Photo by Rena Laverty
PLYMOUTH, Mich. - The U.S. National Under-18 Team erased a second-period deficit and scored four unanswered goals to finish the game and earn a 5-2 victory over the Youngstown Phantoms Thursday afternoon at USA Hockey Arena.
Ryan Fine (Center Moriches, N.Y.) netted a pair of goals to lead the Team USA offensive charge.
The Under-18 Team jumped out to a 1-0 lead with the game's only goal of the opening frame. Just after a power play expired, Oliver Moore (Mounds View, Minn.) drove the left wing and dropped a pass at the point for Danny Nelson (Maple Grove, Minn.). He found Brady Cleveland (Wausau, Wis.) before Nelson received the return pass and fired a wrister from the top of the left circle to give him a goal in three straight contests.
The Phantoms responded with a power-play goal at 15:31 of the middle period to tie the game at one goal apiece. William Whitelaw took a pass from Andrew Strathmann and wheeled to the top of the circles before he fired a wrister in the top corner for his fourth score of the year.
Just over a minute later, the Phantoms took a lead with a deep wrist-shot from Justin Varner to give them a 2-1 advantage.
The U18s returned serve with a pair of their own to collect a 3-2 lead into the second intermission. The first came off the stick of Ryan Fine after an aggressive forecheck from Salvatore Guzzo (Old Tappan, N.J.) poked the puck to Fine in behind the defense. He chipped his shot over the shoulder of Jacob Fowler to tie the game at 8:22.
Will Vote (Arlington, Mass.) regained the lead for the home team after he finished an odd-man rush with a great redirection in front. Moore fed Kai Janviriya (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) into the offensive zone down the right wing. The defenseman sauced a beautiful pass in front that Vote got a blade on for his fifth goal of the year and a 3-2 lead.
Team USA got an insurance goal late in regulation from Fine that gave him his first multi-goal effort as an NTDPer. Charlie Cerrato (Fallston, Md.) held the puck at the attacking blue line and dropped it for a charging Fine. He wove in and out of a Phantoms defender before he beat Fowler with a quick shot over the glove.
Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.) hit an empty net with 1:45 to play in regulation for the 5-2 final. With the score, he extended his NTDP-record point streak to 13 consecutive games to start a season.
Team USA split the game between netminders Carsen Musser (Sherburn, Minn.) and Trey Augustine (South Lyon, Mich.). Musser turned aside 14 of 16 Phantoms attempts before ceding to Augustine halfway through the contest. He turned away all 13 shots he saw to pick up his seventh straight win to start the season.
The two sides will battle in a rematch tomorrow evening. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. ET from USA Hockey Arena and can be streamed live on USAHockeyNTDP.com/watch. Tickets are available for the contest by calling the USA Hockey Arena box office at 734-453-8400 or visiting USAHockeyNTDP.com/tix.