The USA completed round-robin play at the U18 World Championship today, taking out Latvia 7-1. Jack Hughes added two more points (both assists) to his resume for this tournament.
John Beecher got the goal scoring party started two minutes into the game when he beat Latvian goaltender Arturs Silovs to make it 1-0. Remarkably, that was the only goal scored in the first period. The second period was when the US really turned it on, scoring four unanswered.
The Americans started the second period on the penalty kill when Hughes took a high-sticking penalty 2:03 in. They killed that one off and, in fact notched a goal at 5:37 when Cole Caufield scored. That made it 2-0 USA.
Hughes got his first assist of the game at 10:48 of the second when Cam York scored to make it 3-0 USA. Hughes had the lone helper on the goal.
At 14:32, Latvia’s Patriks Ozols took a tripping penalty, putting the US back on the power play – they had about three chances prior, but had not scored on the man advantage yet – and they would convert on this one. It only took eight seconds as Caufield scored his second of the game at 14:40. Hughes had the secondary assist on the goal, giving him his two points. That power play goal made it 4-0.
It was at this point that the Latvians made a goalie switch, taking Silovs out and swapping him with Rudolfs Lazdins.
But the goals kept coming for the US. At 16:20, Raimonds Vitolins took a roughing penalty and the Americans were back on the power play. It took the full use of the penalty time this time, but the Americans scored again. Beecher notched his second of the game at 18:20, just as the penalty was expiring, to make it 5-0.
Just eight seconds into the third period, Kristaps Skrastins broke the US shut out when he beat goalie Spencer Knight to make it 5-1.
But Latvia’s comeback was short lived when Raivis Ansons took a roughing penalty at 3:38. Matthew Boldy scored on the ensuing power play and the Americans were up 6-1.
The USA made a goalie change of their own when Knight was pulled in favor of Cam Rowe at the 7:33 mark of the third.
Bobby Brink would finish out the scoring at the 15:59 mark of the third to give us our final of 7-1.
In goal for Latvia, Silovs and Lazdins combined to make 39 saves on 46 American shots. Knight and Rowe made a combined 13 saves on just 14 Latvian shots.
Hughes’ stat line read the two assists for two points, the two penalty minutes on the high sticking penalty, six shots on goal and a plus/minus rating of plus-1.
Next up, the quarterfinals as the Americans finish the round robin play at the top of Group B with a perfect 4-0 record. They had 12 points and a huge 31-10 goal differential. We will keep you posted on the time and opponent for the US as they move to the quarterfinal round on Thursday, April 25.
In other international hockey news, it was announced the other day by the team that the Devils’ last first overall pick, Nico Hischier, will be representing his home country of Switzerland at the upcoming IIHF World Championship. That tournament gets underway on May 10 and this will be Nico’s first time representing Switzerland since the 2017 World Junior Championship.
Next up for us is game three of the QMJHL’s third round series between the Drummondville Voltigeurs and the Halifax Mooseheads. This was a close one as the Mooseheads hung on 2-1 to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
Samuel Asselin put the Mooseheads up 1 to 0 at the 8:24 mark of the first period. Halifax jumped out to the early 2-0 lead when Keith Getson found the back of the net at 11:44 of the first. Devils prospect Jocktan Chainey was initially credited with the lone assist on this goal, but it was later changed to Jake Ryczek. Ryczek had two points as he also had the secondary assist on Asselin’s goal.
After that second goal, Drummondville pulled goaltender Anthony Morrone in favor of Olivier Rodrigue. Morrone made six saves on eight shots against in 11:44 of work.
It stayed that way through a scoreless second period and through most of the third. Finally, with just about four minutes remaining, the Voltigeurs pulled Rodrigue for the extra attacker. At 17:39, Maxime Comtois scored to put Drummondville on the board and break Halifax goalie Alexis Gravel’s shut out. But it was too little too late. The Mooseheads held on and took the lead in the series.
On the power play, both teams put up an ofer with Drummondville going 0-for-4 and Halifax 0-for-2. In goal, as mentioned, Morrone made six saves on eight shtos while Rodrigue stopped all 20 shots he saw. The Mooseheads had 28 shots total. Gravel stopped 34 of 35 Voltigeurs shots. He was also named the game’s first star.
Chainey’s stat line saw him with a plus-1 plus/minus and three shots on goal.
Game four of this series will take place on Wednesday, April 24 at 6 PM ET from Halifax.
We next move west to Spokane for game three of the WHL semifinals between the Spokane Chiefs and the Vancouver Giants. The Giants come in up two games to none in this one but Ty Smith and company were looking to get in the win column tonight.
After a scoreless first period marked only by a fight between Dylan Plouffe of Vancouver and Spokane’s Luke Toporowski at the 17:28 mark, we headed off to the second period.
It took almost that entire period to break the scoreless tie as Eli Zummack scored for the Chiefs at 17:40. Nolan Reid and Toporowski had the assists, which meant that Toporowski was just a goal away from the Gordie Howe Hat Trick. That made it 1-0 Spokane which is where we stood at the end of the second.
However, two events in the waning seconds of the middle frame set us up for the eventaully game-tying goal. First, the Chiefs’ Jack Finley was called for tripping with 31 seconds to go. With 18 seconds to go, the Giants’ Tristen Nielsen went to the box for roughing. We were going to start the third period at 4-on-4 with a lot of open ice.
And Vancouver capitalized when Justin Sourdif tied things just 2:22 into the period, just as the Finley penalty was set to expire and Spokane would have gone onto the power play. That goal made it 1-1 and had us set up for a big finish. As it was, with Finley coming out of the box once the goal was scored, Spokane did get an abbreviated man advantage that was killed off by Vancouver.
Being a goal short of the Gordie Howe Hat Trick and Spokane needing a hero to keep them in this game, it was none other than Luke Toporowski who stepped up at the 10:51 mark of the third to give the Chiefs the 2-1 lead. For Toporowski, this was his sixth goal of these WHL playoffs.
But that lead would go on to be short lived. At 15:38 into the third, it was Toporowski, who was so critical to Spokane in this contest, who took a hooking penalty setting up a Giants power play on which Jared Dmytriw scored to tie it up at two.
Vancouver was back into things with just about three minutes to go in regulation. Once that time ticked down, we were headed to overtime.
And it only took 8:51 into the OT to get a winner. Spokane’s Jake McGrew scored from Bobby Russell to give the Chiefs the 3-2 victory and force at least a game five in the series.
In nets, David Tendeck was forced to make 35 saves on 38 shots for Vancouver while Bailey Brkin made 27 stops on 29 shots against for Spokane. On special teams, the Giants were 1-for-2 on the power play while the Chiefs did not convert on their only chance.
Ty Smith’s stats read: a plus/minus of plus-1 and three shots on goal.
Game four, with the series two games to one in favor of Vancouver, will take place in Spokane on Wednesday, the 24th.