LUCERNE, Switzerland - Luke Kunin (Chesterfield, Mo.) and Auston Matthews (Scottsdale, Ariz.) scored two goals apiece as the U.S. Men's National Under-18 Team defeated the Czech Republic, 7-2, here today at Arena Lucerne. With the victory, Team USA advances to the semifinal round at the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's Under-18 World Championship.
Team USA opened the scoring at 15:07 on the power play. Christian Fischer (Wayne, Ill.) found Matthews for a one-time blast from the bottom of the right circle. Matthew Tkachuk (St. Louis, Mo.) earned the secondary assist. Clayton Keller (Swansea, Ill.) doubled the U.S. lead, 2-0, when he skated unimpeded to the front of the net directly off the center-ice draw. Dekeing the goalie out of position, Keller put the puck past the sprawled out Daniel Vladar. Michael Floodstrand (Hinsdale, Ill.) slid a well-placed shot between Vladar’s pads to extend the U.S. advantage, 3-0, at the 13-minute mark. Brendan Warren (Carleton, Mich.) and Troy Terry (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) collected helpers. Matthews lit the lamp at 15:07 with Fischer and Jordan Greenway (Potsdam, N.Y.) assisting.
The lone tally of the second stanza belonged to the Czech Republic as they chipped away at the U.S. lead. The United States outshot the Czechs, 11-6, in the period but couldn't add to its goal total.
Tkachuk pushed the puck up to Matthews who potted his second goal on the afternoon just 41 seconds into the third. Jeremy Bracco (Freeport, N.Y.) knocked in a rebound to further distance the U.S. from the Czechs, 6-1. Casey Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.) had the initial shot on goal and Colin White (Hanover, Mass.) also assisted. The Czech Republic notched a goal at 12:39 but Kunin shoveled the puck into the cage just over a minute later and Team USA won 7-2.
Evan Sarthou (Black Diamond, Wash.) turned aside 12 shots for Team USA in the victory.
Today's victory puts the U.S. Men's National Under-18 Team in the semifinals on Saturday (April 25) against Canada. The contest will be held in Zug, Switzerland, and will be streamed live through FASTHockey.com.
Team USA outshot the Czech Republic, 43-15 ... The U.S. went 1-6 on the power play while the Czech Republic went 0-3 ... Auston Matthews was named Team USA's best player ... Luke Kunin is serving as captain for Team USA, while Matthews and Colin White are alternate captains ... The U.S. Men's National Under-18 Team is led by Don Granato, serving as head coach at his second IIHF Men's Under-18 World Championship. Granato is currently in his fourth season as one of two head coaches at USA Hockey's National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan ... Twenty-two players on the U.S. roster come from USA Hockey's NTDP. Goaltender Evan Sarthou skated for the Western Hockey League's Tri-City Americans this winter ... Team USA's roster includes 20 players born in 1997 and three from the 1998 birth year. Defenseman Steven Ruggiero, born Jan. 1, 1997, is the oldest player on Team USA, while goaltender Jake Oettinger, born Dec. 18, 1998, is the youngest ... Thirteen different states are represented on the roster. New York leads the way with five skaters, while Illinois and Missouri boast three each ... The U.S. enters the tournament having captured a record 11-consecutive medals, including gold medals in five of the last six years (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014) ... Team USA has won eight gold medals all-time, the most of any country in IIHF Under-18 Men's World Championship history. The event began in 1999. Team USA earned its first gold medal in 2002 ... All Team USA games, including the medal round, will be streamed live on USAHockey.FASTHockey.com free of charge ... Follow @USAHockeyScores on Twitter for live scoring updates during the tournament. Scores will be designated with the #U18Worlds tag ... For additional coverage, visit the NTDP Facebook page and follow @USANTDP on Twitter ... The U.S. National Under-18 Team trains with The Hockey IntelliGym, a software program that trains hockey sense. Visit USAHockeyIntelliGym.com for more information.
Photo by Matt Zambonin (HHOF-IIHF Images)