Photo by Rena Laverty
PLYMOUTH, Mich. – The U.S. National Under-17 Team dropped the first game of a weekend series with Green Bay, 6-5, Friday night at USA Hockey Arena. Kristian Epperson (Mequon, Wis.) and Max Plante (Hermantown, Minn.) led Team USA with three points apiece.
Green Bay jumped out to an early lead, 3:14 into the first period, on Raimonds Vitolins’ eight goal of the season. The forward took a pass from below the goal line and found the back of the net to open the scoring.
Epperson got Team USA on the board a few minutes later. John Whipple (Minnetonka, Minn.) gathered the puck at the point and walked toward the middle of the ice. After his first shot was blocked, he quickly sent another one on-net and Epperson tipped it past Gamblers’ goaltender Kristoffer Eberly to make it 1-1.
Peter Kramer scored late in the period to give Green Bay a 2-1 lead at the first intermission. Kramer added another goal at 6:22 of the second period to give the Gamblers a 3-1 lead.
Thirty-six seconds after Kramer’s second goal, Plante banged home the rebound off of a Brendan McMorrow (Lakeville, Minn.) shot to cut the Gamblers’ lead back to one.
A pair of future Michigan State Spartans connected for a beautiful goal to tie the game for Team USA. Austin Baker (White Lake, Mich.) sprung Christian Humphreys (Pittsburgh, Pa.) for a breakaway and he made a nice move to his backhand to make it 3-3.
The Gamblers retook the lead on a goal from Eli Sebastian three minutes later.
Lucas Van Vliet (Livonia, Mich.) scored in the final minute to close out an exciting middle frame and tie the game at four goals apiece. Epperson dug the puck out of the corner and sent a back-door pass to Van Vliet, who fired it into the net.
Green Bay opened the third period with two goals in the first five minutes of play. Austin Oravetz scored his first and Vitolins added his second of the night to extend the visitors’ lead to 6-4.
Team USA showed signs of life when Cole Eiserman (Newburyport, Mass.) started an odd-man rush late in the third. Eiserman slid a pass over to Van Vliet who drove the net and dropped a pass back to Epperson for his second of the game to make it a one-goal deficit. The U17s applied pressure with the net empty, but couldn’t break through to force overtime as the Gamblers held on to win, 6-5.
Jack Parsons (Cortland, N.Y.) started in net for Team USA and stopped 21 shots.
The Under-17 Team will finish out their home series tomorrow against the Gamblers at 7:00 p.m. ET. Tomorrow’s game can be streamed free on USA Hockey TV. For tickets, visit the USA Hockey Arena box office, call 734-453-8400 or click here.