ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The U.S. National Under-18 Team withstood a RIT comeback attempt and salvaged a split in their weekend series by defeating the Tigers, 5-2.
Team USA saw a 2-0 lead evaporate, but scored three unanswered goals to ensure the victory. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for Team USA. RIT has never swept Team USA.
Penalties once again were plentiful, but tonight it was more the case of rough play and emotions, than points of emphasis. Roughing, elbowing, and hitting after the whistle were the predominant calls, and many were offsetting. Three 10-minute misconducts were called as well, as there were 39 penalties all total.
“Every game a ref is going to miss a call or make some calls you question,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “But you can’t question everyone. You have to play with more discipline.”
Team USA got three power play goals, while RIT only got one.
Team USA got on the scoreboard first during the first power play of the night thanks to a beautiful effort by Danny Fardig. He skated the puck into the zone down the left side, deked around a defenseman, and went in low off to the side. When it appeared he would run out of any possible angle to shoot, Fardig flipped the puck over the far shoulder of David Wrisley, placing it into the only open space available.
The first period may have ended with only one goal and a low shot count (8-5 in favor of Team USA), but both teams had a number of opportunities. However, many shots went wide or high. The best one for RIT came early in the game when they fired a succession of quality shots, followed by a scramble in front, but Jeff Frazee was equal to the task.
Team USA had a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 on a 2-on-1. Justin Mercer received the pass just after Wrisley committed, leaving Mercer with an open net. He shot it wide.
Jack Skille did make it 2-0 early in the second period. Sitting at the hash marks unmarked, he received a pass from Andreas Vlassopolous, and quickly fired a one-timer through Wrisley’s legs.
The Tigers then mounted a comeback to tie the game at two apiece. First, Steve Farrer scored with a strong single-handed effort on the power play. He stole the puck from behind Team USA’s net, skated to the side of the crease, then proceeded to play with the puck until Frazee was thoroughly confused, enabling Farrer to easily beat him.
Simon Lambert tied the game on a furious volley of shots. Darrell Draper fired a shot from the right faceoff circle. Frazee’s save went to the right faceoff circle, where Brent Patry quickly fired a one-timer. Frazee made the save again, but the puck bounced in front of him. Lambert whacked at the bouncing puck to put it past Frazee.
The tie lasted just over a minute before Jack Johnson gave Team USA the lead once again on a rocket of a shot fired from the high slot. Wrisley had no prayer, as the puck whizzed over his glove into the upper corner of the net. The 3-2 lead stood into the third period.
“They don’t keep the puck on their stick very long,” Wilson said of Team USA’s ability to release shots quickly.
RIT cranked up their game midway through the third period trying to get the equalizer. Brad Harris came the closest when his point blank shot was saved by Frazee. RIT applied strong pressure for a number of minutes with some quick passing, fast skating, and solid shots.
However, Team USA did not crack and Frazee made some solid saves. RIT’s continuing pressure allowed Team USA to breakout on a two-on-none breakout. Nathan Gerbe kept the puck skating down the right side. He went in low, waited for Wrisley to go down, and flipped it over him to make it 4-2.
RIT’s last gasp attempt came when Brian Payant stole the puck while shorthanded and let go a shot from the slot. However, Frazee made a great save.
Team USA collected an insurance goal with a blistering shot from Peter Mueller. An NHL goalie would be hard pressed to be able to stop that shot as Mueller fired it from the inside of the left faceoff circle. Wrisley, who started his first game of the season, played a strong game making 18 saves.
“David Wrisley played a very good game,” Wilson said. “He got beat by some good shots, but he looked comfortable back there.”
Frazee also played excellent, making 28 saves.
The U.S. National Under-18 Team upped their record to 18-7-2 and continues play against Division III opposition participating in the Middlebury Tournament starting on New Year’s Day. First, they face Trinity, then the host Panthers.
RIT, now 8-3-1, takes their holiday break, returning to action on January 8 in a home game against Plattsburgh.