ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The US National Under-18 Team took advantage of a depleted RIT defense and defeated the Tigers, 5-3. Three of RIT’s starting defensemen were sidelined with injuries, and the Tigers only dressed five blueliners for the game.
Team USA had a distinct advantage in speed over RIT all night long, and used that to hold on to a territorial advantage throughout the game. That speed translated into a very strong breakout and quick neutral ice transition for the U.S.
“The first period was the one we struggled in the most,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “They make you have to be mentally sharp all three periods. You can’t relax against them or it’s coming right back to you. They were strong and ready for all situations during the game. We got caught relaxing a bit away from the puck.”
The scoring was opened 9:54 into the first period when Robbie Earl poked in a rebound for Team USA. Steve Mandes sent a shot on net from the top of the right faceoff circle that trickled through the pads of RIT netminder Tyler Euverman. In a trend that would last all game, the U.S. beat RIT to the rebound and Earl poked it in for the goal.
Josh Sciba roofed a backhand in for a goal at the 18:53 mark to give Team USA a 2-0 lead. Sciba beat the RIT defenders to a rebound, and out waited Euverman as he slid out of position, before tucking the puck into the top of net.
The second period was more of the same. Team USA used its speed to control territorially and limit RIT’s chances. It also scored two more goals, both by winning races to rebounds, to take a commanding 4-0 lead.
RIT tried to make a game out of it early in the third period, scoring two goals in a 32-second span. Michael Tucciarone and Jared Conlon teamed up for the first Tiger goal. Conlon carried the puck down the right boards in the U.S. zone, and passed across to Tucciarone in the slot who one-timed the puck home.
Adam George outmuscled a US defender for the Tigers’ second goal. The defenseman was draped over George behind the U.S. net, but George was able to skate to the corner of the net and slide the puck in for a wraparound goal at 6:04.
Team USA coach Moe Mantha then took a timeout, and steadied his players.
The teams exchanged power-play goals during the latter half of the third period. Earl tallied his second goal of the night on the power play at 12:00. Mike Tarantino scored the extra-attacker goal for RIT at 17:48 to offset the Team USA goal.