Photo by Michael Caples
PLYMOUTH, Mich. – Brendan McMorrow (Lakeville, Minn.) scored a pair of goals and an assist and Kristian Epperson (Mequon, Wis.) netted the game-winning goal with 3:06 left in the third as The U.S. National Under-17 Team took down the RoughRiders, 6-4, Tuesday night inside USA Hockey Arena. The best-of-three series heads into game three tomorrow in a winner-takes-all game to advance in the USHL playoffs.
Like the game previous, Team USA opened the scoring in the first period. Charlie Cerrato (Fallston, Md.) won the offensive-zone draw and snapped it back towards the blue line. After the U.S. worked it back down to Cerrato at the goal line, he surveyed the ice and spotted Austin Baker (White Lake, Mich.) alone atop the crease. A quick pass, followed by a quick shot from Baker, went through starting RoughRider netminder Bruno Bruveris for the 1-0 lead.
Early in the second, Cedar Rapids knotted things at one apiece on the power play after Jacob Kraft waited at the doorstep and finished a cross-ice pass. Cedar Rapids tallied one more after a broken play put Ryan Walsh on a breakaway and made it 2-1 with 13:43 to go.
Team USA drew a penalty and skated with an extra attacker as time was winding down in the second. Tic-tac-toe passing was displayed to open the ice and for someone to find a shooting lane. Logan Hensler (Woodbury, Minn.) and Christian Humphreys (Pittsburgh, Pa.) went back-and-forth before Hensler found Kamil Bednarik (Elmhurst, Ill.) at the top of the faceoff dot. He fired one on net and Brodie Ziemer (Hutchinson, Minn.) was in front to deflect the puck into the net.
The U.S. came out quick in the third as Epperson forced a turnover which generated a 3-on-2 the other way. Epperson sauced it over to Lucas Van Vliet (Livonia, Mich.) along the wing and found McMorrow at the doorstep for a tap in, 1:46 into the third.
Just over three minutes later, McMorrow came for seconds and tallied yet another goal. Nathan Tobey (Lantana, Texas) fed the puck to Dakoda Rheaume-Mullen (Northville, Mich.) and beamed a shot on net. Bruveris let up a rebound which McMorrow found and jammed it across the goal line.
Cedar Rapids scored a pair late into the period to tie things at four apiece with 5:41 to play.
Late game heroics was shown by Van Vliet and Epperson after Van Vliet forced a neutral-zone turnover to create a 2-on-1. He waited patiently for the RoughRiders defender to attack and fed it over to Epperson who made a quick move a buried the eventual game winner.
With their net empty, Cedar Rapids gave one last effort to tie the game but Cerrato fired one into the net to seal the game.
Jack Parsons (Cortland, N.Y.) started in net for Team USA and stopped 24 shots.
The Under-17 Team concludes the first round of the playoffs tomorrow at home against the RoughRiders. The winner of the series will go on to play the Youngstown Phantoms in the second round of the USHL playoffs this weekend. Tomorrow’s game can be streamed free on USA Hockey TV. For tickets, visit the USA Hockey Arena box office, call 734-453-8400 or click here.