QUISPAMSIS, New Brunswick – Charlie Stramel (Rosemount, Minn.) and Ryan Ufko (Smithtown, N.Y.) each had a goal and an assist and 11 different players contributed points overall as the U.S. National Junior Team earned a 5-2 victory over Finland here tonight at the QPlex in pre-tournament action ahead of the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The U.S. will play its second and final pre-tournament game on Wednesday (Dec. 21) in Moncton, New Brunswick, at the Avenir Centre. Opening faceoff is set for 3:30 p.m. local time/2:30 p.m. ET and the game can be seen live on NHL Network.
“I thought we got better as the game went on,” said Rand Pecknold, head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team and also the head men’s ice hockey coach at Quinnipiac University. “It was good to get a game under our belts and we’ll continue to build on this as we get closer to the start of the tournament.”
The teams traded first period goals with Finland’s Jimi Sumoi knocking home a puck from the slot that skipped by U.S. netminder Trey Augustine (South Lyon, Mich.) at 5:44. The U.S. evened the game on a slick wrist shot from Jackson Blake (Fargo, N.D.) from the bottom of the right circle while on the power play at 15:55 with defenseman Ufko earning an assist on the play.
Team USA scored three unanswered goals in the middle frame to take control of the contest. Stramel scored from the slot off a rebound of Gavin Brindley’s (Estero, Fla.) initial shot at 3:32 to make it 2-1, before Ufko wristed one from the right point that got through traffic and past Finnish netminder Aku Koskenvuo at 7:57. Ryan Chesley (Mahtomedi, Minn.) leaned into a feed from Lane Hutson (Chicago, Ill) from the side of the left circle at 16:28 to stake the U.S. to a 4-1 advantage heading into the third.
Finland cut the lead to 4-2 at 3:28 of the final frame and Augustine made a key save with just more than 6:30 to play on Oliver Kapanen from the right dot with the Finns on the power play to maintain the two-goal U.S. advantage. Logan Cooley (West Mifflin, Pa.) scored into an empty net with Koskenvuo pulled for an extra attacker to account for the 5-2 final with captain Luke Hughes (Canton, Mich.) drawing an assist.
Augustine made 19 saves to pick up the win.
NOTES: The U.S. was 1-3 on the power play, while Finland was 0-4 … Finland outshot the U.S. by a 24-21 count… The QPlex, which seats 1,100, opened in 2011. Tickets for tonight’s contest sold out in minutes and additional 400 standing-room-only tickets were sold.