LAPPEENRANTA, Finland – Auston Matthews (Scottsdale, Ariz.) had two goals and Sonny Milano (Massapequa, N.Y.) registered one goal and two assists as the U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team defeated the Czech Republic, 5-2, here tonight at Lappeenranta Arena. With the win, Team USA captures its eighth gold medal at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s Under-18 World Championship.
Team USA struck first just 33 seconds into the game off the stick of Jack Dougherty (Cottage Grove, Minn.). Jack Eichel (North Chelmsford, Mass.) corralled the puck in the attacking zone and found Milano for a shot that bounced off Czech goaltender Vitek Vanecek. Dougherty picked up the loose puck and sent it into the net for the tally.
Matthews doubled the U.S. lead at the 6:55 mark. A blast from Ryan Collins (Bloomington, Minn.) created a scramble in front of Vanecek that resulted in a loose puck in the high slot. Kyle Connor (Shelby Township, Mich.) reached across his body and dove to put a second effort on net. The puck caromed to Matthews who jammed it under Vanecek’s pads for the tally.
Milano gave Team USA a 3-0 lead just 1:46 later. Johnathan MacLeod (Dracut, Mass.) had a shot blocked at the right point and Louie Belpedio (Skokie, Ill.) launched the ricochet on net. Vanecek deflected the puck high in the air and Milano snuck behind the goaltender to swat the puck into the cage on its way down. Before time expired on the period the Czech Republic notched a rebound goal to close the gap, 3-1.
Dylan Larkin (Waterford, Mich.) reclaimed the three-goal lead for Team USA at 1:13 the second stanza. Alex Tuch (Baldwinsville, N.Y.) dumped the puck deep into the Czech zone to initiate a line change. Milano won a footrace to the puck behind the net and changed direction as he gained possession. Moving to his backhand, Milano found Larkin streaking to the slot from the bench as he had just replaced Tuch on the ice. Larkin lifted the puck up and over Vanecek for the tally.
Matthews notched his second of the night at 6:57 to push the lead to 5-1 in favor of the U.S. Brandon Fortunato (North Hills, N.Y.) hit Matthews with a pass near center ice, allowing Matthews to walk to the top of the faceoff circles for a wrist shot that sailed over Vanecek’s glove and into the net. The Czech Republic struck back with a power-play goal at 13:20 to cut its deficit to 5-2.
The third period saw Team USA hold the Czech Republic to just three shots on net, each turned aside by U.S. goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic (Parma, Ohio), who made 15 total saves in the victory.
- Team USA outshot the Czech Republic, 41-17.
- Sonny Milano was named Team USA’s best player, while the Czech Republic’s best player was announced as David Kase.
- Louie Belpedio, Jack Eichel and Alex Nedeljkovic were named the best three players of the tournament for the U.S.
- With the gold-medal victory in 2014, the U.S. has now captured a record 11 consecutive medals, also including back-to-back gold medals in 2005-06, four straight gold medals from 2009-12, three silver medals (2004, 2007, 2013) and one bronze medal (2008). Team USA’s eight gold medals are the most of any country in IIHF Men’s Under-18 World Championship history (event began in 1999). Team USA earned its first gold medal in 2002.
- Kyle Connor recorded a point in all seven tournament games, netting four goals and three assists.
- Jack Eichel finished tournament play with a six-game point streak. The forward had five goals and five assists over that span.
- Auston Matthews concluded tournament action on a six-game point streak. The forward netted five goals and collected two assists over that span.
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