HUTTWIL, Switzerland - Ryan Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.) scored the game-winning goal and collected two assists, as the U.S. Under-17 Select Team defeated the Czech Republic, 5-3, here today in its opening game of the 2010 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament.
"It was a tremendous effort by our special teams today," said Sean Tremblay, head coach of the U.S. Under-17 Select Team. "I was very pleased with our penalty kill. This victory is a great first step towards winning this tournament."
The Czech Republic scored the game's lone first-period goal, but Team USA rallied to take a 2-1 lead early in the second. Troy Donnay (Fenton, Mich.) scored the equalizer just one minute into the middle frame on a rebound off of a shot by Zach Stepan (Fairbault, Minn.).
Less than four minutes later, Miles Koules (Los Angeles, Calif.) notched a breakaway goal to give Team USA its first lead. Fitzgerald sent a pass the length of the ice and connected with Koules, who shot the puck between the legs of Czech goaltender Marek Langhamer.
After the Czech Republic evened the score, 2-2, the U.S. regained its lead when Nicholas Schilkey (Smiths Creek, Mich.) picked up a rebound in front of the net and scored at the 14:10 mark of the second period.
The Czechs responded to tie the game, 3-3, early in the third. But Fitzgerald scored to put the U.S. ahead for good at the 6:21 mark of the final period. After Grant Webermin (Novi, Mich.) sent a transition pass up the ice to Stepan, Fitzgerald crashed the net and redirected a feed from Stepan for the eventual game-winning goal.
Sam Piazza (Darien, Ill.) closed out the scoring midway through the final frame when he skated in alone from the point to the high slot and fired a shot that beat Langhamer low to the stick side.
U.S. goaltender Brandon Hope (Canton, Mich.) made 15 saves in the victory, while Langhamer stopped 39 shots in the loss.
The U.S. Under-17 Select Team will next face Slovakia on Friday (Aug. 20) at 9:30 a.m. EDT.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)