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Special teams power U.S. past Slovakia in pre-Hlinka finale

08/05/2017, 12:45pm EDT
By Jayson Hron

The power play was a point of emphasis for the United States Under-18 Men’s Select Team in Friday’s practice and it paid dividends Saturday, as the U.S. scored four power-play goals en route to a 7-2 victory over Slovakia at the Ondrej Nepela Arena in Bratislava.

Blade Jenkins (Jackson, Mich.) scored twice, including a dazzling solo effort in the third period, and also added an assist to pace Team USA. In all, six Americans scored goals and 12 registered at least one point in the team’s final exhibition tune-up prior to Monday’s opening game at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.

“We played really well, and I thought our power play and penalty kill – our special teams – were very good,” said U.S. head coach Clark Donatelli (Providence, R.I.). “We’re really happy with the progress we’ve made in a short amount of time.”

Surging to its second early lead in as many games, Team USA opened the scoring 4:48 into the first period when Jenkins banged home a rebound. Slovakia answered six minutes later with a power-play goal to make it 1-1. The teams remained deadlocked until Jack Drury (Winnetka, Ill.) redirected a point shot from Christian Krygier (Novi, Mich.) past Slovakia goaltender Matej Batory with 40 seconds remaining in the first to reestablish the one-goal lead.

Team USA took control in the second period, scoring three unanswered power-play goals. Gavin Hain (Grand Rapids, Minn.) struck first, ripping a one-timer from the right circle past Batory to make it 3-1 at 9:00. After both teams rotated goalies, Philippe Lapointe (Burr Ridge, Ill.) shoved in a power-play goal during a net-front scramble to make it 4-1 at 18:48, then U.S. defenseman Adam Samuelsson blasted a slap shot past Slovakia’s Samuel Vyletelka a mere 30 seconds later to extend the U.S. lead.

Curtis Hall (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) and Jenkins closed the U.S. scoring with third-period goals sandwiched around a Slovakian penalty-shot goal from Simeon Pjatak.

With its undefeated exhibition slate complete, Team USA will now embark on a 50-mile journey north to Breclav, Czech Republic, where it will meet Sweden in the Hlinka Cup opener Monday at 3:30 p.m. local time (9:30 a.m. Eastern Time). That game, and all U.S. games during the Hlinka Cup, will be live streamed at hokejkatv.cz.

Follow the U.S. Under-18 Men’s Select Team every step of the way at TeamUSA.USAHockey.com.

Notes: U.S. forward Ryan Savage (Troy, Mich.) registered two assists against Slovakia … All three players from northeastern Minnesota’s Arrowhead Country – Grand Rapids’ Hain (1G) and Blake McLaughlin (1A) and Duluth’s Ryder Donovan (1A) – recorded a point against Slovakia … Lapointe’s goal against Slovakia was his third goal in two exhibition games … Ben Kraws (Cranbury, N.J.) and Isaiah Saville (Anchorage, Alaska) split U.S. goaltending duties against Slovakia. Kraws started and stopped 23 of 24 shots. Saville played the final 30:15 and stopped 14 of 15 … Slovakia was 1-for-6 on the power play. The U.S. was 4-for-6.

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