MUSKEGON, Mich. - The U.S. National Under-18 Team scored the first three goals of the game en route to a 5-1 victory to open its season Friday afternoon at Mercy Health Arena in Muskegon.
Frank Nazar III (Mount Clemens, Mich.) kicked off the season's scoring when he connected on a one-timer at 4:16 of the opening period. Devin Kaplan (Bridgewater, N.J.) forced an offensive-zone turnover and wasted no time sliding the puck over to Nazar, who put his slap-shot past Lumberjacks goaltender, Cameron Korpi, for the 1-0 lead.
Cole Spicer (Grand Forks, N.D.) doubled the U.S. advantage with a power-play marker just past the halfway mark of the first. Jimmy Snuggerud (Chaska, Minn.) drove the puck down center ice and shifted a pass to Nazar on the left wing. The University of Michigan commit centered a feed in front of the net that Spicer redirected off his backhand and in for his first goal of the season.
Team USA netted the lone goal of the middle period on a power play off the stick of Kaplan. Lane Hutson (North Barrington, Ill.) led the rush into the offensive zone and found Rutger McGroarty (Lincoln, Neb.) on the left wing. He fed a quick pass to a cutting Cruz Lucius (Lawrence, Kan.), who found Kaplan below the 'Jacks defense. Kaplan took the puck from forehand to backhand and slid his shot by Korpi for a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes of play.
Muskegon got on the board in the final period when Thomas Sinclair found a loose rebound in front of the net and scored on the second-chance opportunity. The original shot came from Jacob Guevin at the right point, which goaltender Tyler Muszelik (Long Valley, N.J.) turned aside, but the netminder could not get the second save as the score went 3-1.
Snuggerud and Cutter Gauther (Scottsdale, Ariz.) added goals late in regulation to give the U18s a 5-1 win.
Snuggerud cleaned up a loose puck after a goal-mouth scramble and deposited a quick wrister in the back of the net to push the lead to 4-1. He was assisted by Nazar and Isaac Howard (Hudson, Wis.) on the team's third power-play marker of the game.
Gauthier capped the game's scoring with a second-chance attempt after McGroarty's initial shot was saved, but squeaked between the legs of Korpi on the goalline for Gauthier to tap in. Kaplan picked up his third point of the afternoon with the secondary helper on the score.
Dylan Silverstein (Calabasas, Calif.) started the game in net for Team USA and turned aside all 23 shots he saw through the first two periods of play. Muszelik entered for the third period and ended the game with four stops.
The two sides are back at it tomorrow evening at USA Hockey Arena for the 4th Annual Play With Purpose charity game, to help raise funds and awareness against distracted driving. Tickets are available for the game by calling the USA Hockey Arena box office at 734-453-6400 and limited tickets will be available at the door.