MUSKEGON, Mich. - The U.S. National Under-18 Team jumped out to an early lead, but could not maintain it as they dropped a Kids Day contest to the Muskegon Lumberjacks, 6-3, Friday morning at Trinity Health Arena.
Team USA got the scoring started early as Cole Eiserman (Newburyport, Mass.) connected on the power play just 49 seconds into the game. After an offensive-zone draw, the puck squirted out unpossessed to the slot. Eiserman was first to the loose puck and blasted his shot in the top corner for a 1-0 lead.
The remainder of the period was controlled by the home team as the Lumberjacks went into the first intermission with a 4-1 lead. Jack Sparkes evened the score with a big slap-shot from the right point at 4:17 of the first.
Seventy-two seconds later, Muskegon took the lead as Sacha Boisvert used the backhand to sneak one through USA netminder Nick Kempf (Chicago, Ill.). Matvei Gridin added a pair of scores for the Lumberjacks, the first on a redirection in front and the second on the power play from a poor angle along the left wing.
Austin Baker (White Lake, Mich.) cut into the deficit near the halfway mark of the game. Cole Hutson (Chicago, Ill.) forced a turnover and pushed the puck up along the left boards to Baker. He ran a 2-on-1 with Eiserman and chose shot, which he put under the glove of netminder Lukas Swedin to make it a two-goal game.
A minute later, Team USA added another score as James Hagens (Hauppauge, N.Y.) cleaned up a rebound opportunity to cut the lead to 4-3. Hagens found Dakoda Rheaume-Mullen (Northville, Mich.) for a great look from the left circle that was stopped, but Hagens was on the doorstep to put the second chance in for his second score of the season.
Ethan Whitcomb restored Muskegon's two-goal lead with 4:45 to play in the period as he ripped his wrister over the glove of the Kempf and Boisvert netted his second of the morning to make it a 6-3 contest after 40 minutes of play.
The U18s earned a full two-minute 5-on-3 in the third period and were not void of chances, including grade-A opportunities from Christian Humphreys (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Kamil Bednarik (Elmhurst, Ill.), but could not convert to tighten the score.
Neither side sounded the horn in the third as they skated to the 6-3 final.
The U18s return home tomorrow night to take on the Green Bay Gamblers at USA Hockey Arena. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. ET and tickets are available at USAHockeyNTDP.com/tix or by calling the box office at 734-453-8400. Be sure to come early and hang out at Team USA's Opening Weekend pregame party, starting at 12:00 p.m.! Enjoy live music, games, food and drink specials to get the party started.
Photo by Rena Laverty
The U.S. National Team defeated the Muskegon Lumberjacks, 7-3 behind a hat trick performance from Cole Caufield(Stevens Point, Wis.).
Caufield opened the scoring for the U17s at 5:03 of the first period on the breakaway. He sent the puck over the glove of Muskegon’s Keegan Karki after collecting a pass from Alex Turcotte (Island Lake, Ill.) at the blue line.
Ryder Rolston (Birmingham, Mich.) netted his fourth goal in his last three games at the 19:30 mark of the first to give the U17s the lead heading into the first intermission. Alex Vlasic (Wilmette, Ill.) skated the puck into the zone before sending it over to Rolston who shot it in from the right circle.
Muskegon netted two quick goals in the second to take the 3-2 lead.
Michael Gildon (Plano, Texas) tied the game at three at 9:37 of the second period lifting the puck on the backhand.
Trevor Zegras (Bedford, N.Y.) regained the lead for the U17s at 10:03 of the middle frame. Marshall Warren (Laurel Hollow, N.Y.) sent the puck to Zegras at the top of the left circle who then wristed it beyond Karki on the power play.Ryan Siedem (Madison, N.J.) also picked up an assist on the goal.
A giveaway by Muskegon in the slot resulted in Caufield’s second goal of the game at 4:44 of the third period.
Caufield competed the hat trick at 6:51 of the final frame with help from Matthew Boldy (Millis, Mass.) and Henry Thrun (Southborough, Mass,).
Boldy picked up his second point of the afternoon and gave the U17s the 7-3 lead at the 13:21 mark of the third period.
Muskegon added two goals at 17:11 and 18:30 of the third before John Beecher (Elmira, N.Y.) sealed the 8-5 win with the empty-netter. Boldy tallied his third point of the day with the lone assist.
Both Spencer Knight (Darien, Conn.) and Muskegon’s Karki tallied 21 saves.
With the U17s win and the U18s win on the road, Team USA currently sits in first place of the Eastern Conference with 35 points.
The U17s are back in action Saturday (Jan. 20) when the Sioux Falls Stampede come to USA Hockey Arena for Star Wars Night. Tickets are available at USAHockeyNTDP.com/Tix.