BURLINGTON, VT — Gutterson Fieldhouse was crawling with professional scouts, most of whom were presumably on hand to watch the USA Under-18 team play. They may have hoped to see a game of raw talent and playmaking, but instead were treated to a game dominated by special teams.
Nine of the game’s 12 goals came on the power play as No. 3 Vermont outscored the Under-18ers 8-4.
Eight Catamounts registered multi-point games led by senior captain Jaime Sifers, who netted two goals and two assists.
“I thought, all in all, we did a good job on the power play,” said UVM head coach Kevin Sneddon. “I wasn’t pleased, obviously, with our penalty kill tonight. It looked like an all-star game there a little bit.”
The visitors hit the ice showing talent, skill and speed, but UVM’s strength and quickness wore them down. Of course, it didn’t help taking 49 minutes in penalties on 15 infractions.
Team USA got on the board first, less than four minutes into the first period, while skating on a 5-on-3 power play. Patrick Kane finished off a feed from Rhett Rakhshani, beating Joe Fallon along the ice on the left side.
“I thought they benefited from playing us,” Sneddon said. “We certainly benefited from playing them. They’ve got a lot of skill, and they certainly challenged our defense with their speed all night so that’s a credit to their work ethic; they never gave up.”
Vermont answered eight minutes later, on a power play of its own. Brady Leisenring – a captain for the Under-17 squad in the 1999-00 season – knotted the game by gathering a rebound of a cannon shot off the backboards from Sifers at 11:34.
Vermont’s Jeff Corey put the hosts on top at 13:40. Corey redirected a left point shot from Kenny Macaulay.
UVM added another man-advantage goal with only :19 remaining in the period. Matt Syroczynski used his 6-5, 225-pound frame to screen USA goaltender Joe Palmer. Palmer made the first save, but Syroczynski was there to knock in the rebound, as it popped into the air, for the two-goal lead after one.
In the second, Team USA battled back to tie it up once again, scoring three goals in the middle frame before penalties got the best of the visitors.
Mike Ratchuk potted a breakaway goal, two minutes into the period, knocking it off the post and in.
Jaime McBain then made a terrific pass from the point to low on the left side as Tony Mosey put the puck past Fallon, on the power play at 6:46.
The U-18 march to the sin bin continued to handcuff their play midway through the period, as Vermont, already on a double minor power play, was awarded a five-minute power play to work with, when Erik Johnson went off for hitting from behind.
Macaulay put the Cats ahead again, with the ensuing two-man advantage, on a point shot at 9:18.
Team USA fended off the rest of the power play, withstanding pressure from the Vermont offense and getting nice saves from Palmer.
The Cats, though, extended their lead to 5-3 when Chris Myers beat Palmer on a one-timer, from in close. Sifers added another, over a minute later, before McBain tallied a goal to bring the score to 6-4.
In the third, the Cats added two more power-play goals from Syroczynski and Sifers, for the final margin.
Vermont finished 6-for-11 with the extra man, while Team USA was 3-for-6.
The Cats dominated in shots on goal, 46-26.
Palmer finished with 38 saves, while Fallon and Jeff Hill, who came in for the last 8:21, combined to stop 22.
“I think we played pretty well,” said Team USA head coach John Hynes. “The uppermost thought in my mind is that we’re playing a top-5 team in the country. I thought our kids came out and played extremely well. Then, unfortunately, the ref decided he was gonna be the game. And that is unfortunate for the kids because they get an opportunity to come and play a great team like Vermont and it could have been a great hockey game instead the referee makes some obnoxious calls
“If it was a closer game, I think Vermont would have benefited more, and I think we would have benefited also”
The U-18 team continues its schedule against ranked opponents next Friday, facing No. 1 Wisconsin. Next up for Vermont is No. 14 St Lawrence, Saturday at home.