MUSKEGON, Mich. - Gabe Perreault (Hinsdale, Ill.) collected his second USHL hat-trick in as many league games as he and Ryan Leonard (Amherst, Mass.) recorded five points apiece to lead the U.S. National Under-18 Team past the Muskegon Lumberjacks, 7-4, Saturday night at Trinity Health Arena.
The U18s raced out to an early 3-0 lead that began with a pair of scores in 88 seconds from Perreault. He first netted at 6:34 after Leonard picked off a Lumberjacks pass and found Perreault for a back-door one-timer.
Perreault doubled the lead with his 32nd score of the season after he cleaned up a rebound opportunity in the crease. From the goal line, Leonard found Will Smith (Amherst, Mass.) for the first attempt which was stopped, but Perreault was first to the loose puck and knocked it in for a 2-0 lead.
Leonard and Perreault both picked up their third points of the evening as Team USA extended the lead on the former's 24th of the season. Perreault poked the puck up the right-wing boards and Leonard led a 2-on-1 break with Smith. Leonard let it rip from the inside of the right circle for the 3-0 lead.
Nathan MacBrayer got one score back for the 'Jacks with a spinning wrister that beat Trey Augustine (South Lyon, Mich.) to make it a 3-1 contest after 20 minutes.
Muskegon's Owen Mehlenbacher cut the deficit to one with a power-play tally in the first minute of the second period, but Pererault returned serve to earn a hat-trick in back-to-back USHL games. Once again, it was the top-line trio combining on the scoring effort. Leonard stretched to poke the puck up to Smith on an odd-man advantage. He took a shot and Perreault cleaned it up to earn his 33rd of the year.
Less than a minute later, 'Jacks forward Matvei Gridin got in behind the U.S. defense and put his breakaway shot through the five-hole of Augustine to make it 4-3.
Team USA restored the two-goal lead after Salvatore Guzzo (Old Tappan, N.J.) found the back of the net off a quick rush. Kai Janviriya (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) forced the puck to Ryan Fine (Center Moriches, N.Y.) into the offensive zone. He slid the puck over to Guzzo who converted for his 10th score of the season.
The U18s used a power-play score from Oliver Moore (Mounds View, Minn.) to double up Muskegon and take a 6-3 lead late in the second. Aram Minnetian (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) found Moore at the point who rifled a screen shot into the top corner. Danny Nelson (Maple Grove, Minn.) picked up the secondary assist on the man-up score.
Jake Richard scored late for Muskegon but Smith responded with an empty-net marker for the 7-4 final as Team USA took a weekend sweep over the Lumberjacks.
Augustine finished the night with 33 saves to pick up his 14th win of the season. He has still yet to lose in regulation throughout the year as his record currently stands at 14-0-2.
The U18s will return to their Kroger College Series next weekend as they travel to Adrian College Tuesday (Jan. 24) night and then to Bowling Green on Friday evening (Jan. 27) before hosting the Dubuque Fighting Saints Saturday night at USA Hockey Arena.