By @MichaelCaples –
PLYMOUTH – Friday night was an emotional victory for Team USA in the Under-18 Five Nations Tournament at their home rink.
Yet they still had one more game, and one more game to win to earn some hardware.
Twenty-four hours after beating Russia in epic comeback fashion, USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program Under-18 Team prevailed 4-0 over Finland to secure the international tournament title.
Team USA finished with a 3-1 record with wins over Sweden, Russia and Finland to take the top spot in the Under-18 Five Nations Tournament, played at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth over the course of the week. The team’s lone loss came to the Czech Republic on Wednesday, the day after they beat top-ranked Sweden to open tournament play.
NTDP coach Seth Appert said he liked what he saw from his team this week in the final international competition before April’s Under-18 Worlds – the tournament that serves as the two-year culmination final test for each NTDP class.
“It’s always good to win a championship,” Appert said. “I’m really happy for our guys. Obviously I’ve only been here for one year with them, but they’ve been working hard for two and haven’t had as much international success as maybe they’d hoped. I’m really proud of them. They’ve been working really hard and we’ve been making huge steps all year in how we want to play, and this is a tough tournament to win. This is a good birth-year, and the birth-year is really even. All five teams here are capable of winning this championship.
“You have a great start and you beat who is considered to be the best team in the world in Sweden, then you stumble and now you have basically two elimination games against Russia and Finland back-to-back. That’s hard. I really liked the way we handled that. I thought we matured a little bit throughout the week of the tournament, and how we handled pressure. That’s a good sign heading into April.”
Jonathan Gruden (Rochester), Gavin Hain, Bode Wilde (Birmingham) and Jack Hughes scored for Team USA, while Drew DeRidder (Fenton) recorded the win between the pipes.
Comments from Jonathan Gruden, Mattias Samuelsson (Western Michigan commit) and Bode Wilde:
DeRidder started every game for the NTDP in the tournament. The future Michigan State goaltender finished with a 2.52 goals-against average and .900 save percentage against some of the best players in his age group.
Oliver Wahlstrom led the U.S. in scoring over the course of the tournament; his eight points put him in a tie with Russia’s Andrei Svechnikov for tops in the four-game event. Hughes was one point behind, with seven.
Wilde, a Michigan commit, led all defensemen with five total points.