FRISCO, Texas - Ty Gallagher (Clarkston, Mich.) tied the game with three seconds to play in regulation and Sasha Pastujov (Bradenton, Fla.) connected less than a minute into the overtime period as the U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team came back to beat Finland, 5-4, Saturday night here at Comerica Center.
Pastujov strolled down the right wing in the 3-on-3 session and ducked towards the center of the ice as he got to the goal line. He stickhandled between all three Finnish skaters before sliding his shot between the legs of Aku Koskenvuo to complete the comeback victory.
"I like the way we came out, I like the way we played the entire game," head coach Dan Muse (Canton, Mass.) said after the thrilling win. "I thought you could see from the opening shift that the guys were ready. There was a little more pop in everyone’s step. There was a little more detail in everybody’s game. There was a lot to like about that and a lot to build off of moving forward."
Team USA's Dylan Duke (Strongsville, Ohio) drew first blood as he put the U.S. on top, 1-0, with 11:47 to play in the opening period. Pastujov wound up to put a slap-shot on net that was saved. Jack Hughes (Westwood, Mass.) found the rebound and shifted a pass over for Duke to slam it in.
Finland responded with a second-chance goal of their own as Ville Koivunen flicked a backhand attempt in 30 seconds later.
The Finns took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission when Juho Jarvela converted off a 2-on-1 give and go feed from Niko Huuhtanen with just under four minutes to play in the opening frame.
Charlie Stramel (Rosemount, Minn.) evened the game 78 seconds into the middle 20 as he roped a wrister from inside the hashmarks over the blocker-side shoulder of Koskenvuo. Aidan Hreschuk (Long Beach, Calif.) set up the score for his second helper of the tournament.
The U.S. used an extended offensive-zone possession to earn a 3-2 lead off the blade of Isaac Howard (Hudson, Wis.) with 6:14 remaining in the second. Lane Hutson (Barrington, Ill.) made a tremendous play to keep the puck in the zone at the blue line and fed Howard for a first shot. The puck bounced off the goalie's blocker and right back to Howard, who connected on the rebound chance for his first preliminary round goal.
Finland's Samu Tuomaala evened the game again at 3-3 less than a minute into the third period with a firm wrister from the top of the left faceoff circle.
Finnish forward Verner Miettinen pushed them ahead when he deflected a point shot from Viljami Juusola between the legs of Kaidan Mbereko (Aspen, Colo.) for a 4-3 Finland lead with 6:32 to play in regulation.
The U.S. pressed hard at the end of regulation and Gallagher picked up the equalizer on a goal-mouth scramble with three seconds to play. Gallagher stickhandled himself into a shot and all bodies from both teams converged on the net. The puck squirted free for the defenseman to punch in at the crease. Liam Gilmartin (Falls Church, Va.) and Stramel kicked it around to pick up assists on the tying goal.
Pastujov's fourth goal gave him a multi-point effort on the night and points in all four preliminary round games to give the U.S. the win.
Mbereko made 29 saves, including a highlight-reel glove stop to keep the score at 2-1 late in the first, to pick up back-to-back wins in net for Team USA.
Team USA will advance to the quarterfinals and take on Sweden Monday night back here at Comerica Center. Puck drop is set for 8:00 p.m. CT / 9:00 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on NHL Network.
NOTES: Dylan Duke, who scored a goal, was named the U.S. Player of the Game, presented by Elite Prospects... Team USA news, interviews, highlights and more can be found at TeamUSA.USAHockey.com....For the official IIHF home for the 2021 Under-18 World Championship, click here... 23 of the 24 players on Team USA's roster come from the National Team Development Program... For the latest news and information about the tournament, follow @USAHockey on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.