CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The U.S. National Under-18 Team scored twice in the first 4:12 and never trailed in an eventual 7-6 win over the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders Sunday evening at ImOn Ice Arena. With the win, the U18s end their regular season on a four-game winning streak and winners of 12 of their last 13 games.
Cole Spicer (Grand Forks, N.D.) netted first for the U18s when he converted on a rebound opportunity at 3:04 of the first. Spicer started the play, sending the puck to Lane Hutson (North Barrington, Ill.) from behind the net. The defenseman toured the offensive zone before he threw a shot on net that was stopped by Connor Hasley. Spicer was first to the rebound and fired it in off his backhand from the slot for a 1-0 lead.
Team USA used a Logan Cooley (Pittsburgh, Pa.) shorthanded tally to double the lead just over a minute later. He won a defensive-zone battle and chipped the puck up to Ryan Leonard (Amherst, Mass.) along the right boards. Leonard ran a great 2-on-1 and fed Cooley in the slot where he wristed it home for his team leading third man-down goal of the year.
After Grant Ahcan pulled Cedar Rapids to within a goal, the U18s scored a pair in 14 seconds to begin the middle frame. Leonard snuck his way into the slot and found space to one-time a centering feed from Isaac Howard (Hudson, Wis.) to make it 3-1 in favor of Team USA.
After Team USA won the ensuing draw, Tyler Duke (Strongsville, Ohio) pushed the puck up to Cruz Lucius (Grant, Minn.) at the blue line. He fed Rutger McGroarty (Lincoln, Neb.) down the left wing where the captain connected from the left faceoff circle for his 26th score of the season at 1:26 of the second.
Lucius netted for the third time in less than 24 hours as he flexed some muscle in front of the net to take a hit and deliver on the second-chance opportunity. Charlie Leddy (Fairfield, Conn.) took the first shot from the right point that was stopped by Bruno Bruveris, but Lucius stuck the rebound with a backhand for a 5-1 advantage.
RoughRiders defenseman Erik Pohlkamp scored with under a minute to play in the second to make it a 5-2 contest after 40 minutes of play.
Team USA added a pair to extend the lead to 7-2 in the third. McGroarty forced a Cedar Rapids turnover and fed Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.), who fired in his wrister from the right circle at 3:45 of the third.
Devin Kaplan (Bridgewater, N.J.) found space in the slot and one-timed a McGroarty feed while the U18s were on a 5-on-3 advantage to make it 7-2 just shy of the halfway mark of the period. Hunter Brzustewicz (Washington Twp., Mich.) propelled McGroarty to collect the secondary helper.
Cedar Rapids came storming back with the game's final four goals, but Team USA held on for a 7-6 final.
Trey Augustine (South Lyon, Mich.) made 30 stops to give him four wins in four decisions with the Under-18 Team.
The U18s are done for the regular season and will gear up for the IIHF Under-18 Men's World Championship in Landshut and Kaufbeuren, Germany, which begins on April 23.