pacioretty joins fellow local NHL players Jonathan Quick of Hamden and Kevin Shattenkirk of Greenwich on the 25-man roster.

And although it's been a decade since Pacioretty donned the New Canaan black and red, coach Bo Hickey still couldn't help but marvel at the work ethic of the now 25-year-old Montreal Canadien.

"Of all the athletes I've been around in high school sports, he might have put in the most time of everybody I've ever known as far as dedication: Weight room, conditioning, diet, everything. The complete package," Hickey said. "It's not like he was destined to be in the NHL from his freshman and sophomore year, but he pushed himself far beyond what most high school kids can envision. He was hell-bent on getting to one place and now he's there and he's one of the primo players that there is."

The 2013-14 campaign hasn't come without challenges for Pacioretty, who suffered a hamstring injury in his team's fifth game of the season at Winnipeg, requiring him to miss eight games.

Pacioretty also became a father for the first time on Dec. 23 when his wife, Katia, gave birth to their son, Lorenzo.

Despite missing time with the injury, Pacioretty has posted a team-high 19 goals to go along with seven assists to help the Canadiens to a 25-14-5 mark as of Wednesday, good for fourth best in the Eastern Conference.

On Jan. 2, the game after learning he'd represent the U.S. in the Olympics, Pacioretty enjoyed a monster night, scoring a pair of goals, dishing out two assists and recording seven shots on net as the Canadiens defeated the Dallas Stars 6-4.

And how do his former coaches expect Pacioretty to perform on one of the world's grandest stages when the lights are shining brightest?

"Max is well-equipped to handle the pressure of Sochi," Murphy said. "He plays in Montreal, where his game and the team's game are scrutinized by the media on a daily basis, and he has performed remarkably. I would argue the bigger the stakes, the better Max plays."

"Max plays the game at both ends," Hickey said. "The easiest thing I can say about Pacioretty is he speaks softly and carries a big stick. He doesn't talk about it. He goes out and gets it done."

jchik@bcnnew.com; Twitter: @jchik17