MUSKEGON, Mich. - Ryan Leonard (Amherst, Mass.) scored four times to help the U.S. National Under-18 Team to a 7-2 win over the Muskegon Lumberjacks Friday morning at Trinity Health Arena to open the Under-18 Team's season.
The four-goal performance was the first for Team USA in USHL play since Cole Caufield scored four on March 1, 2019 against the Madison Capitols.
Muskegon's Nathan McBrayer started the scoring with an early power-play marker for the Lumberjacks. The defenseman carried the puck the length of the ice, shimmied a defender and put his shot far-side over the shoulder of Team USA netminder Carsen Musser (Sherburn, Minn.).
The U18s responded with a power-play score of their own, courtesy of Leonard. Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.) intercepted a Lumberjacks neutral-zone pass and fed Leonard streaking into the offensive zone. He drove the right lane and put his shot through the five-hole to even the score at 1-1.
Team USA used four second-period goals to take command of the game. Leonard added his second, again on the power play, with a quick wrister from the slot off a pretty no-look feed from Smith at the right point to make it 2-1.
The U18s quickly doubled the lead after Oliver Moore (Mounds View, Minn.) converted off a 2-on-1 breakout. Paul Fischer (River Forest, Ill.) collected a loose puck in the defensive zone and flipped an elevated lead pass to Alex Weiermair (Los Angeles, Calif.) charging into the offensive zone. He slowed down to let Moore into the play and fed a cross-crease pass that Moore slammed home to make it a 3-1 game.
Moore used a great backhand shot to add his second of the game and extend the Team USA lead to 4-1. He won a puck battle along the boards and pushed the puck towards center ice. Danny Nelson (Maple Grove, Minn.) got a stick on it and one-touched the puck back to Moore, who roofed his wrister in with 2:12 to play in the second.
Leonard completed the quartet of scores in the period when Team USA quickly turned from defense to offense. Nelson's pressure caused a turnover and he found Smith into the offensive zone. The Boston College commit delayed around a sprawled Lumberjacks defender and slid a pass to Leonard for the hat trick.
The U18s added a pair in the third, the first off a slap-shot from Fischer at the left point. The puck found the lefty blueliner after a Nathan Tobey (Lantana, Texas) shot went wide and caromed off the backboards.
Leonard added his fourth of the game, a shorthanded tally after a great forecheck from him and Moore.
Muskegon's Sacha Boisvert netted late for the 7-2 final.
Musser went the distance for the U18s to pick up his first win of the season.
The two sides complete the home-and-home set tomorrow evening at USA Hockey Arena. Puck drop is set for 6:00 p.m. ET from the Mitchel Kiefer Memorial Rink as the game will be the fifth annual Play With Purpose charity hockey game to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. Tickets are available by calling the USA Hockey Arena box office at 734-453-8400.