BŘECLAV, Czechia – The U.S Under-18 Men’s Select Team fell 7-2 to Czechia in the opening match of the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup at FOSFA Arena Břeclav on Monday.
"The Czechia team played a hard direct game," said Luke Strand (Eau Claire, Wis.), U.S Under-18 Men's Select Team head coach. "We got behind and didn't combine enough team play with individual efforts. The compounded mistakes ended up in the back of our net. We need an immediate reset and move forward together against a talented Sweden team."
Czechia got on the board first at 10:28 of the first period when Adam Titlbach fired a wrist shot past goaltender Caleb Heil (Victoria, Minn.) from the slot.
Team USA successfully killed off two penalties that resulted in a 5-on-3 advantage for Czechiain the first period.
The U.S evened the score at one with a power-play goal from Will Zellers (Maple Grove, Minn.)at 12:08 in the second period. Trevor Connelly (Tustin, Calif.) skated the puck through the top of the zone before threading a pass to Zellers on the edge of the crease to slide past Czechia’s goaltender.
Czechia responded with two quick goals after a pair of U.S penalties resulted in a 5-on-3 advantage. Theo Kiss tapped in a rebound at 12:35 in the second period. A minute later, Alex Miroslav Zalešák scored on a cross-crease pass to give Czechia a 3-1 lead.
With 20 seconds remaining in the middle frame, Eero Butella (Chicago, Ill.) fired a wrist shot from the slot and beat Czechia’s goaltender glove-side to put Team USA within one heading into the final period. Connelly and Mac Swanson (Anchorage, Alaska) drew assists on the play.
Czechia restored their two-goal lead 3:40 into the third period when Samuel Drančák scored on a two-on-one play.
Titlbach then notched his second goal of the game less than two minutes later to give Czechia a 5-2 lead.
Czechia added two more goals in the final period to bring the final score to 7-2.
NOTES: Mac Swanson (Anchorage, Alaska) was named Team USA’s player of the game… Team USA is back in action against Sweden on Tuesday, Aug. 1st, at 9:30 a.m. ET on NHL Network.