ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Four different players scored and goaltender Luke Opilka (St. Louis, Mo.) made 30 saves as the U.S. National Under-18 Team skated past the Youngstown Phantoms, 4-2, here tonight at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube. The contest was the first United States Hockey League regular-season game of 2014-15 for both squads.
Opilka and Phantoms netminder Colin DeAugustine battled back and forth in the first frame, a period that saw neither team score. Opilka made 11 saves, while DeAugustine turned aside all 10 U.S. shots he faced.
Luke Kunin (Chesterfield, Mo.) opened the scoring for Team USA at 18:37 of the second stanza. After taking a pass from defenseman Caleb Jones (Frisco, Texas), Kunin walked off the wall and sent a shot through traffic and just inside the far post. Tage Thompson (Oyster Bay N.Y.) also assisted on the goal. Youngstown answered 46 seconds later, after the U18s were whistled for cross-checking, to knot the score, 1-1, through two stanzas.
Christian Fischer (Wayne, Ill.) gave Team USA a 2-1 advantage 7:27 into the final period when he took a pass from Auston Matthews (Scottsdale, Ariz.), wheeled into the zone and fired home a shot from the left circle. Skating with an extra attacker due to a delayed Youngstown penalty call, Nicholas Boka (Plymouth, Mich.) doubled the Under-18 Team lead on a blast from the point midway through the period. Matthews picked up his second helper on the night, while Christian Evers (Waukee, Iowa) earned the secondary assist.
Youngstown struck back at 13:34, but would edge no closer as Matthew Tkachuk (St. Louis, Mo.) sealed the game for the U.S. with a well-placed shot at 17:08. The Phantoms called DeAugustine to the bench for the final 1:54 of the game in favor of the extra skater, but the gamble would not pay off and Team USA claimed the 4-2 win.
The U.S. National Under-18 Team will conclude a busy weekend for Team USA when it squares off with the Muskegon Lumberjacks tomorrow (Sept. 28) afternoon in Ann Arbor. Opening faceoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET with FASTHockey.com providing live streaming coverage of the contest.
Youngstown outshot Team USA, 32-30 ... The U.S. went 0-5 on the power play, while the Phantoms went 1-5 .. Eight different players registered at least one point in the game ... Eleven players posted a positive plus-minus rating tonight ... Every skater on the Under-18 Team roster now has at least one point on the season ... Team USA remains undefeated in games so far this year. The U18s were previously 5-0 in preseason contests against NAHL and USHL opponents.