The U.S. Under-18 Men’s Select Team opens its 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup campaign against Slovakia today at 1:00 p.m. ET. The game will be played at Easton Arena in Piestany, Slovakia.
Today’s Opponent: Slovakia
Team USA is 5-0 (W-L) in its last five meetings with Slovakia at the Hlinka Tournament. The U.S. earned a 4-3 victory in overtime inside Easton Arena in 2019, the last meeting between these two teams. The U.S. tied the game up with minutes to play in the third before Harvard University commit Alex Gaffney (Norton Shores, Mich.) notched the game-winner with 1:32 left to play in overtime. Prior to their 2019 win, the teams hadn’t faced since 2015 where the U.S. came away with a 7-3 win in Slovakia once again. Three Americans finished the matchup with three points each, while goaltender Stephen Dhillon (Jackson, Miss.), stopped 30 of the 33 shots he faced.
In 2013, the teams met in the preliminary round with the U.S. posting a 5-2 victory. Future first round NHL draft pick Nick Schmaltz (Madison, Wis.) gave the U.S. a commanding 4-0 lead after netting a goal during the first period. Now Winnipeg Jets forward Kyle Connor (Shelby Township, Mich.) stopped Team Slovakia’s momentum, scoring the fifth goal for the team after Slovakia cut its lead in half.
Team USA defeated Slovakia again in 2012 by a score of 5-3, after defeating them the year previous 6-5 decided by a shootout.
The U.S. skated in one pre-tournament bout prior to the start of this year’s tournament, defeating Czech Republic, 5-3, on Saturday.
Zam Plante (Hermantown, Minn.) and Gavin Hayes (Westland, Mich.) each had a goal and an assist to lead the U.S. past the Czech Republic. Nine Americans recorded a point in pre-tournament action. Goaltenders Lucas Szyszka (Westmont, Ill.) and Austin McNicholas (Wasilla, Alaska) each saw time in net for the U.S. Syszka was also named U.S. Player of the Game.
Sons of the Game
U.S. forwards Plante, Cole Knuble (East Grand Rapids, Mich.) and Casy Laylin (St. Michael, Minn.) share familiar ice with their fathers, all who have which established themselves in the hockey community. Mike Knuble, father of Cole, spent 16 seasons in the NHL while representing Team USA at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. Derek Plante, father of Zam, and Cory Laylin, father of Casy, have both served time behind the bench for Team USA at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. For the full story, click here.