PLYMOUTH, Mich. – The U.S. National Under-18 Team went two for three in the final week of play before the holiday break, falling, 6-5, to the Dubuque Fighting Saints Saturday afternoon at USA Hockey Arena.
Sasha Pastujov (Bradenton, Fla.) notched five goals in the series, including two in today's matchup to lead the U.S. scoring effort.
Team USA got off to a slow start and the Fighting Saints capitalized on a shot advantage in the opening period, scoring a pair of goals to take a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Dubuque kept on the pressure in the opening minutes of the second period, notching another pair of goals to take a 4-0 lead with 11:13 remaining in the frame.
Just over a minute later, the U.S. finally broke through when Cutter Gauthier (Scottsdale, Ariz.) slotted a pass across the crease to Liam Gilmartin (Falls Church, Va.) who then fired the puck past Dubuque goaltender Aidan McCarthy to make it a 4-1 game.
Ryan St. Louis (Riverside, Conn.) cut the lead to 4-2 when Jeremy Wilmer (Rockville Centre, N.Y.) pickpocketed a Dubuque skater in the neutral zone and fed a pass to St. Louis who rang the puck off the crossbar and past McCarthy.
Team USA kept up the momentum late into the middle frame, and Pastujov scored his first tally of the night on the power play, firing a one-timer high over McCarthy's shoulder to pull the U.S. within a goal of the Fighting Saints. Luke Hughes (Canton, Mich.) notched his four assist of the weekend on the goal.
Wilmer rounded out the second-period scoring, firing a shot from a deep angle and richocheting a shot off a Dubuque defender into the net to knot the game at four goals apiece.
Dubuque forward Tristan Lemyre regained the lead for the Fighting Saints 1:16 into the final period, but Rutger McGroarty (Lincoln, Neb.) found Jack Hughes (Westwood, Mass.) on the odd-man rush who fed a pass to a trailing Pastujov at the crease. Pastujov sent a shot into an open net to tie the game once again. With the goal, Pastujov has now scored six times in the last three contests.
and despite outshooting the Fighting Saints, 19-8, in the final period, could not find another goal and settled for a 6-5 loss.
Both Gibson Homer (Grand Rapids, Mich.) and Kaidan Mbereko (Aspen, Colo.) saw time in the net for the U.S., stopping a combined 25 shots in the loss.