Photo by Michael Caples
PLYMOUTH, Mich. - Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.) netted the overtime game-winner to earn his first hat-trick of the season as the U.S. National Under-18 Team skated past the Dubuque Fighting Saints by a 4-3 OT final Saturday evening at USA Hockey Arena.
Smith collected a loose puck in the defensive zone and charged down the ice for a 2-on-1 with Gabe Perreault (Hinsdale, Ill.). Smith went for the shot and put it just over the right pad of Marcus Brannman for his 28th goal of the season to give Team USA two overtime wins in two nights over the Saints.
The opening frame passed by without a goal as Team USA's Carsen Musser (Sherburn, Minn.) and Dubuque's Brannman were on their games. The U.S. got a pair of grade-A chances early on as Will Vote (Arlington, Mass.) snuck in behind the defense on the first shift but Brannman negated his opportunity 25 seconds in. Beckett Hendrickson (Minnetonka, Minn.) followed two minutes later with a great chance from the slot that Brannman gloved.
Musser made his best save of the night five minutes into the middle frame. Riley Stuart won a puck race and drove the center lane in alone. He tried to beat Musser over the glove, but the 6-foot-4 netminder flashed the leather to keep the game even.
Team USA opened the scoring just over a minute later as defenseman Kai Janviriya (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) joined the rush and netted for his fifth score of the season. Smith nudged the puck to Perreault entering the offensive zone. He moved the puck to his backhand, spun and found the charging Janviriya to make it a 1-0 game.
The U18s doubled up off another delightful passing sequence after they forced a Saints defensive-zone turnover. Ryan Leonard (Amherst, Mass.) kept the puck in the zone and quickly delivered it to Perreault at the right circle. He one-touched it to Smith in the crease who went top-shelf for a 2-0 lead on his 26th tally of the campaign.
Dubuque cut into the lead with a quick snap-shot off an offensive-zone draw. NTDP alum Ryan St. Louis won it to Brayden Morrison, who connected with a tight wrister from the right circle. Just over a minute later, Max Montes scored from a similar location to draw the game back to even after 40 minutes.
Team USA was the beneficiary of some puck luck to retake the lead with 6:35 to play in regulation. Perreault dropped the puck along the left-wing boards to Ryan Fine (Center Moriches, N.Y.), who veered towards the slot. He got a shot away towards the cage that bounced off multiple skaters and Smith poked it across the goal line for his second goal of the game and a 3-2 lead.
Dubuque called a timeout and pulled Brannman late in regulation and the move paid off. Nils Juntorp got in close and forced overtime for the second consecutive night at USA Hockey Arena.
Smith gathered an errant Saints shot that caromed off the end wall and drove a 2-on-1 break before ending the game with his first hat-trick of the season.
Musser finished the night with 23 saves as he extended his record to an impressive 11-4-0.
For the second straight night, no penalties were called between Team USA and Dubuque.
The U18s return to the ice Thursday night to host the Madison Capitols at USA Hockey Arena. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 p.m. and tickets are available at the USA Hockey Arena box office by calling 734-453-8400.