LANDSHUT, Germany - The U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team used a five-goal second period and six unanswered to move past Czechia, 6-1, Saturday afternoon at Fanatec Arena. The U.S. will play tomorrow evening for the gold medal at the 2022 IIHF Under-18 Men's World Championship.
The Czechs converted on a two-minute 5-on-3 advantage to get on the board with 4:06 to play in the opening period. Jiri Kulich wound up for a one-timer from the right circle for his tournament-leading ninth goal, seven of which have come on the power play.
Team USA was held scoreless for the first 20 minutes despite 16 shots on net. Frank Nazar (Mount Clemens, Mich.) and Jimmy Snuggerud (Chaska, Minn.) worked for good looks on a U.S. power play midway through the period and Logan Cooley (Pittsburgh, Pa.) followed with a breakaway attempt that was gloved by Czech goalie Michael Schnattinger.
Cruz Lucius (Grant, Minn.) evened the score at 3:10 of the middle frame, netting his second goal of the tournament. Rutger McGroarty (Lincoln, Neb.) forced a Czech turnover and Lucius picked up the loose puck in the neutral zone. He went in alone down the right wing and fired a wrister far-side over Schnattinger's blocker to make it 1-1.
The U.S. took the lead just past the halfway mark of the game on a Cutter Gauthier (Scottsdale, Ariz.) score off a beautiful set-up from Cooley. Gauthier's hard forecheck forced a Czech turnover as the failed clear went right to Cooley's stick. He navigated through a defender with some fancy stick work and dropped a backhand feed to Gauthier alone in front for the score.
Team USA used a broken stick to its advantage to double the lead two minutes later. The loose lumber made a Czechia defender trip and give up the puck. Isaac Howard (Hudson, Wis.) collected it, found Gavin Brindley (Estero, Fla.) darting towards the net who went back-door to Nazar for a 3-1 advantage.
Howard made it four in a row after a quick transition put him in alone on a breakaway. Lane Hutson (North Barrington, Ill.) corralled the rubber and got it up the ice promptly to Cole Spicer (Grand Forks, N.D.) at the blue line. He found Howard with speed who used a quick deke before he deposited his shot in the top corner.
Team USA capped the five-goal second period off a bar-down clapper from Snuggerud. He carried into the offensive zone and dropped a pass for Cooley along the right wing as Snuggerud repositioned himself in the slot. Cooley returned the feed and Snuggerud wasted no time with his one-timer to make it 5-1 after 40 minutes.
Snuggerud went back-to-back with his second of the game on a power-play tally eight minutes into the final period. Howard fed Hutson, who set up shop at the point and moved the puck to Snuggerud at the left circle. He surveyed his options before firing a quick shot that worked its way through the five-hole and in for the 6-1 win.
American netminder Trey Augustine (South Lyon, Mich.) stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced in the game.
McGroarty, Cooley and Hutson were named the three best U.S. players in the tournament by the IIHF following the game.
NOTES: Jimmy Snuggerud, with two goals on the night, was named the U.S. Player of the Game ... For complete tournament news, including full schedule, broadcast information, stats and standings, click here ... Team USA news, including tournament interviews and highlights, can be found at TeamUSA.USAHockey.com ... The U.S. has won 10 gold medals in IIHF U18 Men's World Championship history, the most of any country ... Follow @USAHockey on Twitter for the latest information and updates throughout the tournament.