Midway through a 3-on-3 overtime session, Ryder Donovan (Duluth, Minn.) hopped over the boards to join his high school hockey rivals from up the road: Blake McLaughlin and Gavin Hain (both from Grand Rapids, Minn.). As Section 7AA opponents, they’ve clashed bitterly alongside Lake Superior and the western edge of Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range, but Friday, they harmonized like old friends raised on the outdoor rinks of Arrowhead Country.
Hain fed McLaughlin, who patiently regrouped with the puck while Donovan worked his way into the play. Then, with Hain looping to the right circle, McLaughlin and Donovan exchanged passes on the left, eventually opening a lane to the net. Donovan dangled in, looked across the slot to Hain and then fired a no-look wrist shot over Kalle Nurmi’s right shoulder, launching his towel off the cage and giving the United States Under-18 Men’s Select Team a 4-3 win over Finland in the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup finale.
With the win, Team USA (2-2) finished in fifth place, while Finland (1-3) dropped to sixth on a steamy day in Breclav, Czech Republic, that overwhelmed the arena’s dehumidifiers and covered the ice in a fog that caused multiple delays. And while the fog at times obscured the puck, it didn’t hide what was Team USA’s best performance.
“Our guys really worked extremely hard, executed well and found a way to win,” said U.S. head coach Clark Donatelli. “I’m proud of these guys. They got better and better over the course of the tournament.”
Rallying from a pair of one-goal deficits, the U.S. attack was cohesive and relentless throughout. Curtis Hall (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) knotted the score at 2-2 with his second goal of the game at 6:19 of the second period, boosting himself into the team’s tournament goal-scoring lead, and then he assisted on a McLaughlin tip-in 15 seconds into the third period.
It surely looked like McLaughlin’s goal would stand as the game-winner, but Finland struck with the extra attacker and only 20 seconds remaining in the third to send the game into overtime. Undeterred, the U.S. soon netted its extra-session triumph and capped its European travels on a high note.
Notes: Hall was named the U.S. Player of the Game. He is also the team’s undisputed leader in Rubik’s Cube prowess and its Hlinka Cup goal-scoring champion with three goals in four games … Goaltender Ben Kraws (Cranbury, N.J.) earned his team-leading second win of the tournament, turning aside 30 of Finland’s 33 shots on goal … Jack Drury (Winnetka, Ill.), who assisted on the first three U.S. goals against Finland, finished as Team USA’s leading Hlinka Cup point-getter with five points (2G, 3A).