Photo by Ronald Hansel
HAMEENLINNA, Finland - The U.S. National Under-18 Team raced out to a big lead, but could not hold on in an eventual 7-6 shootout loss to Sweden at the U18 Five Nations at Pohjantahti Areena Thursday afternoon.
Brodie Ziemer (Hutchinson, Minn.) notched three assists to help lead the offensive charge and was named Team USA's player of the game.
Team USA netted the lone goal of the opening period, courtesy of defenseman Sam Laurila (Moorhead, Minn.) joining the rush. After Jack Parsons (Ithaca, N.Y.) made one of his 13 first-period saves, Laurila chipped the puck up along the right boards to Ziemer to start a breakout. He wove between a pair of Sweden defenders and returned the rubber to Laurila, who fired in from the hashes for a 1-0 lead.
The U.S. took a commanding lead in the middle frame as they found the back of the net four times in the period.
James Hagens (Hauppauge, N.Y.) doubled the Team USA lead less than five minutes in with a quick transition goal. Ziemer found Hagens with a stretch pass, who quickly delivered it to Teddy Stiga (Sudbury, Mass.) in the slot. He gave it back to Hagens who snapped a wrister for a 2-0 lead.
Just over a minute later, Cole Hutson (Chicago, Ill.) added another as he crashed the net for a rebound score. Hutson found Hagens in front for the initial shot which was stopped, but the defenseman was on the doorstep for his first goal of the tournament.
The U18s added two more in a 90-second span later on in the period. The first came from Brendan McMorrow (Lakeville, Minn.), who collected a rebound in the crease after Cole Eiserman's (Newburyport, Mass.) first shot was pushed aside.
Lucas Van Vliet (Livonia, Mich.) made it five in a row for the U.S. after he was awarded a penalty shot. He came down the right wing, veered back towards center and flipped a chip-shot over the glove to make it a 5-0 game after 40 minutes.
Sweden managed to stop the Team USA run with an Alexander Zetterberg score 72 seconds into the third period.
The response came from Kamil Bednarik (Chicago, Ill.) on a pretty offensive set-up that saw all five U.S. skaters touch the puck. After both defensemen helped clear the zone, Ziemer led a 3-on-2 and gave it up to Eiserman for the first shot. Bednarik crashed the slot and potted the rebound chance to make it a 6-1 game.
Sweden righted the ship once more and crept back in the game by grabbing the next three goals of the game before the halfway mark of the third. Linus Eriksson netted the first while Zetterberg and Melvin Fernstrom connected on the power play to cut the U.S. advantage to 6-4.
With 5:29 to play, Sweden converted on yet another power-play opportunity as as Fernstrom fired in from the right circle for his second score of the day to make it a 6-5 game. The Swedes pulled it back to even with the game-tying goal at 19:07 of the third to push the game to overtime.
Hagens had the best opportunity for the United States in the 3-on-3 session, but his shot sat along the goal line and did not cross.
In the shootout, Hutson netted the lone goal for Team USA, while Sweden scored twice to complete the comeback and steal the win.
The U.S. will play four games in four days that continues tomorrow against host Finland. The two sides will move to Nokia Areena for an 11:30 a.m. ET puck drop.