ANGELHOLM, Sweden – Cutter Gauthier (Scottsdale, Ariz./Boston College) had two goals and an assist, Jimmy Snuggerud (Chaska, Minn./University of Minnesota) a goal and two assists and Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.) two goals to propel the U.S. National Junior Team to a 5-3 come-from-behind victory here tonight against Sweden in the first of two pre-tournament games for Team USA in advance of the 2024 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
“I liked how we rebounded in the second and third,” said David Carle, head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team. “We were disciplined, which is important, and our special teams were solid as well, so overall a good start.”
Sweden got out to a 1-0 lead at 10:52 after Jonathan Lekkerimaki lifted a saucer pass from the right point across to Noah Ostlund who beat U.S. netminder Trey Augustine (South Lyon, Mich./Michigan State University) at the doorstep stickside. Shortly after, Sweden nearly doubled the lead, but Liam Ohgren’s shot from the center point through traffic hit the post.
The hosts finished the opening 20 minutes with a 2-0 advantage with Filip Bystedt putting one home from just above the goal line to the right of Augustine. The U.S. had a few good chances in the stanza, none better than a clean break up the right side for Smith that Melker Thelin stopped with 5:40 left.
The U.S. got the only two goals of the second period to even the game after 40 minutes. With 3:46 gone in the middle frame, Gauthier won the faceoff back to Snuggerud who wristed one home short-side from the left circle to make it 2-1.
The U.S. nearly evened the game less than three minutes later after Smith put a nice pass on the stick of Quinn Finley (Suamico, Wis./University of Wisconsin), who was stopped in front. Team USA tied the game on its first power play of the contest when Gauthier hammered a one-time to the back of the net from the right circle on a cross-ice feed from Isaac Howard (Hudson, Wis./Michigan State University). Lane Hutson (North Barrington, Ill/Boston University) also drew an assist on the play.
Smith staked the U.S. to its first lead of the game 2:54 into the third after he gathered the puck in his own end off a Sweden turnover, fended off a defender in the neutral zone and sailed up the right side where he wristed the puck home from the side of the right circle. Smith had a penalty shot with 6:20 gone in the stanza after breaking through two defenders and being hauled down, but a pad save kept the U.S. lead at one. Gabe Perreault (Hinsdale, Ill./Boston College) had a good chance in close with just more than 11:00 to play after a feed from Smith, but was stopped. The U.S. took a two-goal lead when Gauthier wristed one home from between the circles after a feed from the left-side wall from Snuggerud at 10:10. Less than a minute later, Smith scored his second of the game from the side of the right circle on the power play off a cross-ice pass from Seamus Casey (Fort Myers, Fla./University of Michigan).
Felix Under Sorum completed a three-way passing play from the right dot at 15:45 to get Sweden back to within two. The hosts pulled their netminder for the final 3:05 but U.S. netminder Jacob Fowler (Melbourne, Fla./Boston College), who replaced Augustine midway through the contest, held strong.
Augustine made 12 saves, while Fowler finished with 10 stops.
The U.S. will face Canada in its second and final pre-tournament game in Kunsgacka, Sweden, on Saturday (Dec. 23) at 6 p.m. local/12 noon ET. NHL Network will televise the game on next-day delay at 12 noon ET on Dec. 24.
NOTES: Cutter Gauthier was named the U.S. Player of the Game … Team USA outshot Sweden, 29-25 … The U.S. was 2-2 on the power play, while Sweden was 0-1 … It was pre-determined before the game that the teams would play a five-minute three-on-three overtime session regardless of how regulation went and Snuggerud ended the session just :18 in as he backhanded home his own rebound out in front.