International Ice Hockey Federation

U.S. bests Belarus

U.S. bests Belarus

Caulfield hat trick, U.S. third in Group A

Published 24.04.2018 19:22 GMT+5 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
U.S. bests Belarus
MAGNITOGORSK, RUSSIA - APRIL 24: USA's Alexander Turcotte #11 is congratulated by teammates after scoring on team Belarus during preliminary round action at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The kids are alright. Cole Caulfield led the U.S. with three goals and an assist in an 8-0 thumping of Belarus to sew up third place in Group A in Magnitogorsk.

In the quarter-finals, the U.S. will face the winner of the Russia-Slovakia game, while Belarus takes on Finland.

"To win the right games, you have to get better as the tournament goes along," said U.S. coach Seth Appert. "We’ve been stressing that to our guys the whole time. We did a lot of good things, even in the Canada and Sweden games that we lost. But we needed to improve, especially defensively. And now we’ve seen two real strong defensive efforts and also our offensive game tonight."

Alexander Turcotte had a goal and two assists and Joel Farabee added a goal and an assist. K’Andre Miller, Oliver Wahlstrom, and Gavin Hain also scored for the Americans. U.S. scoring leader Jack Hughes added a pair of assists.

"The playoffs start now and our season’s on the line," said Wahlstrom.

"I think it was really good to focus on our defensive play and not let any goals in," said Turcotte. "It was a huge boost to our confidence."

Earning his first shutout, U.S. goalie Drew DeRidder returned to the crease for the first time since allowing five goals on 24 shots in the 6-4 opening loss to Canada. For Belarus, Kirill Andreyev got his first start of the tournament as top goalie Nikita Tolopilo did not dress. Shots favored the U.S. 43-13.

"It’s amazing," said DeRidder. "It’s a great crowd and an awesome rink. It’s a really good experience to be here. It’s a tough trip to get here, but it’s a lot of fun."

Belarus couldn't muster much after making the quarter-finals with its dramatic 5-4 win over Switzerland. This was never expected to be close, and it wasn’t. The U.S. came in with an all-time record of seven wins and one tie (2003) versus Belarus, having outscored their opponents 61-8.

Despite the resounding victory, this has not been a vintage U.S. preliminary-round performance so far. The last time the U.S. came third in its group was in 2013 in Sochi, where it wound up with the silver medal after losing the final to Canada.

With 14 goals against so far, this team has allowed as many as or more goals than any of its four predecessors did in an entire U18. It's something Appert must monitor moving forward.

"We didn’t really have a great preliminary round, but to get this win going into the next round is really key for our success," said Caulfield.

Versus Belarus, it took just 2:19 for the U.S. to draw first blood. In a goalmouth scramble on the power play, Turcotte banged in a Jonathan Gruden rebound and the celebrations were on.

Undisciplined, the Americans gave Belarus a 5-on-3 with consecutive tripping minors, but the former Soviet republic couldn’t cash in.

Miller made it 2-0 at 16:57 with a great solo effort, busting into the Belarus zone on the right side and firing it top corner, stick side from the faceoff circle for his first of the tournament.

"I think we just needed some energy," said Miller. "I tried to go up on the rush and get a shot on net. It happened to go in."

In the second period, Hughes got loose on a 2-on-1 and sent a casual pass over to Wahlstrom for his team-leading fifth goal at 2:13.

At 4:26, on the next 2-on-1, Caulfield came down, looked off the defender, and whipped a short-side wrister high past Andreyev.

As the 2001-born players continued to shine, Hughes, from the goal line, set up an incoming Farabee in the high slot for a 5-0 U.S. lead. Caulfield made it 6-0 at 13:13, roofing a backhander in tight from a scramble in front.

"He’s always been a really good goal-scorer," said Turcotte of Caulfield. "Playing with him, it’s pretty easy. He always knows where to go and always finds his spots."

With 0:58 left in the second, Hain finished off a slick line rush with an in-tight shot that bounced in and out with lightning speed. It was reflective of the overall U.S. attack.

Andreyev was yanked in favor of Danil Veremeichik to start the third period, although it was far too late to change anything.

At 0:32 of the third, forward Yevgeni Oxentyuk was shaken up on a heavy open-ice hit by Gruden inside the Belarus blue line. He remained on the ice for a minute before heading to the bench. There was no call on the play.

After the teams traded penalties for the first half of the third, Caulfield completed his hat trick at 13:39 into an open net on a neat short-range dish from Turcotte. The U.S. killed off a late Belarus power play to preserve DeRidder's goose egg.

"Cole’s been a goal-scorer for us all year," said Appert. "He’s played good in this tournament but they haven’t gone in the net yet. It was really good to see Cole find the back of the net tonight."

Leaning heavily on the centralized U.S. National Team Development Program, the Americans have won seven of the last nine U18 gold medals. Now the real tournament is about to begin for them.

 

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