MARLBOROUGH, Mass. - Anders Bjork (Mequon, Wis.) scored the game-winning goal, as the U.S. National Under-18 Team outlasted the New Jersey Hitmen, 3-2, here today at the New England Sports Center. It marked the first-ever meeting between a National Team Development Program squad and the Hitmen.
Dylan Pavelek (Marysville, Mich.) notched the only goal of the first period, converting on a penalty shot with 45 seconds to play in the frame. Pavelek came straight down on Hitmen goaltender MacKenzie Sawyer and fired a wrist shot into the lower right corner.
Edwin Minney (Wind Gap, Pa.) kicked out all 10 shots he faced in the second stanza, holding the Hitmen scoreless through two periods. Team USA put nine shots on Sawyer, but was unable to bolster its lead.
New Jersey tied the game 4:17 into the final frame after crashing the net and burying a rebound past a sprawled Minney. Jack Eichel (North Chelmsford, Mass.) reclaimed the lead for the Under-18 Team 45 seconds later. Alex Tuch (Baldwinsville, N.Y.) fed Eichel along the left boards before Eichel rifled a shot high into the net. Sonny Milano (Massapequa, N.Y.) also assisted. The Hitmen pulled even with 3:09 to play. Bjork lifted Team USA to a 3-2 victory at 17:50, scoring off an aggressive forecheck in the Hitmen's zone. Ryan Hitchcock (Manhasset, N.Y.) went hard into the right corner, stealing the puck from the New Jersey defender, and fed Bjork in the right faceoff circle. Bjork moved toward Sawyer, and sent the puck high into the short side corner for the game-winning goal. Dylan Larkin (Waterford, Mich.) also collected an assist on the play.
Minney made 26 total saves for Team USA in the win, while Sawyer stopped 24 shots for New Jersey.
The Under-18 Team is right back in action tomorrow (Jan. 12) as they head to Amherst, Mass. to do battle with the UMass Minutemen. Puck drop is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. EST.
The New Jersey Hitmen compete in the U.S. Premier Hockey League. Founded in 2012, the USPHL has 36 organizations from across the Eastern Seaboard of the United States fielding teams in Premier, Elite, Empire, U18 and U16 divisions ... Nathan Billitier (Spencerport, N.Y./Rochester Jr. Americans), Jack Eichel (North Chelmsford, Mass./Junior Bruins) and Alex Tuch (Baldwinsville, N.Y./Syracuse Stars) all played for USPHL programs prior to joining USA Hockey's National Team Development Program ... Follow the NTDP on Twitter ... Like the NTDP on Facebook ... Download the Sport Ngin Mobile App for Apple iOS and Android devices and follow the U.S. National Under-17 and Under-18 Teams. Fans, parents, athletes, and coaches now have unprecedented access to scores, stats, schedules, photos, and more. The app is free and allows users to track scores and news updates from one team. Those wishing to follow more than one team can make a simple in-app purchase of $1.99. Click here to download the app.
AMHERST, Mass. - Anders Bjork (Mequon, Wis.) and Jack Eichel (North Chelmsford, Mass.) scored one goal each, but the U.S. National Under-18 Team fell to the University of Massachusetts, 5-2, here today at the Mullins Center. With the loss, Team USA's all-time record against the Minutemen drops to 1-2-0 (W-L-OTL).
Former National Team Development Program forward Frankie Vatrano (East Longmeadow, Mass./2010-12) notched the lone goal of the first period at 4:01 while on the power play. Team USA managed four shots on Steve Mastalerz, but the UMass netminder kicked out each attempt.
UMass poured in four unanswered goals in the second stanza, opening up a 5-0 lead over the Under-18 Team. Blake Weyrick (Ojai, Calif.) was lifted after the fifth Minutemen score, finishing the afternoon with 17 saves between the pipes.
Eichel put Team USA on the board at 7:38 of the third period. Jared Fiegl (Parker, Colo.) launched a shot that caromed off of UMass goaltender Mac Haight. Ryan Bliss (Chelmsford, Mass.) fired the rebound back at the net and Eichel got the third chance to go in, converting for his 21st goal of the season. Bjork scored late for the U.S., at 16:40 on the power play, burying the rebound off a Jack Glover (Golden Valley, Minn.) shot, but Team USA could get no closer.
Edwin Minney (Wind Gap, Pa.) kicked out 11 shots in relief, while Mastalerz, Haight, and Alex Wakaluk combined for 27 saves for UMass in the win.
Team USA and UMass have squared off twice previously, spiltting the decisions. On Feb. 15, 2002, the U.S. National Under-18 Team came out on top 4-1, while the Minutemen scored a 5-2 victory on Dec. 2, 2007 ... Former National Team Development Program forward Frankie Vatrano (East Longmeadow, Mass./2010-12) currently plays for UMass ... Along with Vatrano, two former NTDP players skated for UMass after their time in Ann Arbor: Stephen Werner (Chevy Chase, Md./2000-02) and J.R. Zavisza (Suffield, Conn./1997-98) ... Follow the NTDP on Twitter ... Like the NTDP on Facebook ... Download the Sport Ngin Mobile App for Apple iOS and Android devices and follow the U.S. National Under-17 and Under-18 Teams. Fans, parents, athletes, and coaches now have unprecedented access to scores, stats, schedules, photos, and more. The app is free and allows users to track scores and news updates from one team. Those wishing to follow more than one team can make a simple in-app purchase of $1.99. Click here to download the app.
U.S. National Under-18 Team
Anders Bjork (1 goal)
U.S. National Under-18 Team
Jack Eichel (1 goal)
New Jersey Hitmen
Patrick Schule (1 goal, 1 assist)