LAPPEENRANTA, Finland - Dylan Larkin (Waterford, Mich.) and Ryan Hitchcock (Manhasset, N.Y.) each scored one goal and added one assist as the U.S. Men's National Under-18 Team defeated Sweden, 4-1, in semifinal action here today at Lappeenranta Arena. With the win, Team USA advances to the gold-medal game of the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's Under-18 World Championship.
Sweden tallied the first goal of the game 2:39 into the opening frame, immediately after its first power play expired. The U.S. responded at the 3:11 mark with a goal from Auston Matthews (Scottsdale, Ariz.). Kyle Connor (Shelby Township, Mich.) skated down the left sideboards into the Swedish zone and found Matthews streaking down the ice in support. Connor sent a pass to Matthews near the top of the circles for a snap shot that sailed past Linus Soderstrom for the score.
Hitchcock scored the go-ahead goal for the United States at 7:47 of the second stanza. Noah Hanifin (Norwood, Mass.) entered the offensive zone and absorbed a hit in the left faceoff circle, wristing a shot on net. Hanifin's rebound floated to Hitchcock on the opposite side of the crease who shoveled the puck over Soderstrom to give Team USA a 2-1 lead entering the third period.
Larkin gave the U.S. a two-goal advantage at 8:38 of the final frame. Hitchcock skated behind the attacking net and stole the puck from a Swedish defender. Quickly, he found Larkin open at the top of the crease for a quick shot under the crossbar, beating Soderstrom before he could react. Jack Eichel (North Chelmsford, Mass.) secured the 4-1 victory for Team USA with an empty-net goal with 46 seconds remaining. Larkin assisted on the play.
Alex Nedeljkovic (Parma, Ohio) made 19 stops in the win for Team USA, while Soderstrom kicked out 30 saves for Sweden in the loss.
The U.S. Men's National Under-18 Team will conclude tournament play tomorrow in against the Czech Republic in the gold-medal game at 12 p.m. EDT. The game will be held at Lappeenranta Arena and broadcast live on FASTHockey.com.