Photo by Rena Laverty
PLYMOUTH, Mich. - James Hagens (Hauppauge, N.Y.) scored with 2.8 seconds remaining in regulation to give the U.S. National Under-18 Team a 5-4 win over the Fargo Force Friday night at USA Hockey Arena.
Hagens intercepted the puck in the U.S. zone and dished it to Teddy Stiga (Sudbury, Mass.) on the rush. Stiga found Brodie Ziemer (Hutchinson, Minn.) along the right wing, who fired a wrister on net . Fargo netminder Anton Castro made the stop, but Hagens picked up the rebound and buried for the U.S. win.
Team USA connected first, using a quick transition game to create an opportunity off a Force turnover at 8:16. Hagens tapped the puck into the empty cage after a give-and-go paly with linemate Stiga.
With less than a minute to play in the first period, Fargo found the tying goal fro Mac Swanson off a rebound in front on the power play.
The two teams traded a pair of goals apiece in the first seven minutes of the middle frame. It started with Will Skahan's (Woodbury, Minn.) first goal of the season, a rocket from the top of the left circle during 4-on-4 action. The blueliner was set up by Cole Eiserman (Newburyport, Mass.) and Kamil Bednarik (Chicago, Ill.).
Fargo answered back 31 seconds later with a Leo Gruba tally, but Stiga put Team USA in front once more with a breakaway score shortly after. He intercepted a pass and charged the length of the ice, before deking and using a pretty backhand finish for his 14th goal of the campaign.
The Force matched the score once more, the 3-3 marker coming from Peter Cisar at 6:51, assisted by Lee Parks and Gruba.
The rest of the second looked as though it would go without a goal, but Eiserman restored the U18 advantage with 29 ticks remaining in the period. John Whipple (Minnetonka, Minn.) found Brendan McMorrow (Lakeville, Minn.) in the slot for a one-timer that was padded aside by Castro. Eiserman was first to the rebound and deposited his second-chance opportunity through the five-hole to give Team USA a 4-3 lead.
With Team USA on a power play late in regulation, Fargo ended up on a 3-on-2 shorthanded rush and Nick Kempf (Chicago, Ill.) seemed to have made his 27th and biggest stop of the night as the puck sat along the goal line. But after a video review, a goal was awarded to tie the game at four apiece.
The game looked destined for overtime before Hagens ended the contest with his 10th score of the season.
Kempf finished his night with 27 stops on the way to his seventh win of the season.
The U18s are back in action Wednesday night against Adrian College in the sixth installment of the 2023-24 Kroger College Series. Puck drop is set for 6:00 p.m. from USA Hockey Arena and tickets are available at USAHockeyNTDP.com/tix or by calling the box office at 734-453-8400.