U.S. EXPLODES EARLY, BEATS RED TO WIN U17 GOLD
JASON LA ROSE
DAWSON CREEK, B.C. – Cole Caufield scored a hat trick, Jack Hughes added four points to his tournament-leading total and the United States claimed a fifth gold medal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with a 6-4 win over Canada Red on Saturday night.
The Americans, who also won gold in 2001, 2002, 2010 and January 2014, finished an unbeaten run through the tournament, outscoring its opponents 34-15 in six games.
After scoring four times in the first period of their semfinal win over Canada White on Friday night, the U.S. repeated the feat one night later, outshooting Red 21-4 in a dominating first period.
Caufield got it started at 7:43, taking a feed from Hughes on a 2-on-1 and going upstairs on Canadian goaltender Luke Cavallin (Greely, Ont./Flint, OHL) for his tournament-leading sixth goal.
Hughes doubled the lead at 14:17, Owen Lindmark beat Cavallin from the slot at 17:28, and a shot from Domenick Fensore went off the skate of Caufield and in in the final minute of the opening frame, putting the Americans up big.
When Caufield finished his hat trick just 1:19 into the second period, it looked like the game could become a repeat of the pre-tournament meeting between the teams, a 9-1 win for the U.S.
But Red found its footing, striking three times in just over six minutes to turn a runaway into a thriller.
Nick Wong (Orton, Ont./Oshawa, OHL) raced away from a defender and chipped the puck over U.S. goaltender Cameron Rowe just past the nine-minute mark, Bowen Byram (Cranbrook, B.C./Vancouver, WHL) wired in a power-play goal three minutes later, and Alexis Lafrenière (Saint-Eustache, Que./Rimouski, QMJHL) tipped in a feed from Ryan Suzuki (London, Ont,/Barrie, OHL) to close the deficit to two after 40 minutes.
The Canadians pushed in the third period, outshooting the U.S. 14-7, but couldn’t get closer than two.
Alex Vlasic hit the empty net in the final minute to clinch the win for the Americans before Suzuki went short-side on Rowe for a consolation goal with 33 seconds left, capping the scoring.
Hughes finished with five goals and 10 assists in six games, sitting two points ahead of Caufield (8-5—13) and six up on teammate Matthew Boldy (3-6—9), who earned three assists in the final.
The gold medal game included five of the six players named to the tournament all-star team – Hughes and Caufield were joined by Lafrenière up front, Byram and Canada Black defenceman Matthew Robertson (Sherwood Park, Alta./Edmonton, WHL) made it on the blue-line, and Cavallin earned the nod in goal.