MUSKEGON, Mich. - The U.S. National Under-18 Team played to a 38-22 shot on goal advantage, but could not prevail in a 4-2 loss to the Muskegon Lumberjacks Friday night at Trinity Health Arena.
The U.S. jumped in front as Ryan Leonard's (Amherst, Mass.) power-play goal gave Team USA a 1-0 lead just more than five minutes into the game. Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.) made a great play to keep the puck in along the blue line and chipped it down to Danny Nelson (Maple Grove, Minn.) in the slot. He fed Gabe Perreault (Hinsdale, Ill.) who quickly dumped it back to Leonard as he potted his 40th of the season.
Muskegon worked it back to even five minutes later after a fortune bounce left the puck alone in front of Carsen Musser (Sherburn, Minn.). Michael Callow raced up to the rubber and connected on his shot to even the game.
The Lumberjacks earned the lone goal of the middle period when George Fegaras scored on the power play to give the home team a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Callow added another 'Jacks power play goal early in the third, but the U.S. brought it back to one as Perreault used his body to redirect a Paul Fischer (River Forest, Ill.) shot. Zeev Buium (San Diego, Calif.) helped set up the play to pick up an assist on the goal at 10:20 of the third.
With three minutes to play, Musser made a fantastic save on a Cody Croal breakaway to keep Team USA in the game, but after heading to the bench for an extra skater, Croal got another chance and hit the empty net for the 4-2 final in favor of Muskegon.
Both sides will head back to USA Hockey Arena for a rematch tomorrow night. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m.; get tickets at USAHockeyNTDP.com/tix or watch live on USAHockeyNTDP.com/watch.