RAUMA, Finland - Ryan Leonard (Amherst, Mass.) scored a pair of goals including the game-winner as the U.S. National Under-18 Team opened up the 2023 U18 Four Nations with a 4-2 win over host Finland Wednesday night at Kivikyla Arena.
The hosts tipped the scoreboard first as Jesse Nurmi netted the game's opening goal with just under five minutes to play in the opening period. After a scrum below the U.S. goal line, the puck bounced out to Aron Kiviharju at the right point. He floated a shot on net that Nurmi got a stick on and over the glove of Carsen Musser (Sherburn, Minn.) for a 1-0 lead.
Team USA put itself on the board early in the middle frame thanks to a snipe from Leonard. The forward blocked and intercepted a Finnish pass at his own blue line, raced into the attacking zone and blistered a wrist-shot to tie the game on his 28th score of the season.
Twenty-one seconds later, the U.S. took its first lead of the night after Gabe Perreault (Hinsdale, Ill.) got a stick on the Finns' clearing attempt. He collected the puck and quickly roofed his wrister from the hashmarks to give the U18s a 2-1 lead.
Finland's Aron Kiviharju tied the game up once more with a tremendous second-effort score midway through the game. Musser got a pad on the defenseman's original shot but the rebound went right back to Kiviharju. The underager regained possession and looped a nifty backhand into the cage to even the score at 2-2.
Leonard restored the Team USA lead with his second of the night at 8:03 of the final period. Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.) worked the puck up to Leonard who cut from left to right at the top of the circles before he deposited his lethally quick shot in the cage for a 3-2 lead.
With less than a minute to play in regulation, Finland pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker and Danny Nelson (Maple Grove, Minn.) found the empty cage for the 4-2 final.
Musser played the first half of the game in net for the U.S. and made 15 saves. Michael Chambre (Fort Myers, Fla.) came in at the halfway mark and turned aside 15 shots as well to earn his seventh win of the season.
Leonard was named Player of the Game for the United States.
After an off-day tomorrow, the U.S. returns to the ice Friday afternoon for a matchup with Sweden. Puck drop is set for 8:30 a.m. ET (3:30 p.m. local) from Finland.