ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After an eight-goal third period, the U.S. National Under-18 Team's furious end-of-regulation rally came up just short in a 7-6 loss to the Michigan Wolverines Friday evening at Yost Ice Arena. Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.) netted two goals and Ryan Leonard (Amherst, Mass.) collected three points to pace USA's offensive attack.
The U.S. wasted no time getting on the scoreboard as Alex Weiermair (Los Angeles, Calif.) found a loose puck in front and converted on a goal-mouth scramble just 2:27 into the game. Carter Slaggert (South Bend, Ind.) and Austin Burnevik (Blaine, Minn.) got shot attempts prior to pick up assists on Weiermair's eight of the season.
U18 netminder Michael Chambre (Fort Myers, Fla.) was impressive from the get-go as he made 13 saves in the opening frame, including a great left toe stop on a Mackie Samoskevich breakaway near the midway mark of the first.
Michigan did get on the board to tie the game with less than five minutes to play in the frame, as NTDP alum Seamus Casey redirected a shot in front from Jackson Hallum.
The U18s again took a one-goal lead before the buzzer to make it a 2-1 contest after 20 minutes. Aram Minnetian (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) cleared the puck from the U.S. defensive zone to Gabe Perreault (Hinsdale, Ill.) at the red line. He fed Leonard streaking in behind the defense and he deposited a quick wrister through the five-hole of Erik Portillo for his 21st score of the season.
Team USA took a two-goal lead at 6:41 of the second period as Zeev Buium (San Diego, Calif.) collected his first career NTDP snipe on the power play. Leonard won the draw to Will Vote (Arlington, Mass.) who kicked it back to the defenseman at the right point. He took a stride and fired from the top of the circle to make it 3-1.
The Wolverines answered quickly as Casey fed Samoskevich in the crease, who got his backhand shot over the shoulder of Chambre to bring the game to 3-2.
Casey, normally a defenseman but playing forward due to Wolverines out of the lineup, tied the game six minutes into the third as he chipped in a backhand from the slot after a nice dangle to create some space in front.
Nolan Moyle gave the Wolverines their first lead of the night with another redirection goal with 8:39 to play in regulation and Kienan Draper made it 5-3 less than two minutes.
The U18s cut into the deficit as Minnetian took a pass from Ryan Fine (Center Moriches, N.Y.) and fired in from the right circle. Beckett Hendrickson (Minnetonka, Minn.) collected the secondary helper with a good forecheck that forced a Michigan defensive-zone turnover.
Samoskevich potted his second of the night to make it 6-4, but the U.S. responded after pulling Chambre for a 6-on-5 advantage. Smith took a feed from Perreault and teed up a wrister from the right circle that he put over the right shoulder of Noah West.
Eric Ciccolini found an empty net after USA pulled Chambre, but once again, the U18s cut the lead to one with the net empty. Smith was credited with the score after a big scrum in front.
On their last rush of the game, the U18s found themselves on a 2-on-0 but Danny Nelson's (Maple Grove, Minn.) attempt was turned aside by West for the 7-6 final.
Chambre finished the night with 35 saves, his second-highest total of the season.
The U18s return to USA Hockey Arena tomorrow night to continue their Kroger College Series against the Mercyhurst Lakers. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 p.m. and tickets, which include the Andrew Copp bobblehead giveaway, are available at USAHockeyNTDP.com/tix or by calling the box office at 734-453-8400.