BRECLAV, Czech Republic – Cole Knuble (East Grand Rapids, Mich.) recorded a hat trick as the U.S. Under-18 Men’s Select Team finished the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with a win over Czech Republic, 6-4, for a fifth-place finish.
“Our guys came out ready to play, they had a good start with a lot of energy,” said J.D. Forrest, head coach of the U.S. Under-18 Men’s Select Team. “We dealt with adversity early on in the tournament and the team got progressively better each game. I’m really proud of the team and their work ethic and liked their development as hockey players at the international level."
The U.S. was able to put one through while on the power play, where Hunter Brzustewicz (Washington, Mich.) skated along the blue line dishing a feed to Pasha Bocharov (Escondido, Calif.). His initial shot ricocheted off a Czech player in front of the net as Knuble tracked the loose puck and buried it past Czech netminder Michael Schnattinger it to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead. The Czech Republic answered nearly 10 minutes later with a goal of their own, putting the game at a 1-1 tie heading into the first intermission.
The Czechs took the lead in the second while on a power play with less than a minute into the frame, but the U.S. special teams came up big once again. Up a man, a tic-tac-toe play from Bocharov to Brzustewicz made its way to Mikey DeAngelo (Itasca, Ill.) who tee’d up a one-timer that went far side to tie things up at two.
Almost five minutes later, Bocharov skated the puck into the offensive zone, dumping it off to Knuble who muscled his way around the back of the net and found twine to put the U.S. up by one after forty minutes of play.
Team USA was able to get off to a quick start in the third as the Czech goaltender misplayed a puck behind the net which gave DeAngelo an empty net to tap it in. Just over a minute later, Bruzustewicz took a shot from the blue line as Luke Devlin (Memphis, Tenn.) positioned his stick at the right angle to deflect the puck midair and find the back of the net on the power play, putting the U.S. up 5-2.
The Czechs would add two goals giving the U.S. a slim one-goal lead. With 1:30 left to play, Knuble got the feed from Ryan Abraham (Livonia, Mich.) who played the puck patiently and made a stellar move to get past the Czech defense and give the U.S. the late 6-4 lead, securing the win.
Bryant Marks (Wasilla, Alaska) started in net for the U.S. and picked up the win.
For complete game statistics, click here.
NOTES: DeAngelo was named U.S. Player of the Game … Team USA and the Czech Republic were both 2-4 on the power play … The U.S. finishes fifth at this year’s tournament, finishing the tournament with back-to-back wins.