Photos by Danny Wild
WEST POINT, N.Y. - Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.) scored 2:07 into overtime to give the U.S. National Under-18 Team a 7-6 win Sunday afternoon over the Army Black Knights at Tate Rink.
Smith finished the game with two points, extending his NTDP record scoring streak to 12 consecutive games to begin a season.
Danny Nelson (Maple Grove, Minn.) and Ryan Leonard (Amherst, Mass.) netted a pair of goals apiece and goaltender Carsen Musser (Sherburn, Minn.) made a career-high 44 saves to help the U18s to victory.
After a back and forth opening 15 minutes that featured each team ringing one off the post, the Black Knights eventually tallied first off a snipe shot from Joey Baez. After Army made a nice play to keep the puck in the zone, Brett Abdelnour sent a feed to Baez at the right circle where he rifled his wrister in the top corner.
The U18s knotted it up early in the middle frame, evening the score at 1-1 at 2:32 of the period. On what appeared to be a set play off the draw, Ryan Fine (Center Moriches, N.Y.) won the offensive-zone draw back to Salvatore Guzzo (Old Tappan, N.J.). He carried below the dots and snapped a back-door feed to Charlie Cerrato (Fallston, Md.) on the doorstep who tapped in for his first score of the season.
Team USA grabbed its first lead of the afternoon just over three minutes later off a pretty passing sequence after an extended offensive-zone possession. Zeev Buium (San Diego, Calif.) started the scoring opportunity as he drove the net and passed off to Gabe Perreault (Hinsdale, Ill.) below the goal line. The puck was off Perreault's stick in an instant as he centered a feed to a cutting Leonard, who one-timed his quick shot in the slot for a 2-1 lead.
Army evened it up just shy of the halfway mark of the game when Baez connected for his second of the game. Musser stopped the initial shot from the left point, but Baez was first to the rebound and potted to make it a 2-2 contest.
With five minutes to play in the second, Baez got in behind the defense with a breakaway looking for the hat trick. Musser made a huge pad stop and paddled the puck aside. A minute later, Musser got the upper hand on Max Itagaki's breakaway to keep the score at twos.
Team USA took advantage of Musser's stops to regain a lead after 40 minutes. Will Vote (Arlington, Mass.) managed the puck along the boards to find Oliver Moore (Mounds View, Minn.). He used some fancy stick work to go between a pair of Army defenders before he dropped a pass to Nelson for a 3-2 advantage.
Itagaki got his revenge after he netted early in the third period for the game's fourth tie. From the left dot, he fired far-side over the shoulder of Musser for his first career goal.
Nelson worked hard minutes later to put Team USA ahead again at 4:05 of the third. He intercepted a pass at the defensive blue line and outraced the defense to get in alone. The Notre Dame commit deposited his shot above the right pad and in to give him back-to-back multi-goal efforts.
After the Black Knights tied the game once more, the U18s responded as Leonard joined the multi-goal gang to put Team USA ahead again at 5-4. The displayed great patience as Perreault held the puck along the goal line. He found Smith in the slot who shoulder-faked a shot before sliding a cross-crease pass to Leonard for the 5-4 lead.
The Under-18 Team capitalized on an Army defensive-zone turnover to gather the game's first two-goal lead with less than five minutes to play in regulation. Nelson forced the turnover and hit Vote down the right wing who netted to double the lead to 6-4.
The Black Knights pulled their netminder late and Baez completed the hat trick with 1:53 to play in regulation. Moments later, Team USA took a penalty and Army pulled the goalie for a 6-on-4 advantage. Off the ensuing draw, Baez teed up a slap-shot from the top of the left circle for his fourth score of the afternoon and 6-6 tie with 49 seconds on the clock.
The game went into the overtime session where Smith won it for the U18s.
Musser finished the day with a career-high 44 saves as he backstopped his way to his fifth win of the campaign in six games played.
The U18s will make the return trip to Michigan where they will host the Youngstown Phantoms for a pair of contests that starts with a 3:00 p.m. ET contest Thursday afternoon at USA Hockey Arena. Tickets are available by calling the USA Hockey Arena box office at 734-453-8400 or clicking here.