St. Cloud, MN – If the Thursday, December 27th game vs the USA U18’s is any indication, the future of USA Hockey for the next several years is pretty good. With a team consisting of 21 future Division I players, the USA U18 team gave SCSU a lesson on their home ice in a 6-4 exhibition win at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. A strong skating team with good size, skill and at times some edgy physical play, they proved to be an exceedingly good match for college hockey’s #1 ranked team. Despite missing top forwards Ryan Poehling and Blake Lizotte there were no excuses as the USA squad was also missing two of it’s top players in forward Jack Hughes and goaltender Spencer Knight, both off at the World Junior Championships. In their place, goaltender Cameron Rowe, a future NCHC player at North Dakota and Cole Caufield a future Wisconsin Badger led their team to their sixth win in 12 contests vs Division I opponents this season. The Huskies on the other hand, used this exhibition as an opportunity to insert seldom-used players Clark Kuster, Will Hammer and Mika Ilvonen and as a tune-up game for sophomore defenseman, Tyler Anderson who saw his first action since being injured vs Mount Royal in early October. In the end, it was a solid win for Team USA who gave the Huskies fits all night with their speed, quick movement of the puck, skillful passing and puck handling.
The USA squad took an early lead in the game with a goal by Marshall Warren (Moynihan | Beecher) just 3:08 into the first period. Moyniham massaged a pass through traffic from behind the net to a waiting Warren who wristed a shot from the left dot for a 1-0 lead. 15 minutes later they doubled their lead with their second goal at 18:33 by Cole Caufield ( York | McCarthy), his first of the game. USA made their second goal look easy as Cam York fended off Jack Poehling along the back wall and curled around the net feeding Caufield dot to dot and he one-timed it glove side past SCSU starter David Hrenak for a 2-0 lead. But, the Huskies rallied scoring twice in the last-minute of period one with goals by Jack Ahcan and Kevin Fitzgerald. First, Ahcan ( Fitzgerald | Newell) scored off a nice play by Fitzgerald at 19:01. Fitzgerald fed an all-alone Ahcan from deep in the right corner and the defenseman rang it off the post and past Rowe from between the circles for a one-goal deficit. Next, with USA’s Warren penalized for tripping, the Huskies capitalized with a power play goal by Fitzgerald (Schuldt | Brodzinski) at 19:50. Jimmy Schuldt fired a shot from the blue line and Fitzgerald tipped it past Rowe to tie the game at 2-2. SCSU outshot USA 9-7 in the period.
SCSU took the lead in the contest at 6:19 of period two on a goal by Brendan Bushy ( Hentges | Jackson). On a nice three-way play between Jackson, Hentges and Bushy, the defenseman fielded a pass and took a shot from the top of the right circle that deflected off Rowe’s blocker and then off USA defenseman Cam York and into the goal for a 3-2 SCSU lead. But this time USA rallied with a goal by Matt Boldy (C. Caufield | Zegras) at 15:09. Boldy captured the puck in the slot and spun and took a quick shot that got beneath Jeff Smith to tie the game at 3-3. USA had the shot advantage 11-8 in the period.
Sean Farrell (Beecher) gave the USA squad another one-goal lead at 6:08 of the third period. But, it was the effort by John Beecher that steered the goal. Beecher took the puck from center ice and beat Clark Kuster on the perimeter and drove the net getting the puck under Smith and off the right post. It sat behind Smith until Farrell punched it into the net for a 4-3 lead. After several minutes of intense pressure by SCSU, the Huskies finally tied the game at 16:48 on a nice passing sequence between Easton Brodzinski and Patrick Newell. Newell hit Brodzinski with a pass just over the blue line and Brodzinski slid it back to Newell who re-directed it past Rowe to knot the game at 4-4. But the resilient USA squad forged ahead again on a play started by a SCSU turnover in the neutral zone. Heading into the SCSU zone, John Beecher made a soft backhand pass to Judd Caufield who sent a goalmouth pass to Alex Turcotte who tipped it past Jeff Smith for the game-winning goal with 45 seconds left in the contest. USA then iced the game with an empty net goal by Cole Caufield 25 seconds later on a long bouncing shot from inside the USA blue line for the 6-4 final. This was the second consecutive win by the USA team having defeated SCSU in 2016 by a 7-6 score in overtime. SCSU outshot the NTDP by 12-11 in period three.
The teams traded 29 shots on goal for the game and SCSU won 34 of 58 faceoffs. SCSU blocked 10 shots and the USA team 9. Cameron Rowe earned the win for USA stopping 25 of 29 shots on goal. SCSU’s David Hrenak and Jeff Smith combined to turn aside 23 of 29 shots. Hrenak allowed two goals on 14 shots while Smith allowed 3 on 14. Cole Caufield (2-1-3) and John Beecher (0-3-3) led the USA squad with three points apiece. Easton Brodzinski (0-2-2), Kevin Fitzgerald (1-1-2) and Patrick Newell (1-1-2) had a multiple point game for SCSU. The SCSU penalty kill was perfect shutting out USA in two opportunities while the Huskies power play converted 1 of 5.
The USA Team is 6-5-1 vs Division I NCAA competition this season having previously defeated Michigan, Harvard, Dartmouth, Maine and Notre Dame.
Stars of the Game: #1 Turcotte (USA), #2 Fitzgerald (SCSU), #3 C Caufield (USA)