BASEL, Switzerland – Team USA advanced to the semifinals of the 2023 IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship on Thursday with a 4-1 victory over Czechia at St. Jakob Arena. The U.S. saw four different goal scorers, with Ryan Leonard (Amherst, Mass.) notching the game-winner.
Team USA will next play Slovakia in the semifinals Saturday (April 29) on NHL Network with puck drop slated for 3:00 pm local (9:00 am ET).
“We’re proud of our guys. Every game is going to be tough at this point,” said Dan Muse (Canton, Mass.), head coach of the 2023 U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team. “We loved how the team stuck to our plan and continued to attack, and kept playing our game. It’s a great win and we are excited for the semifinals on Saturday.”
The U.S. broke the ice at 12:56 of the opening period with a Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.) put-back score. Smith took the first shot of the sequence and the rebound caromed back to Cole Hutson (Barrington, Ill.) for the second shot from the slot. After Hutson’s attempt was deflected in front, Smith was first to the loose puck and tapped it in for a 1-0 lead. Gabe Perreault (Hinsdale, Ill.) picked up the secondary assist to keep pace with Smith’s tournament lead in points with 16.
Team USA owned a commanding 19-5 shot advantage in the first frame to take a lead into the break. U.S. netminder Trey Augustine (South Lyon, Mich.) was sharp when called on, including a pair of stops on Czech shots taken from in close to the crease.
Just shy of the midway mark of the game, Leonard flew down the right wing and ripped a wrister from the dot through the five-hole of Michael Hrabal to double the U.S. lead. Captain Zach Schulz (South Lyon, Mich.) chipped the puck up to Leonard to earn his third point of the tournament.
With 13:40 to play in regulation, Team USA’s top line of Perreault, Smith, and Leonard almost connected for another goal, but Leonard’s chip-shot clinked off the crossbar and out to keep it a 2-0 contest.
Moments later in 4-on-4 action, the U.S. got grade-A opportunities from Perreault and Oliver Moore (Mounds View, Minn.), but Hrabal continued his impressive afternoon to maintain the 2-0 score. Hrabal would go on to face 52 shots from the U.S. in the contest.
At 10:46 of the third, Czechia pulled to within a goal when Dominik Petr jumped on a rebound and snuck it past Augustine to make it a 2-1 game.
Danny Nelson (Maple Grove, Minn.) answered the score with 5:53 to play in the third period to restore Team USA’s two-goal lead. After a hard forecheck, Beckett Hendrickson (Minnetonka, Minn.) dug the puck out from behind the Czechia cage and put it in front for Nelson. He snapped a quick shot over the blocker of Hrabal to make it 3-1.
Less than a minute later, Will Vote (Arlington, Mass.) found the back of the net, depositing his shot under the glove from the left circle. Hutson and Moore helped set it up to earn assists on the 4-1 goal.
Team USA was granted one last power play opportunity to finish the game off an interference penalty from Czechia’s Jakub Dvorak, but was unable to convert, ending the contest with the 4-1 victory.
Augustine made 11 saves in the contest to pick up his fourth win of the tournament in as many appearances.
Notes: Danny Nelson was named Player of the Game after scoring the answer tally to regain Team USA’s two-goal lead in the third … The U.S. outshot Czechia 52-12 … Team USA was 0-for-2 on the power play, and did not have to kill a penalty …. Ryan Leonard’s goal in today’s game was his seventh of the tournament, making him second in goal scoring behind teammate Cole Eiserman (8G) for the 2023 Under-18 Men’s World Championship … Will Smith (6G, 10A) and Gabe Perreault (5G, 11A) are tied for the tournament lead in points with 16 .... To view full Team USA results and the tournament daily insider, click here.