BASEL, Switzerland - The U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team heads into the semifinals of the 2023 IIHF Under-18 Men's World Championship with a matchup against Slovakia. Puck drop is set for 3:00 p.m. local (9:00 a.m. ET) at St. Jakob Arena and the game will broadcast live on NHL Network.
Team USA topped Czechia by a 4-1 final Thursday afternoon to advance to the semis. The U.S. saw four different goal scorers, with Ryan Leonard (Amherst, Mass.) notching the game-winner. The goal was his seventh of the tournament, which ranks him second among all skaters to teammate Cole Eiserman (Newburyport, Mass.), who has eight tallies.
Danny Nelson (Maple Grove, Minn.) scored with 5:53 to play in the third period to put Team USA up by a pair. With his second goal of the tournament, Nelson was named the U.S. Player of the Game.
“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, after the quarterfinal win. “We loved how the team stuck to our plan, continued to attack and kept playing our game. It’s a great win and we are excited for the semifinals on Saturday.”
Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.) scored the game’s opening goal and Gabe Perreault (Hinsdale, Ill.) assisted, as both skaters improved their point total to 16 on the tournament, leading all players. The all-time record for points in an IIHF U18 World Championship is Nikita Kucherov’s 21 in 2011; Jack Hughes had 20 in 2019 to lead all Americans in the event.
Goaltender Trey Augustine (South Lyon, Mich.) was not tested often, but was sharp when called upon. The netminder made 11 saves in the quarterfinals to pick up his fourth win of the tournament in as many appearances.
Slovakia finished in third place out of Group A in the preliminary round where they had a 1-1-0-2 record. They topped Germany and beat Czechia in the shootout, while falling to Canada and Sweden. In the quarterfinals, the Slovaks beat the higher-ranked Finland team by a 3-2 final. Slovakia is paced by forward Dalibor Dvorsky, who is t-3rd in goals with 6 and t-11th in overall points with 11. The 6-foot-1, 201-pound center is ranked third on NHL Central Scouting’s final 2023 draft rankings among all European skaters. Goaltender Samuel Urban has been one of the tournament’s best with a .924 save percentage which ranks second among all qualified goalies. He made 54 saves in the quarterfinal win over Finland, the most in any single game for this year’s event.
The U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team is 9-0-0-2 (W-OTW-OTL-L) all-time against Slovakia in the U18 World Championship, and 2-0-00 in the quarterfinals. The two countries have never previously matched up in the semifinals. The all-time history between the two teams is below:
April 11, 1999 – Slovakia 6, USA 5
April 17, 2000 – Slovakia 4, USA 1
April 17, 2001 -- USA 6, Slovakia 2
April 14, 2003 -- USA 3, Slovakia 2
April 14, 2005 -- USA 3, Slovakia 1
April 19, 2007 -- USA 7, Slovakia 2
April 14, 2009 -- USA 12, Slovakia 0
April 15, 2011 -- USA 8, Slovakia 1
April 24, 2014 -- USA 6, Slovakia 2
April 17, 2015 -- USA 10, Slovakia 0
April 19, 2019 -- USA 12, Slovakia 5