ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Jeremy Bracco (Freeport, N.Y.), Auston Matthews (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Caleb Jones (Frisco, Texas) scored in regulation and Brendan Warren (Carleton, Mich.) notched the game-winning shootout goal to lift the U.S. National Under-18 Team over Bloomington, 4-3, in United States Hockey League regular-season play here tonight at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube.
Bracco opened the scoring just 3:05 into the game when he batted home a loose puck in front of Bloomington goaltender David Jacobson. After Team USA went low-to-high in its offensive zone, Casey Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.) sent a pass along the blue line to Jones. Jones gathered and fired the puck towards the net, where it bounced to Bracco at the edge of the crease.
The Thunder knotted the contest 2:57 into the second stanza with a power-play tally, but Matthews responded just 46 seconds later to retake the lead, 2-1. Christian Evers (Waukee, Iowa) started the play when he chipped the puck into the zone from center. Jack Roslovic (Columbus, Ohio) beat a Bloomington defender to the corner, won a battle for the puck and shoveled it to Matthews at the doorstep. Matthews redirected the pass through Jacobson's legs for the score. The Thunder managed to tie the score once again at 9:09, this time with a four-on-three power-play marker. Jones' goal with 4:47 remaining in the frame gave the U18s a 3-2 edge going into the final frame. Following a strong shift by the U.S., Jones pinched into the zone, pulled the puck off the wall and threw it towards the net. Before it found his target, the puck bounced off a Bloomington skate and in.
A late third-period tally by Bloomington forced overtime. Neither squad converted in the extra frame, extending the contest to a shootout. Goaltender Luke Opilka (St. Louis, Mo.) set the stage for Warren's game-winner by stopping eight Thunder shooters.
Opilka made 29 stops between regulation and overtime to earn his second USHL victory of the 2014-15 campaign.
The U.S. National Under-18 Team returns to USHL action Sunday (Nov. 16) when it hosts the Muskegon Lumberjacks at 3:30 p.m. EST. The contest can be viewed live on FASTHockey.com.
Bloomington finished with a 32-19 advantage over Team USA in shots on goal … The U.S. National Under-18 Team was 0-for-5 on the power play while the Thunder connected on two of its six chances … Caleb Jones scored his first goal of the 2014-15 season.
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