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The U.S. National Under-18 team defeated the Vermont Catamounts 5-2 in an exhibition in front of 3,073 at Gutterson Fieldhouse Friday.
A team chock-full of players headed to major Division I programs, the Under-18ers took it to Vermont. The storyline, which has become familiar to the Catamounts lately: the team fell behind early and was not able to recover.
Team USA recorded its first win this year against an ECAC squad, having gone 0-3-1 facing Clarkson, St. Lawrence, Princeton and Yale. The win was well-deserved as the team was better prepared for the matchup. A very skilled team, the U-18 side was strong on its sticks and outskated Vermont much of the night.
Any confidence Vermont may have had coming off last week’s 8-4 win against Army disappeared early.
Catamount head coach Mike Gilligan said, “I thought we played a pretty good first period, but, obviously, when the other team gets the first goal, it deflates us. We still have a lot of work to do.”
The national team struck first on the power play when Steve Mandes scored from the slot. The goal was assisted by J. D. Corbin and Jeff Likens at 12:10 of the first period as the Under-18 team moved the puck very well the entire game; Mandes’ tally came just 14 seconds into the power play.
Committed to attend Harvard, Mandes is one of 15 U-18 players who have signed to play college hockey next year.
The Cats used all three goaltenders on the night, as planned by Gilligan — each manning the net for one period. Shawn Conschafter started the team’s merry-go-round of netminders, making four saves.
Vermont held a 10-5 shot edge at the end of one period.
The first shot the next Catamount goaltender, Travis Russell, saw went behind him.
Team USA extended its lead at 2:17 of the second period. Fellow Crimson signee Ryan Maki scored his fifth of the season, assisted by T.J. Hensick.
Team USA lengthened its lead with the eventual game winner as Josh Sciba scored from Ryan Suter and Mandes. Sciba’s shot glanced off Russell’s stick and dribbled into the net. Suter then scored from Sciba and Dustin Collins on an odd-man rush to make it 4-0.
Russell finished the period with three saves on six shots. Goaltender Matt Hanson followed.
In the third period, Vermont got on the board. After testing Team USA goalie Wylie Rogers 16 times through two periods, Vermont got a 5-on-3 power play. On a pass from Scott Mifsud, John Longo fired a shot to the back of the net past Rogers, who made 26 stops, all told. Thomas also assisted on the goal.
Team USA, though, got it back. Michael Bartlett scored shorthanded at 12:42, Adam Pineault, headed to BC next year, got the assist.
Vermont’s Baron Becker scored again to close the gap, but it wasn’t enough.
U-18 team head coach Moe Mantha said that his team was prepared to face Vermont.
“We were concerned with Vermont and the speed of their forwards. We were able to get the D-men to move the puck up quickly, get our transition going, and use our speed to attack their D-men. We knew they would be a good team. We had to make sure we were ready to come out.”
Vermont is off until after Christmas, when it heads to Dartmouth to play in the Auld Lang Syne Tournament against its sixth Hockey East opponent of the season, UMass-Lowell. The National U-18 team will play UNH on Dec. 13 and Dartmouth the next night.