RED DEER, Alberta – Buoyed by a strong transition attack, the United States Under-18 Men’s Select Team skated to a 6-2 win over Finland on Tuesday night at Servus Arena. It was the second win in as many games for Team USA, which secured a spot in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup semifinals by eliminating Finland from contention in Pool B.
“We had a lot of energy tonight,” said U.S. head coach Cory Laylin (St. Cloud, Minn.). “Games aren’t always easy and pretty. We got some gritty goals at the right times and our guys battled hard. I’m really proud of them.”
Two U.S. goals in 17 seconds of the third period undid the Finns. Captain John Farinacci (Chatham, N.J.) struck first, scoring after a tenacious steal and pass from Robert Mastrosimone (East Islip, N.Y.) five minutes into the period. Farinacci’s goal boosted the U.S. lead to 4-2, and then Jackson Jutting (Savage, Minn.) converted a tap-in to make it 5-2 after Luke Toporowski (Bettendorf, Iowa) chased down a long pass to nullify icing.
Toporowski also opened the scoring for Team USA, winning an offensive-zone faceoff midway through the first period and then redirecting a point shot from defenseman Michael Feenstra (Grand Haven, Mich.) past Finland’s Roope Taponen. Toporowski added an empty-net goal late to finish a three-point night (2G, 1A).
Team USA’s transition game produced its second goal. Defenseman Luke Reid (Geneva, Ill.) initiated the play, quickly rerouting an errant Finland pass through the neutral zone to Sam Colangelo (Stoneham, Mass.), who swooped in and tucked a backhand shot past Taponen. But Finland answered 22 seconds later on a goal from Aku Raty, the first allowed by U.S. goaltender Dustin Wolf (Tustin, Calif.) in almost 79 minutes between the pipes.
Arthur Kaliyev (Delray Beach, Fla.) rebuilt the two-goal lead for Team USA a mere 90 seconds into the second period, smacking a goalmouth one-timer past Taponen to make it 3-1. American defenseman Cade Webber (Meadville, Pa.) launched the attack, swatting a cross-ice pass from Finland’s Henri Nikkanen out to Josh Nodler (Oak Park, Mich.) and Nicholas Robertson (Northville, Mich.) who eventually combined with Kaliyev on the goal.
Again, however, the two-goal margin was short-lived. Anton Lundell struck for Finland on its sixth power play of the opening 40 minutes, making the score 3-2 at 4:59 of the second stanza. That’s how it remained until Farinacci and Jutting delivered their one-two combination early in the third period to put the game out of reach.
UP NEXT: Russia, which also improved to 2-0 in Pool B with a Tuesday victory over Czechia, claimed the other semifinal berth and awaits Team USA tomorrow at 7 p.m. Mountain Time in Red Deer to decide the pool champion. HockeyTV will provide the live stream.
NOTES: The U.S. outshot Finland 39-31 and scored a shorthanded goal for the second consecutive night … U.S. goaltender Dustin Wolf stopped 29 of Finland’s 31 shots on goal. Among his key saves, Wolf denied a Finland penalty shot.
For full coverage of Team USA at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, visit TeamUSA.USAHockey.com/2018Hlinka