SAKYLA, Finland – Matthew Nieto (Long Beach, Calif.) scored two goals as the U.S. National Under-18 Team outlasted Sweden, 4-2, here tonight in its opening game of the 2009 Under-18 Four Nations Cup. With the regulation win, Team USA holds sole possession of first place after the tournament's first day.
"This was a good win against a good team for us tonight," said Kurt Kleinendorst, head coach of the U.S. National Under-18 Team. "I liked the way we played. It wasn't perfect, but we played hard and were able to come out with the win."
After a scoreless first period, Derek Forbot's (Duluth, Minn.) shot caromed off the back boards to Nieto who shot it past netminder Tim Harrysson 22 seconds into the second stanza for a power-play goal. Just 26 seconds later, Jason Zucker (Las Vegas, Nev.) one-timed Nick Shore's (Denver, Colo.) feed by Harrysson to double the U.S. advantage. Daniel Gunnarsson cut the deficit in half with his power-play goal at 12:41.
Austin Czarnik (Washington, Mich.) collected a rebound off of Chase Balisy's (Fullerton, Calif.) shot and jammed it home from the back door 3:35 into the final frame. Markus Sorensen put the puck past netminder Andy Iles (Ithaca, N.Y.) to make it 3-2 with 3:13 remaining in regulation. With Harrysson pulled in favor of an extra attacker, Bryan Rust (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) chipped the puck out of the U.S. zone, while Nieto rushed past two Sweden defenders, grabbed the puck and fired it into the empty net with just 10 seconds remaining to ice the 4-2 win for Team USA.
Iles made 16 saves to earn the victory in net.
The U.S. National Under-18 Team is back in action Saturday when it meets host Finland in Harjavalta at 8 a.m. EST.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)