BASEL, Switzerland – Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.) scored three times and Trey Augustine (South Lyon, Mich.) made 27 saves to help the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team to a 7-1 victory over Slovakia here today in semifinal play at the 2023 IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship.
Team USA will play for the gold medal tomorrow (April 30) at 1 p.m. ET on NHL Network against Sweden.
"As we keep going, the games get tougher and tougher. Our guys came ready to play," said Dan Muse (Canton, Mass.), head coach of the 2023 U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team. "It was great to get the early lead and it was another good team win. We're excited to have the opportunity to play for a gold medal tomorrow."
The United States got out to a lead it never relinquished at 4:16 of the opening stanza. Ryan Leonard (Amherst, Mass.) cleared a puck out of the defensive-zone corner and made a quick pass to Gabe Perreault (Hinsdale, Ill.). His stretch pass led Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.) in on a breakaway and he tucked his shot under the glove of Slovakian netminder Samuel Urban.
During 4-on-4 action, defenseman Cole Hutson (Barrington, Ill.) slipped around a defender and chipped his shot over the shoulder of Urban to extend the lead to 2-0. Oliver Moore (Mounds View, Minn.) and Drew Fortescue (Pearl River, N.Y.) picked up helpers on Hutson’s first goal of the tournament with 5:42 to play in the period.
Smith extended the lead to 3-0 on a power-play snipe with 34 seconds remaining in the first. He accepted a pass from Perreault at the left dot, hesitated, changed his shot angle and ripped a quick shot into the far-side top corner. Zeev Buium (San Diego, Calif.) helped set up the score to earn his fifth point.
Just :50 into the middle frame, Smith completed finished a 3-on-2 rush with a one-timer from the left wing to complete his hat trick. Leonard entered the zone and dropped it for Hutson rushing the slot. He used a shoulder fake to draw the goalie and slid it to Smith who scored ninth goal of the world championship.
Salvatore Guzzo (Old Tappan, N.J.) notched his second goal of the tournament with a sharp-angled wrister on an unsuspecting Urban. With help from Danny Nelson (Maple Grove, Minn.) and Fortescue, Guzzo’s shot slid through as the goaltender was trying to collect a stick after losing his in the corner.
Slovakia got on the board with 8:44 to play as Dalibor Dvorsky connected from in close after Augustine made the first two stops of the sequence. Team USA held a 5-1 lead after 40 minutes.
The U.S. scored two late goals in the final period to account for the 7-1 final. Nelson put one home at 17:15 when he maneuvered to the side of the right circle and fired the puck into the top corner. Aram Minnetian (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) earned the lone assist on the play. Then with 1:15 to play, Cole Eiserman (Newburyport, Mass.) wristed one home from the high slot on the power play for his ninth goal of the tournament.
NOTES: The U.S. had a 50-28 shots-on-goal advantage in the game, including 23 shots in the opening period. Cole Eiserman led the way with eight shots on goal while Ryan Fine had six … Team USA was 2-4 on the power play, while Slovakia was 0-3 … A total of 11 different players contributed points in the game for Team USA, including four defensemen … Will Smith was named the U.S. Player of the Game … Team USA’s three best players of the tournament were named following the game and included Will Smith, Ryan Leonard and Gabe Perreault.