AMERICANS HANG ON TO BEAT BLACK, TOP GROUP A AT U17 CHALLENGE
JASON LA ROSE
DAWSON CREEK, B.C. – Cole Caufield scored a pair of goals, including the eventual winner, and the United States scored four times in the third period before hanging on for a 5-4 win over Canada Black on Tuesday night to win Group A at the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
The victory means the Americans will face Sweden in the quarter-finals on Thursday (2:30 p.m. MT), while Black will meet Red in an all-Canadian medal round match-up (7 p.m. MT). Both games will be in Dawson Creek.
The U.S. came out firing in the first period, racking up 17 shots in the opening 20 minutes, but couldn’t find a way past Black goaltender Nolan Maier (Yorkton, Sask./Yorkton, SJHL).
Sasha Mutala (Vancouver, B.C./Tri-City, WHL) had the lone goal of the period, taking a pass from Kirby Dach (Fort Saskatchewan, Alta./Saskatoon, WHL) and snapping a quick shot past American netminder Spencer Knight at 14:20.
Dach doubled the lead himself just past the four-minute mark of the second period, squeezing a shot through Knight, but Caufield finally solved Maier off a set-up from Matthew Boldy late in the middle frame to cut the Black lead in half.
The goal was the first allowed by Black in the tournament, ending a shutout streak of just over 156 minutes.
The Americans continued the offensive onslaught early in the third, striking for four goals in the opening 11 minutes with Boldy knocking in his own rebound to tie the game at 4:43.
Alex Turcotte scored on the power play at 6:59 to give the U.S. the lead, Judd Caulfield slipped a shot five-hole on Maier 42 seconds after that, and Caufield redirected in a Dominick Fensore pass for the 5-2 goal at 10:39.
The Canadians refused to go away, though. Tag Bertuzzi (Birmingham, Mich./Guelph, OHL) tapped in a loose puck in the crease to cut the Black deficit to two, and Dawson Mercer (Bay Roberts, N.L./Drummondville, QMJHL) converted a centering pass from Alex Newhook (St. John’s, N.L./Victoria, BCHL) with 3:04 left, igniting the crowd at the Encana Events Centre.
Black called Maier to the bench with 53 seconds left and the puck never left the American zone, but Knight and the U.S. defence locked down the one-goal win.
Maier was spectacular again, making 43 saves. The U.S. outshot Canada Black 48-18.