While most eyes have been glued to the Summer Olympic games in Rio, the United States now has a chance to win gold overseas at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
With Friday’s thrilling 4-3 overtime victory over Russia, the U.S. squad led by Penguins coach Clark Donatelli will play in the prestigious under-18 event’s final on Saturday.
“These guys are pretty resilient and throughout the tournament they´ve learned not to panic and run around,” Donatelli told USA Hockey’s Derek O’Brien after the game. “Our special teams were really good – our penalty killing came through, our power play scored a couple goals, and then we got our legs and had a really good third period.”
After a scoreless first period, Russia and the U.S. traded goals back-and-forth for the rest of the game. The Russians scored first, only to see the U.S. answer a mere 1:36 later. When Russia took a 2-1 lead, the Americans found another quick equalizer in 2:05. Another lead was taken by Russia, but a power play goal by Sasha Chmelevski tied it up, 3-3.
With the score tied at the end of regulation, the semifinal game went to sudden death OT. University of Michigan-commit (and son of a Russian immigrant) Michael Pastujov capitalized on a loose puck blunder in front of the Russians’ net and buried the game-winning goal 4:42 into the extra fame.
Though Pastujov’s had his moment in the spotlight as Team USA’s hero while tying Chmelevski for the team lead with nine points on the game-winner, the honor of player of the game went to goalie Cayden Primeau, son of long-time NHL forward Keith.
Donatelli and Team USA have little time to prepare for the final, which takes place in less than 24 hours on Saturday, Aug. 13 against the host country, Czech Republic. The Czechs also went to overtime in their semifinal match-up with Sweden, eventually winning, 2-1. The U.S. downed the Czechs, 4-2, in a previous meeting earlier in the tournament.
Game time for the gold medal game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET.