Photo by Bob Frid & Darryl Dyck / Hockey Canada Images
DELTA, British Columbia – The U.S. National Under-17 Team defeated Czechia, 7-1, Friday night inside the Sungod Arena at the 2022 World U-17 Hockey Challenge to improve to 2-0-0-0. Forward Cole Eiserman (Newburyport, Mass.) recorded a four-goal night, including a hat trick in the first 20:43 minutes of play, and Kristian Epperson (Mequon, Wis.) tallied a pair en route to the win.
The U.S. controlled the first period and it showed on the scoresheet, outshooting the Czechs 20-9. It took a few minutes for the U.S. to get going, with just a handful of shots, but Eiserman opened up the scoring for Team USA which opened up the offense. Cole Hutson (Barrington, Ill.) broke up a breakout pass in the neutral zone and shot it back to James Hagens (Hauppauge, N.Y.). Hagens quickly moved the puck back to Hutson at the blue line and sauced it to a streaking Eiserman down the wing before he put it past starting Czechia netminder Jakub Milota, 7:09 into the frame.
The trio wasn't finished after the initial goal, as it was the same group that attributed to USA's second goal, again off the tape of Eiserman. After Czechia committed a penalty, Hagens won the offensive-zone draw and sent it back to Hutson on the blue line. A quick pass was made to Hagens on the wing and found Eiserman at the opposing side face-off dot and netted his second with 8:57 to go.
It only took :43 seconds into the middle period for the U.S. to get going again as Eiserman completed the hat trick just 20:43 into the whole game. Charlie Pardue (Winnetka, Ill.) carried the puck into the zone before he passed it Eiserman's way. Eiserman took it behind the net and found Hagens in the slot who ripped one on net that Milota couldn't contain. Eiserman came around the back of the goal and cleaned up the rebound to take the 3-0 lead.
The U.S. controlled the second like the first, but Czechia nearly got on the board with just over a minute left to go with an extra skater. Starting U.S. goaltender Jack Parsons (Cortland, N.Y.) kept the Czechs scoreless after he stretched out towards the near post and rejected a shot after a quick cross-crease pass.
Epperson shook up Team USA's scoring as he netted his first of the tournament in the opening five minutes of the third. Logan Hensler (Woodbury, Minn.) skated around the offensive zone prior to his shot on net. A jumble of players were near the crease, available to pick up the rebound, but it was Epperson who got his stick on it to tap in the goal.
Eiserman tallied goal number four of the night after a near-perfect cross-ice pass from Hagens before Eiserman one-timed it home, 4:43 into the third. Epperson answered with his second of the night 2:06 after Eiserman made it 5-0. Lucas Van Vliet (Livonia, Mich.) forced an offensive-zone turnover and skated behind the net with the puck. He read the ice and found Epperson in the slot who pushed it past the goal line.
Czechia finally answered and scored their first goal of the tournament, on the power play, with 5:51 to go to break up Parson's shutout bid. Christian Humphreys (Pittsburgh, Pa.) responded with his first of the tournament nearly four minutes later to secure the win, 7-1.
Parsons stopped 20 of 21 shots faced in his first international win.
The Under-17 Team continue preliminary round play tomorrow against Sweden. Puck drop is set for 10:00 p.m. ET and can be streamed live here.