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Team USA falls to Czechia in U17 Five Nations Tournament championship

By Alex Weinman, SportsEngine, 08/16/22, 5:30PM MDT

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Hub exclusive: US forward Will Zellers stood out at the event, held at Colorado College's Robson Arena Aug. 9-13.

The United States’ U17 National Team faced national teams from four other countries (Germany, Switzerland, Czechia and Slovakia) in the Five Nations Tournament held Aug. 9-13 at Ed Robson Arena in Colorado Springs. 

Team USA cruised through their first three contests, handily defeating the German, Swiss and Slovakian squads. In Game 1 on Tuesday, Shattuck-St. Mary’s standout William Zellers recorded a hat trick to power the Americans to a 10-1 rout of the German squad. 

The next night against team Switzerland was a closer game for the Americans, but a goal by Alexander Bales of the Kent School put the US ahead 4-2 with 6 minutes remaining, and an empty-net goal by Zellers made the final 5-2. 

After an off day, Team USA suited up for a Friday night contest against team Slovakia. The Americans came out flying, netting five goals in the first period, including one 25 seconds into the game from the Brunswick School's Andrew DellaSalla. The team added three more goals to win 8-2.

Finally, Team USA matched up in what statistically became the championship game against Team Czechia, who had also won their first three contests. As other competing teams sat in the stands of Colorado College’s new rink to watch, the teams faced off around 7p.m. on Saturday night. Czechia started strong, with forward Adam Tittlebach potting a goal within the first minute of play. The Americans responded three minutes later with a shorthanded goal from John Stout, before Czechia's Adam Jiricek found the twine with 31 seconds remaining in the first to help his squad take a 2-1 lead into the intermission.

The second period started with goals from Ondrej Kos and Samuel Drancak of Team Czechia. Dallas Vieau of Team USA responded 11 seconds after Drancak’s goal to cut the deficit to 4-2. Nearly a minute later, the Americans were called for a hand-over-puck penalty in the crease and Kos converted on the ensuing penalty shot. Trailing 5-2, Team USA swapped starting goaltender Caleb Heil for Thatcher Bernstein, who played the remainder of the game.

The third period was scoreless until the US' Finn McLaughlin buried a rebound on a 6-on-4 power play with the goalie pulled to get the Americans to within two goals with seven minutes remaining. That deficit held until the Americans again pulled their goalie with around three minutes remaining, and Zellers roofed a shot with two minutes left to make it a one-goal game. After a timeout was called and the perhaps 1,000 fans in the arena rose to their feet, Team USA had a flurry of chances that wouldn’t go before Jakub Fibur scored a half-ice empty-net goal with 26 seconds remaining to seal a 6-2 victory for Team Czechia. 

The Central European squad threw their sticks and gloves in the air and pig-piled around their goalkeeper, Samuel Kowalczyk, as the final horn sounded. Those fans remaining in the stadium rose and removed their caps for the playing of the Czech national anthem, and afterwards applauded for each team’s effort and successes in the tournament.

Zellers led the tournament in goals (7) and total points (9) while teammate Dallas Bieau finished fourth in points (6). He also had three goals. Bernstein's 0.93 goals-against average was the best in the event. He was second in save percentage (.929) — just behind Czechia's Adam Ebenstreit (.932) — and played in three games (146 minutes), starting two for Team USA.

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