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USA Finishes First in Group A, Downs Finland 9-4

By USA Hockey, 04/30/24, 2:15PM EDT

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Hagens collects hat-trick and six points; Stiga adds natural hat-trick

ESPOO, Finland - James Hagens (Hauppauge, N.Y.) recorded three goals and three assists and Teddy Stiga (Sudbury, Mass.) added a natural hat-trick as the U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team topped Finland, 9-4, to cap preliminary round play at the 2024 IIHF U18 Men's World Championship.

With the win, Team USA finishes atop the Group A standings and will face Switzerland at 12:00 p.m. local / 5:00 a.m. ET in quarterfinal action on Thursday. 

"Teddy and James helped drive us offensively tonight, but this was a really good team win against a tough Finland team that battled hard," said Team USA head coach Nick Fohr after the game. "We will take advantage of the off day tomorrow and be ready for Switzerland on Thursday." 

With 4:07 to play in the opening frame, the U.S. struck first after Stiga snuck one past Petteri RImpinen to open the game’s scoring. A delayed offside allowed Team USA to gather in their defensive zone. Brodie Ziemer (Hutchinson, Minn.) sent an outlet to Hagens in the neutral zone. He pushed it up the left wing to Stiga, whose shot from the left circle put the U.S. up 1-0. 

Stiga added his second score just eight seconds after the opening draw of the second period. Cole Hutson (Chicago, Ill.) found Hagens down the left wing. He centered it to Stiga, who banged home a one-timer from between the hashes. With the assist, Hutson claimed the USA Hockey National Team Development Program record for most points in a career by a defenseman, his 112th career point. 

Stiga completed the natural hat-trick after Hagens made a nice stick play to force a Finnish defensive-zone turnover. The puck went right to Stiga's tape, where he fired a quick wrister over the glove of Rimpinen for a 3-0 lead.

HIGHLIGHTS

The Finns got on the board at 4:35 of the second after Tuomas Suoniemi got a back-door tap-in by U.S. netminder Nick Kempf (Chicago, Ill.).

Team USA answered the score with a power-play tally from Kamil Bednarik (Chicago, Ill.). On the man up, Bednarik found Mooney behind the net and crept back in front of the cage. Mooney delayed to let Bednarik position himself, then threaded a cross-crease pass to restore the three-goal advantage. 

With 11:00 remaining in the second, Finland's Mitja Jokinen wound up for a one-timer from the right circle to bring the score to 4-2.

The United States responded with a pair of scores, both from Hagens, to push its lead to 6-2. With just under two minutes to play, Hagens drove the center lane, spun and tried to backhand a pass to Stiga that deflected off a Finnish defender and in. He added his second 81 seconds later on the power play, one-timing a Ziemer pass from the slot. Cole Eiserman (Newburyport, Mass.) collected the secondary helper to give him points in all four preliminary-round games. 

Finland grabbed one score back with six seconds to play in the second to make it a 6-3 contest after 40 minutes. 

For the second consecutive period, Team USA tallied eight seconds in as Hagens completed his hat-trick early in the third. From the defensive zone, Hutson rocketed one off the end wall that angled itself right towards a charging Hagens. From a severe angle on the left wing, he ricocheted one off Rimpinen's mask and in. 

Shortly after, Trevor Connelly (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) found the back of the net as he connected on a perfect short-side, top corner wrister for his fourth goal in four games.

After Suoniemi got his second of the night for Finland, Ziemer finished the game's scoring on the power play with 5:32 to play for the game's 9-4 final.

Kempf made 17 saves to earn his third win of the tournament and Jack Parsons (Ithaca, N.Y.) made three stops in relief. 

After winning Group A, Team USA will face Switzerland in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Opening face-off is set for 12:00 p.m. local / 5:00 a.m. ET and the game can be seen live on NHL Network. 

NOTES: With the first three goals of the game, Teddy Stiga was named Team USA’s Player of the Game … The U.S. went a perfect 4-4 on the power play while Finland was 0-3  … Team USA outshot Finland, 51-24 ...  For complete tournament news, including full schedule, broadcast information, stats and standings, click here ... Team USA news, including tournament interviews and highlights, can be found at TeamUSA.USAHockey.com

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