MONCTON, New Brunswick – Sean Behrens (Barrington, Ill.), Red Savage (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Dylan Duke (Strongsville, Ohio) each tallied two points as the U.S. National Junior Team skated to a 5-2 victory over Latvia at the Avenir Centre in its opening game of the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Team USA will continue preliminary round play in the World Juniors on Wednesday (Dec. 28) against Slovakia. Opening faceoff is set for 5:00 p.m. local time/4:00 p.m. ET at the Avenir Centre and the game can be seen live on NHL Network.
“It was good to get a win,” said Rand Pecknold, head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team and also the head men’s ice hockey coach at Quinnipiac University. “We did what we needed to in the third period and we’ll work on some things at practice tomorrow as we get ready for Slovakia.”
After a scoreless first, Jimmy Snuggerud (Chaska, Minn.) broke through just 24 seconds into the second period, capitalizing on a turnover at the blue line and whacking a rebound past Latvian goaltender Patriks Berzins. Logan Cooley (West Mifflin, Pa.) earned an assist on the play.
Latvia evened things up just before the five-minute mark, but the U.S. answered back at 9:17 to regain its lead when Behrens fired a one-timer from the point off a quick passing play between Savage and Duke.
Latvia tied the game with 5:36 to play in the middle frame with a shot from above the left circle through traffic, but Chaz Lucius (Grant, Minn.) scored what proved to be the game-winner 1:57 into the third, carrying the puck into the zone off a feed from Jackson Blake (Fargo, N.D.) and flipping a backhander into the net far side at the doorstep. Behrens also notched an assist on the play.
Savage doubled the U.S. lead at the 6:48 mark, sending home a rebound off a shot off an initial spin-o-rama shot from Duke in the high slot. Team USA captain Luke Hughes (Canton, Mich.) scored the final goal of the game at 13:29 when his wrister from the blue line bounced off the posted and into the net. Jack Peart (Grand Rapids, Minn.) and Charlie Stramel (Rosemount, Minn.) drew assists on the play.
Trey Augustine (South Lyon, Mich.) made 15 saves to earn the win in the U.S. net.
NOTES: Sean Behrens was named Team USA’s Player of the Game … The U.S. was 0-2 on the power play, while Latvia was 0-1 … Team USA outshot Latvia by a 46-17 count … A total of 10 different players contributed points ... For Team USA’s roster and schedule, click here.