BASEL, Switzerland - The U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team will compete for the gold medal in the 2023 IIHF Under-18 Men's World Championship, a rematch of last year’s gold-medal game against Sweden. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. local (1:00 p.m. ET) at St. Jakob Arena and the game will broadcast live on NHL Network.
Team USA advanced to the championship game with a 7-1 victory over Slovakia in the quarterfinals yesterday afternoon. Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.) potted a hat-trick in the opening 20:50 of the game to give him a piece of the tournament lead with nine goals scored. His 19 points overall leads all skaters at the world championship.
"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 after the semifinal win. "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."
Smith will have an opportunity to match the U.S. single tournament record of 20 points, set by Jack Hughes in 2019, as well as the overall tournament record of 21 points from Nikita Kucherov in 2011.
After collecting nine straight assists to start the tournament, defenseman Cole Hutson (Barrington, Ill.) found the back of the net to put Team USA up 2-0 in the opening period yesterday. The 5-foot-8 blueliner added an assist for his third consecutive multi-point effort and fourth of the event. His 11 points (1g-10a) leads all defensemen and his +13 rating ranks second within his position.
Goaltender Trey Augustine (South Lyon, Mich.) has led the U.S. in net for the tournament and made 27 stops in the quarterfinal win to pick up his fifth win. He has posted a .933 save percentage and 1.54 goals-against average, both of which put him in second place amongst all netminders.
Sweden has matched Team USA’s 6-0-0-0 record thus far as the winner of this game will have a perfect record en route to the gold medal. Forward Otto Stenberg’s 16 points (7g-9a) leads all non-U.S. skaters in scoring. Felix Unger Sorum has added 10 points (2g-8a) through six games. Defenseman Axel Sandin Pellikka has been one of the tournament’s best as he sits just one point shy of Hutson with 10 points (2g-8a) to rank second among all defensemen. Swedish netminder Noah Erliden has been the cream of the crop thus far as his 1.20 GAA and .951 SV% are both tops in the tournament. In five starts, he has given up multiple goals just twice and has grabbed a pair of shutouts.
The U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team is 13-2-0-5 (W-OTW-OTL-L) all-time in 20 games against Sweden in the U18 World Championship. They have played in four previous gold-medal games; the U.S. won the first three before falling in last year’s final game, 6-4 to the Swedes. The all-time history in games played after the preliminary round between the two countries is below:
April 22, 2005 – USA 6, Sweden 2 – Semifinals
April 23, 2008 – USA 6, Sweden 3 – Bronze-Medal Game
April 23, 2010 -- USA 3, Sweden 1 – Gold-Medal Game
April 24, 2011 -- USA 4, Sweden 3 (OT) – Gold-Medal Game
April 22, 2012 -- USA 7, Sweden 0 – Gold-Medal Game
April 25, 2013 -- USA 4, Sweden 0 – Quarterfinals
April 26, 2014 -- USA 4, Sweden 1 – Semifinals
April 11, 2017 – USA 4, Sweden 3 (OT) – Semifinals
May 3, 2021 – Sweden 5, USA 2 – Quarterfinals
May 1, 2022 – Sweden 6, USA 4 – Gold-Medal Game