Photo by Michael Caples
PLYMOUTH, Mich. – The U.S. National Under-17 Team battled hard to the end, but fell short, 6-2, to the Muskegon Lumberjacks on Saturday night at USA Hockey Arena.
Luck was not on Team USA’s side to open the game, highlighted by a shot from the slot by Gracyn Sawchyn (Chaska, Minn.) that rang off the post and a closely missed chance by Gabe Perreault (Hinsdale, Ill.) on the man advantage.
Muskegon’s Ben Strinden opened scoring with 1:58 left in the opening frame, pushing the visiting team ahead 1-0. A shot from the point by Nathan McBrayer deflected off Strinden’s stick and right to the back of the net.
Team USA’s Ryan Fine (Center Moriches, N.Y.) tied the game 1-1 at 13:58 of the middle period. Fine beat Muskegon goaltender Aleksandr Kuleshov top shelf for his fourth goal of the season, assisted by Charlie Cerrato (Fallston, Md.) and Drew Fortescue (Pearl River, N.Y.)
Quinn Hutson put the visitors up 2-1 at 11:24 with a power-play tally, then just a few minutes later, Team USA followed up with a goal of their own on the man advantage. A loose puck off a shot from Will Vote (Arlington, Mass.) was poked at by Austin Burnevik (Blaine, Minn.) and cleaned up by Danny Nelson (Maple Grove, Minn.) in the crease.
Jake Braccini’s net-front goal put Muskegon on top once again late in the period to close out scoring in the middle frame.
In the third period, two even-strength tallies and an empty-net goal for the visiting team extended their lead over Team USA to four, for a final score of 6-2.
A third period push wasn’t enough to close the gap on Muskegon. Sam Scopa (Lexington, Mass.) finished the game with 22 saves in a 28 save effort in 59 minutes between the pipes.
Team USA and the Chicago Steel face off tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 p.m. ET at USA Hockey Arena.