Photo by Ronald Hansel, Juniorský hokej
ROMANSHORN, Switzerland - Teddy Stiga (Sudbury, Mass.) potted the game-winning goal in the second, while Dakoda Rheaume-Mullen (Northville, Mich.) recorded two assists as the National Under-17 Team finished the Five Nations Tournament undefeated (4-0-0-0) after a 2-1 win over Czechia inside EZO Eissportzentrum Oberthurgau.
The first 20 wrapped up in a stalemate, tied at zero, with ample amounts of chances from both sides. U.S. starting netminder Nick Kempf (Morton Grove, Ill.) kept it at zeroes with 5:33 to play after an odd-man rush was generated off a turnover and forced him to go post-to-post for the save.
It wasn't until 24:40 into the game, or 4:40 into the second, where the game saw its first goal courtesy of Lucas Van Vliet (Livonia, Mich.). Czechia attempted to throw the puck off the boards and up the ice, but Rheaume-Mullen was in the neutral zone and brought the puck to a halt. He sent it over to Charlie Pardue (Winnetka, Ill.) who made a quick touch pass to a speedy Van Vliet across the blue line. He charged into the zone and fired one from the top off the face-off dot past Czechia's starting goaltender Matyas Marik for the lead.
Czechia was quick to respond and tied things up 4:04 later. A loose puck found its way to forward Maxmilian Curran in front of the crease who put it through to make things even after two periods of action.
Stiga grabbed the lead for Team USA 3:19 into the final frame with the help from Christian Humphreys (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Rheaume-Mullen. Rheaume-Mullen skated with the puck along his own blue line prior to a pass to Humphreys at the oppositions blue line. Humphreys tapped it up to Stiga who snuck around the last line of Czechia's defense and was left all alone with Marik and beat him five-hole to go up 2-1.
Team USA made it difficult for Czechia to attempt a comeback in the final minutes as they controlled the puck well in their offensive zone and peppered Marik with tough shots. With a little over a minute to play, Czechia left their net empty and skated with six skaters, but the U.S. came up triumphant and held on for the 2-1 win.
Kempf started in net for Team USA and made 25 saves.
Cole Eiserman (Newburyport, Mass.) led Team USA in goals with five and points with nine, while James Hagens (Hauppauge, N.Y.) and Cole Hutson (Barrington, Ill.) both lead in assists with five each. The Under-17 Team returns back to the states and will resume USHL play next weekend with a road series against the Chicago Steel.