BASEL, Switzerland – Ryan Leonard (Amherst, Mass.) scored at 2:20 into overtime as the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team came back from a two-goal deficit to earn a 3-2 win over Sweden and capture the gold medal here today at the 2023 IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship at St. Jakob Arena.
"For everyone involved, this just meant everything," said Dan Muse (Canton, Mass.), head coach of the 2023 U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team. "To come together and represent the United States of America, we couldn’t be prouder of this group."
The U.S. finished the tournament undefeated with a 6-1-0-0 (W-OTW-OTL-L) record.
Near the midway mark of the opening period, Sweden jumped on the board first with a slot wrister from Elliot Stahlberg after Sweden won a puck battle in the corner. Team USA challenged the score for goaltender interference, but the 1-0 goal was upheld after review.
The United States held a slight 13-12 shots-on-goal advantage in the opening 20 minutes but found themselves down after one period for the first time this tournament. Neither team converted on the man advantage; the U.S. with one opportunity while the Swedes had a pair.
U.S. netminder Trey Augustine (South Lyon, Mich.) came up huge to start the second period as he robbed Anton Wahlberg with the right pad just over a minute in after the Swedish forward snuck in alone.
Sweden doubled the lead with 13:46 to play in the middle stanza, converting on their third power-play opportunity of the night. Noel Nordh tipped an Axel Sandin Pellikka shot through Augustine to make it 2-0.
That score held through 40 minutes of action as Team USA ended the second with a 26-23 advantage in shots, but couldn’t procure a score.
Zeev Buium (San Diego, Calif.) generated a great opportunity early in the third. He danced around a defender and flicked a wrist-shot from the center point. It beat Sweden goaltender Noah Erliden, but rattled off the right post and bounced across and out of the crease.
Oliver Moore (Mounds View, Minn.) got another grade-A opportunity off a set-up from Cole Eiserman (Newburyport, Mass.) behind the Swede cage. Moore got good wood on a one-timer, but was fleeced by the windmilling glove of Erliden shy of the midway mark of the third.
Team USA finally struck the scoreboard with a terrific tip-in from Danny Nelson (Maple Grove, Minn.) stationed in front at 9:44 of the period. Buium took the initial shot from the right point and Salvatore Guzzo (Old Tappan, N.J.) picked up the secondary assist to cut the lead in half.
The U.S. found the game-tying score from Casey Terrance (Akwesasne, N.Y.) with a power-play snipe at 3:16 to play in regulation. Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.) found the seam in the defense and got the puck to Eiserman at the right circle. He received, hesitated and found his space as he blasted a wrister far-side that Terrance tipped for the equalizer. Smith’s assist was his 20th point of the tournament, tying Jack Hughes’ U.S. record set in 2019.
Team USA killed the second half of a penalty to start the overtime period, and then Cole Hutson (Barrington, Ill.) sent a feed to a streaking Leonard, who danced around the defense and fired a wrister from the slot that made its way past Erliden for the gold medal-winning goal.
Augustine made 28 saves in the win.
NOTES: Danny Nelson was named the U.S. Player of the Game … The U.S. had a 41-32 shots-on-goal advantage in the game … Team USA was 1-for-2 on the power play, and 4-for-5 on the penalty kill … Team USA’s three best players of the tournament were Will Smith, Ryan Leonard and Gabe Perreault … Will Smith was named tournament MVP.