PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Team USA (U17) used a five-goal second period to top the Central Illinois Flying Aces, 7-4, on Saturday night at USA Hockey Arena.
Jakub Lacka scored twice and Jamie Armstrong and Alex Barber added goals for Central Illinois (12-29-5, 29 points), but Team USA (26-11-1, 53 points) scored four straight times to end the second period to secure the win in the series finale.
The U17s struck for the first two goals of the game to jump out to a 2-0 lead in the opening period. Michael Gildon smacked a rebound from the slot past Flying Aces goaltender Zach Stejskal (University of Minnesota Duluth) to make it 1-0 only 2:23 into the first frame. Following a deflected initial shot from the left wing, Erik Middendorf crashed the net and jammed a loose puck past Stejskal to double Team USA’s lead with six minutes, 58 seconds to play in the opening period.
Central Illinois answered quickly to trim the deficit to one only 45 seconds after Team USA stretched its lead to two. Barber (Bowling Green State University) set up the Flying Aces’ first goal with a great hustle play. After chasing the puck down in the near corner of the offensive zone, Barber lifted a pass to Armstrong (Northeastern University) at the far post, and Armstrong tapped the feed past Team USA goaltender Jonathan Mor to cut the deficit in half.
The two teams traded three goals in a 52-second span in the second period, as Team USA eventually stretched its lead to two. Domenick Fensore struck at the 6:25 mark of the second to make it 3-1, but Lacka (RPI) found the back of the net just 19 seconds later to bring the game back within one. Team USA’s Ryder Rolston then tallied 33 seconds after that to make it 4-2.
The U17s netted the final three goals of the second period to make it a 7-2 lead. Danny Weight, Rolston, and Patrick Moynihan all netted goals in a 3:40 span to turn the tide.
The Flying Aces mounted a comeback in the third period to bring the game back within three. Lacka netted his team-leading 15th of the year on a breakaway at the 7:27 mark of the third period. Barber followed with his first goal in a Flying Aces uniform with 4:27 left in regulation.
Central Illinois continues the three-game weekend with a matchup against the Chicago Steel on Sunday afternoon at Fox Valley Ice Arena. Faceoff is slated for 3:05 p.m.
Known as the Bloomington Thunder from 2014-17, the newly-rebranded Central Illinois Flying Aces are a member of the top junior hockey league in the United States, the United States Hockey League (USHL). The only Tier I junior hockey league in the country, the USHL has become renowned for developing the next stars of both Division I college hockey and the NHL. At the start of the 2017-18 season, there were 128 active USHL alumni on NHL rosters, with at least one USHL alumnus playing for each of the 31 teams. In total, there have been 253 USHL players who have gone onto NHL careers, including Patrick Sharp, David Backes, Johnny Gaudreau, and Joe Pavelski, among others. The players in the USHL range in age from 16-20 years old, 95 percent of whom will go on to play college hockey at the Division I level. For more information, visit flyingaceshockey.com or ushl.com or download the USHL Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play.