PLYMOUTH, Mich. - Cutter Gauthier (Scottsdale, Ariz.) scored his team-leading 14th and 15th goals of the season, but the U.S. National Under-18 Team fell to the Muskegon Lumberjacks, 4-2, Wednesday morning at USA Hockey Arena.
Muskegon opened the scoring 12:11 into the game when Ben Strinden redirected a shot from Jacob Guevin past USA netminder Tyler Muszelik (Long Valley, N.J.). Guevin's assist gave him 27 points on the year, tops among all USHL blueliners.
Gauthier evened the score with a lethally quick release less than two minutes later. Ryan Chesley (Mahtomedi, Minn.) forced a Muskegon neutral-zone turnover and Gauthier collected the loose puck, weaved between multiple defenders and snapped a wrister by Alexander Kuleshov to tie the game at 1-1.
Jake Richard scored before the close of the first to give Muskegon a 2-1 lead into the first break of the game.
The Jacks' Joey Larson converted on a 2-on-1 opportunity for the lone goal of the middle frame as Muskegon doubled the advantage to 3-1.
Gauthier brought Team USA within one less than a minute into the third period when he netted his team-leading 15th score of the season. Jimmy Snuggerud (Chaska, Minn.) won a puck battle along the right-wing boards and kicked a pass to Gauthier. His shot went off Kuleshov's glove and in to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Team USA called timeout and pulled Muszelik with just over two minutes to play in regulation, but could not secure another goal to force overtime.
Muszelik finished with 26 saves in the morning game.
The U18s are back in action Saturday evening when they host the Youngstown Phantoms at USA Hockey Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm.