BRECLAV, Czech Republic - Zam Plante (Hermantown, Minn.) and Gavin Hayes (Westland, Mich.) each had a goal and an assist to lead the U.S. Under-18 Men’s Select Team to a 5-3 victory over the Czech Republic in a pre-tournament matchup Saturday night at FOSFA Arena ahead of the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
“I thought the team played really well, our guys played hard and we liked the effort they gave,” said J.D. Forrest, head coach of the U.S. Under-18 Men’s Select Team. “It was a good example of how this tournament can go. There were a lot of momentum swings and special teams and we made a few mistakes but they are all easy fixes.”
Nearly twenty minutes passed by in the first period without either team finding the back of the net, but Gavin Hayes (Westland, Mich.), during 4-on-4 hockey, was able to get one through Czech Republic goaltender Jan Spunar to break the stalemate with three seconds to go. Ryan Abraham (Livonia, Mich.) and Pasha Bocharov (Escondido, Calif.) both drew assists on the play.
The U.S. extended its lead less than a minute into the second period as Cam Lund (Bridgewater, Mass.) found the back of the net from the side of the left circle with Team USA on the power play. Hayes and Plante had assists on the play. The Czech Republic got to within a goal with just 2:12 to go in the middle frame setting the stage for an eventful third period.
The U.S. generated a pair of scoring opportunities early in the third but could not capitalize. The Czechs tied the game at 18:13 and then sent three quick shots towards U.S. netminder Austin McNicholas (Wasilla, Alaska) who was able to fan them away. The U.S. re-gained the lead for good at 8:29 when Cole Knuble (East Grand Rapids, Mich.) raced up the right side of the ice and fed a pass across to Jimmy Clark (Edina, Minn.) who deflected it home from the front of the crease.
Plante put the U.S. ahead 5-3 just 1:24 later when he ricocheted a pass off a Czech player with the U.S. on the power play. The Czech Republic climbed back to within a goal with 7:34 left in regulation with a shorthanded tally, but Mikey DeAngelo (Itasca, Ill.) banked one off the boards and into an empty net to seal a 5-3 U.S. win.
Lucas Szyszka (Westmont, Ill.) and McNicholas split time in goal for Team USA.
The U.S. opens play in the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup against Slovakia Monday (Aug. 2) at Easton Arena in Piestany, Slovakia. Puck drop is set for 6:30 p.m. local time (1 p.m. ET).
NOTES: Lucas Szyszka was named the U.S. Player of the Game … Team USA was 2-5 on the power play, while the Czech Republic was 0-5 … Follow Team USA throughout the tournament by clicking here.