VICTORIAVILLE, Que. – Sonny Milano tied the game midway through the third period and scored the lone goal of the shootout as the United States erased a pair of deficits to top Ontario 6-5 in Saturday’s Group B opener at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
The game marked the first preliminary round meeting between the two since 2006, although they met in the 2008, 2010 and 2011 gold medal games – Ontario won gold in the first and last of those match-ups, while the U.S. earned the top prize in 2010.
Jack Eichel scored twice to lead the offence for the Americans, who battled out of 4-1 and 5-4 holes to win their U17 opener for the ninth consecutive time, dating back to a 2-2 tie with Slovakia in 2002. The U.S. hasn’t lost its first game since 1997.
Ryan Hitchcock and Keegan Iverson had the other goals for the U.S.
Connor McDavid (Newmarket, Ont./Erie, OHL) scored once and added two assists for Ontario in an impressive debut for the 15-year-old, while captain Aaron Ekblad (Belle River, Ont./Barrie, OHL), who played last year as an under-ager, had a goal and a helper.
Josh Ho-Sang (Thornhill, Ont./Windsor, OHL), Daniel De Sousa (Mississauga, Ont./Belleville, OHL) and Sam Bennett (Holland Landing, Ont./Kingston, OHL) also scored for Ontario, which had its 11-game preliminary round winning streak snapped.
After the U.S. had fought back from 4-1 down to tie the game on Eichel’s power play goal at 9:14 of the third period, it took Ontario just 22 seconds to regain the lead, as Bennett tapped in a loose puck after a rush by McDavid.
Milano brought the Americans even 2:03 later, forcing extra time.
U.S. goaltender Chris Birdsall came up big in the shootout, stopping McDavid, Ho-Sang and Bennett, and Milano’s goal on the Americans’ first shot stood up as the winner.
Both teams are back in action Sunday; the U.S. takes on Atlantic in the early game in Victoriaville (1:30 p.m. ET), while Ontario travels to Plessisville, Que., to face Slovakia (7:30 p.m. ET).
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)