U.S. off to a strong start at U-18 Four Nations Cup in Ann Arbor

Macomb native Michael McCarron picked up an assist in the U-18 team's win over Finland Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Knight/USA Hockey)

By Matt Slovin - 

The United States Under-18 team’s Four Nations Cup campaign got off to a successful start on Tuesday night as the Americans knocked off Finland, 3-1, at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube.

“It was important for us to start this tournament off on the right foot, especially as the host country”, said Don Granato, head coach of the U.S. team, in a press release. “We’ll build off tonight’s win and start preparation for Switzerland immediately, as we expect a very competitive game tomorrow.”

American Tyler Kelleher opened the game’s scoring at the 7:43 mark of the first period when he sank a rebound off a shot on goal from teammate Connor Clifton. Forward Michael McCarron (a Macomb native) earned the secondary assist on the opening tally.

The opening frame was controlled by the United States as the Americans outshot Finland, 22-6, in the period.

But early on in the second period, the Fins knotted the game at two. United States goaltender Thatcher Demko couldn’t react quickly enough to stop a one-timer from Finland’s Niko Ojamaki.

The score remained tied for much of the period, until Sean Malone put the United States ahead for good with the eventual game-winner with 2:58 to play in the frame. Malone’s shot, coming from the slot, slipped by Finland goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen, who made 43 saves on the evening. Anthony Lewis and Will Butcher added assists on the marker.

Louis extended the United States’ lead to a two-goal margin when he scored the night’s final tally at the 8:43 mark of the third period. Malone and Hudson Fasching picked up the assists, and the Americans limited the Finns to just six shots in the frame, as they did in the first period as well.

Demko recorded 19 saves in the opener, and Malone was named Team USA’s Player of the Game for his couple of points.

In other tournament action, Sweden edged Switzerland by a 5-4 margin. The United States will continue its bid toward a fifth consecutive Four Nations title when it faces off against Switzerland on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Ice Cube.