LUCERNE, Switzerland - Auston Matthews (Scottsdale, Ariz.) recorded two goals and three assists as the U.S. Men's National Under-18 Team downed Finland, 7-2, here tonight at Arena Lucerne. The contest was the final pre-tournament game for Team USA prior to the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's Under-18 World Championship.
Team USA opened the scoring at 6:15 of the first frame when Jeremy Bracco (Freeport, N.Y.) set up Steven Ruggiero (Kings Park, N.Y.) for a quick shot on net. Matthews tipped the shot and redirected the puck into the net. Evan Sarthou (Black Diamond, Wash.) turned aside all eight Finnish shots he faced in the period.
A Luke Kunin (Chesterfield, Mo.) blast on the power play doubled the U.S. lead, 2-0, early in the middle frame. Charles McAvoy (Long Beach, N.Y.) and Matthews cycled the puck to Kunin for the score. Team USA outshot Finland, 16-8, in the period.
The U.S. began distancing itself from Finland early in the third when Colin White (Hanover, Mass.) lit the lamp 42 seconds into the stanza. Skating from behind the Finnish net, White moved out front and backhanded the puck home. Matthews created the next opportunity for Team USA just over one minute later, taking the puck away from Finland and feeding Bracco for the goal. After consecutive penalties on the U.S., Finland netted back-to-back power-play markers to close the gap. Thirty-eight seconds later, Matthew Tkachuk (St. Louis, Mo.) and Matthews executed a give-and-go play with Matthews hitting the back of the net. Team USA pushed its lead further when Christian Fischer (Wayne, Ill.) dangled the puck behind him, pulling the goalie out of position and depositing the puck in the open cage. Nicholas Boka (Plymouth, Mich.) collected the secondary helper on the play. Tkachuk closed scoring at 14:12 with Matthews and Bracco teaming up to earn the assists.
Sarthou stopped all 12 shots he faced in 29:54 of action while Jake Oettinger (Lakeville, Minn.) kicked out 15 shots in 30:06.
The U.S. National Under-18 Team opens round-robin play at the Under-18 World Championship on Thursday, April 16, versus Russia. Puck drop is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. ET. Live streaming video is available through FASTHockey.com.
Team USA outshot Finland, 40-29 ... The U.S. went 1-4 on the power play while Finland went 2-9 ... Luke Kunin is serving as captain for Team USA, while Auston Matthews and Colin White are alternate captains ... The U.S. Men's National Under-18 Team is led by Don Granato, serving as head coach at his second IIHF Men's Under-18 World Championship. Granato is currently in his fourth season as one of two head coaches at USA Hockey's National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan ... Twenty-two players on the U.S. roster come from USA Hockey's NTDP. Goaltender Evan Sarthou skated for the Western Hockey League's Tri-City Americans this winter ... Team USA's roster includes 20 players born in 1997 and three from the 1998 birth year. Defenseman Steven Ruggiero, born Jan. 1, 1997, is the oldest player on Team USA, while goaltender Jake Oettinger, born Dec. 18, 1998, is the youngest ... Thirteen different states are represented on the roster. New York leads the way with five skaters, while Illinois and Missouri boast three each ... The U.S. enters the tournament having captured a record 11-consecutive medals, including gold medals in five of the last six years (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014) ... Team USA has won eight gold medals all-time, the most of any country in IIHF Under-18 Men's World Championship history. The event began in 1999. Team USA earned its first gold medal in 2002 ... The U.S. will play in Group A alongside Germany, Russia, Slovakia and Sweden ... All Team USA tournament games, including the medal round, will be streamed live, free of charge on USAHockey.FASTHockey.com ... Follow @USAHockeyScores on Twitter for live scoring updates during the tournament. Scores will be designated with the #U18Worlds tag ... For additional coverage, visit the NTDP Facebook page and follow @USANTDP on Twitter ... The U.S. National Under-18 Team trains with The Hockey IntelliGym, a software program that trains hockey sense. Visit USAHockeyIntelliGym.com for more information.