Photo by Rena Laverty
GENEVA, Ill. – Behind a hat trick from Cole Eiserman (Newburyport, Mass.), four points from James Hagens (Hauppauge, N.Y.) and five players with multi-point nights, the U.S. National Under-17 Team took care of business and beat the Steel, 8-5, Sunday evening inside Fox Valley Ice Arena.
Contrary to the day before, the Steel put themselves on the board first in the opening 5:24 of play. Zam Plante sped into the offensive zone and put one on net that bounced off a Team USA defenders stick and right back onto his tape before he shoveled it in. Michael Emerson and the Steel put themselves up a pair 2:05 after on the power play with a tap-in from the crease.
Logan Hensler (Woodbury, Minn.) grabbed his second goal in as many games to answer and put Team USA on the board with 11:43 to play in the first. Hensler handled the puck along the blue line and fired one on net where a heavily screened Jack Stark was frozen in the crease and didn’t see the puck go by.
The U.S. made it two unanswered and crawled out of their deficit to tie the game up in the first. On the power play, Charlie Pardue (Winnetka, Ill.) rushed into the zone and put a backhand shot on net. Before it reached the crease, the puck took a bounce off Steel defenseman Thor Byfuglien’s stick which made it difficult for Stark to track. The puck sailed right past his head and went into the back of the net to even it up at the 11:21 mark.
Eiserman made it three unanswered, and their second straight on the power play, for Team USA and put them in front heading into the locker room. Kristian Epperson (Mequon, Wis.) corralled the puck from the goal line and surveyed the ice. Eiserman was left unattended on the far side which Epperson acknowledged and sent him the puck before he put it away.
A battle along the goal line sent the puck up to the blue line to Dakoda Rheaume-Mullen (Northville, Mich.) who then sent it along the line to Hensler. Hensler put one on net which was saved but Hagens picked up the rebound and found twine to give the U.S. a two-goal lead with 11:34 to go to play in the middle frame.
Zam Plante added his second of the night off an odd-man rush to close Team USA’s lead to one goal. Jack Harvey of the Steel tied things up at four apiece near the midway point and Michael Emmerson added one more to the Steel’s total to put them ahead, 5-4.
Max Plante (Hermantown, Minn.) answered one his brothers goal in the opening minutes of the third after he stole the puck following an offensive zone face off and quickly crashed the net before he put one across the goal line
The U.S. regained the lead 1:04 later off the tape of Eiserman for his second of the game. On the power play, Eiserman played the puck down to Brodie Ziemer (Hutchinson, Minn.) at the goal line who pushed it right back to Eiserman at the face-off dot. He fired a blast that was too quick for Stark to attempt a save which made it 6-5 in favor of the U.S.
Eiserman capped off the hat trick where he went end-to-end and turned on the burners to get behind the Steel defense and out one short side across the goal line. Pardue finished off the scoring for the U.S. with an empty netter to make the 8-5 final.
Nick Kempf (Morton Grove, Ill.) started in net for Team USA and stopped 28 shots.
The Under-17 Team continues road USHL play next weekend with a pair at Muskegon. Team USA is set to play the Lumberjacks Friday (Feb. 24) and Saturday (Feb. 25), with puck drop slated for 7:00 p.m. ET for both. Next weekends games can be streamed live on FloHockeyTV.