GREEN BAY, Wis. - Jeremy Bracco (Freeport, N.Y./0-3) and Colin White (Hanover, Mass./1-2) paced the offense with three points each as the U.S. National Under-18 Team bested the Youngstown Phantoms, 6-3, here this morning at the Resch Center. With the win, Team USA concludes play at the United States Hockey League Fall Classic East with a 2-0 record at the event and a 4-0 overall record in USHL preseason play.
Youngstown opened the scoring at 13:56 of the first frame. The U18s managed 15 shots on Phantoms netminder Chris Birdsall, but could not find the equalizer before time expired on the period.
Skating shorthanded, Team USA knotted the game at one goal apiece at 5:33 in the second. Moving up the middle of the ice, Caleb Jones (Frisco, Texas) dropped a pass to Brendan Warren (Carleton, Mich.) who fired a shot under the glove of Birdsall. Just 35 seconds later and still one player down, Matthew Tkachuk (St. Louis, Mo.) wristed a Casey Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.) outlet pass into the net to give Team USA its first advantage.
The U.S. pushed its lead to two on special teams, but this time on the power play. Bracco found Tkachuk alone in front of the net and Tkachuk backhanded the puck under the crossbar. Auston Matthews (Scottsdale, Ariz.) also assisted on the play. Thirty-three seconds after the power-play tally, Tage Thompson (Oyster Bay, N.Y.) slid the puck past Birdsall to give the U.S. a 4-1 lead after two periods of action. Jones and Troy Terry (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) collected helpers.
The Phantoms cut the U18 lead in half, 4-2, at 6:53 of the final frame. Fitzgerald responded for Team USA at 8:29, depositing a Bracco feed into the cage. White also assisted. Youngstown scored a power-play goal midway through the period, but could not overcome the deficit as White sealed the victory with an empty-net goal.
Luke Opilka (St. Louis, Mo.) kicked out 20 shots for Team USA in the win, while Chris Birdsall made 29 saves in the loss for Youngstown.
The U.S. National Under-18 Team opens the USHL regular season next weekend, with two games at the Ann Arbor (Mich.) Ice Cube. The U.S. first welcomes the Youngstown Phantoms on Saturday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. ET, before hosting the Muskegon Lumberjacks on Sunday, Sept. 28, at 3:30 p.m. Both games will be broadcast live on FASTHockey.com.
The U.S. outshot the Phantoms, 35-23 ... Team USA was 2-for-5 with the man advantage, while Youngstown went 1-for-7 ... The U.S. tallied two shorthanded markers ... Jeremy Bracco led all U18 skaters with nine points (3-6) in four USHL preseason games. Matthew Tkachuk (5-2) and Colin White (4-3) were tied for second with seven points ... Tkachuk and Brendan Warren topped scorers with five goals each ... During the USHL Fall Classic Week, all games will finish with a 3-on-3 overtime session regardless of the score at the end of regulation. These sessions will help the USHL review and analyze whether to adopt this change full-time in future play.
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