Photo by Rena Laverty
DUBUQUE, Iowa – The U.S. National Under-17 Team opened their weekend series against the Fighting Saints with a win, 5-2, Friday night inside Dubuque Ice Arena. A three-goal second period, which included a goal and an assist for both EJ Emery (Compton, Calif.) and Charlie Cerrato (Fallston, Md.), along with 32 saves from netminder Nick Kempf (Morton Grove, Ill.) led Team USA to the win.
Team USA was first to light the lamp at the 11:15 mark of the first. Four-on-four play turned to a power play for the U.S. while Logan Hensler (Woodbury, Minn.) and Brodie Ziemer (Hutchinson, Minn.) were passing back-and-forth along the point. Ziemer finally found a lane and snapped one towards Fighting Saints netminder Marcus Brannman who couldn't stop the shot for the lead.
The U.S. made it a pair of unanswered goals with an early tally in the middle frame. Charlie Pardue (Winnetka, Ill.) started the play behind his own net and pushed it forward to Carson Pilgrim (Warroad, Minn.) who quickly gave it right back to Pardue up ice. With Austin Burnevik (Blaine, Minn.) on his wing, the duo created a two-on-one as Pardue dished it over to Burnevik and finished it off.
Team USA found themselves on the penalty kill but made work of it and added their third goal of the night with 13:10 to go. A Fighting Saints broken stick gave Team USA possession and generated an odd-man rush. John Whipple (Minnetonka, Minn.) carried the puck across the blue line and passed it over to Cerrato with an open net to work with and convert on.
A third penalty was killed off for Team USA with another shorthanded chance, but it was right as the penalty expired that the U.S. made it 4-0. Noah LaPointe (Hinsdale, Ill.) intercepted a pass at his own blue line and was all alone before Emery's penalty expired to join the rush. Humphreys put the puck on the blade of Emery who found twine for their third goal in under 10 minutes.
The Fighting Saints nearly got on the board as time was winding down in the period, but Kempf dove to his opposing pipe and sprawled out for a point-blank save.
The Fighting Saints finally got on the board in the opening minute of the third as Brayden Morrison deflected a shot into the net. Dubuque made it a two-goal game while on the power play after Max Burkholder sent one from the point and Oliver Moberg tipped it in with 14:06 to go.
Dubuque pulled their netminder with 4:00 left on the clock and upped the offensive push in Team USA's zone. Kristian Epperson (Mequon, Wis.) emerged off a defensive-zone draw with the puck and sealed the game with an empty-net goal to take game one of the weekend, 5-2.
Kempf started in net for Team USA and stopped 32 shots.
The Under-17 Team will finish out their weekend series tomorrow against the Fighting Saints at 8:00 p.m. ET and can be streamed live on FloHockey.