HALIFAX, Nova Scotia – Chaz Lucius (Grant, Minn.) scored three goals, including the game-winner in overtime, in a thrilling 8-7 victory over Sweden today in the bronze medal game of the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship at the Scotiabank Centre.
The U.S. National Junior Team finished the tournament with a 4-1-0-2 record and brought Team USA its 14th tournament medal.
“I’m really proud of our group,” said Rand Pecknold, head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team and also the head men’s ice hockey coach at Quinnipiac University. “To come back today and earn a medal for our country is something everyone can share in and a moment we’ll take with us the rest of our lives.”
Logan Cooley (West Mifflin, Pa.) got the U.S. on the board just 2:51 into the game, sending home a one-timer from the bottom of the left circle off a no-look pass from Jimmy Snuggerud (Chaska, Minn.) behind the net. It was the only goal of the opening stanza.
A wild second period feature nine goals between the two teams. Ryan Ufko (Smithtown, N.Y.) doubled Team USA’s lead 1:51 into the middle frame with a power-play goal through traffic off a feed from Snuggerud at the point. Jackson Blake (Fargo, N.D.) also picked up an assist on the play. Sweden answered back under two minutes later with a goal from the high slot to make things 2-1.
Just 1:31 later, Lucius added a third to the U.S. tally off a turnover at center ice, outskating two Swedish skaters and ripping a shot past the left shoulder of goaltender Carl Lindbom. Blake earned his second assist of the game on the play. One minute later, Sweden picked up its second of the game, then evened the game at 8:52.
Sweden took a delay of game penalty just before the halfway mark of the stanza and Cutter Gauthier (Scottsdale, Ariz.) fired a one-timer from the right circle to regain the U.S. lead with 9:18 to play. Cooley and Rutger McGroarty (Lincoln, Neb.) each earned assists on the play.
Lucius gave the U.S. a 5-3 advantage with 6:23 left in the period, carrying the puck into the zone and around four Swedish skaters to send a shot far side past Lindbom. Ufko earned the assist, picking up a loose puck in the defensive zone to set up Lucius.
Sweden tallied its fourth with a power-play goal with 1:08 remaining in the second, then added one more 27 seconds later to tie the score at 5-5 heading into the third period.
Kaidan Mbereko (Aspen, Colo.) stepped into the U.S. net to start the third, taking the place of Trey Augustine (South Lyon, Mich.).
The Swedes took a 6-5 lead with 4:00 gone in the third, but Team USA captain Luke Hughes (Canton, Mich.) evened things up 4:17 later with a highlight-reel play, beating Lindbom five-hole while on his knees after being taken down by a Swedish defender. McGroarty picked up an assist on the goal.
With just over two minutes to go, Cooley drew a tripping penalty to send the U.S. to the power play and Gauthier gave the U.S. a 7-6 lead after slipping home his own rebound amid a net-front scramble with just 1:37 remaining. McGroarty and Gavin Brindley (Estero, Fla.) earned assists on the goal. With its goaltender pulled, the Swedes scored with 21.4 second left to force overtime.
It was Lucius, 2:06 into overtime, who put home a rebound with a backhander on the doorstep off an initial shot from Lane Hutson (Chicago, Ill.) to complete his hat trick. Red Savage (Scottsdale, Ariz.) also earned an assist on the play.
Augustine finished with 15 saves in the U.S. net in playing the first two periods, while Mbereko went the rest of the way and made 14 stops.
NOTES: Chaz Lucius was named Team USA’s Player of the Game … The U.S. and Sweden both finished with 36 shots on goal … The U.S. was 3-5 on the power play, while Sweden was 1-2 … Logan Cooley was named to the Media All-Star Team ... For Team USA’s roster and schedule, click here.