Jordan Masters and Alex Galchenyuk scored in a shootout as the U.S. Under-18 select team beat Slovakia 6-5 in their final preliminary-round match of the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament at Zimny Stadium in Piestany, Slovakia.
Despite beating Russia in overtime on Tuesday and the shootout win against Slovakia, the U.S. can finish no higher than fifth after placing third in Group B with two overtime wins and one regulation loss. The Americans, who battled back from a two-goal deficit on three occasions against Slovakia, will play Friday against the Czech Republic.
Masters, of the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the United States Hockey League, and Galchenyuk, of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting, scored in a span of 55 seconds with less than five minutes remaining in the third period to force the overtime. John Gillies, of the USHL's Indiana Ice, turned aside 26 shots, including nine in the second period. He stopped both attempts in shootout.
"I'm extremely proud of our guys for overcoming so much adversity today," U.S. coach Seth Appert said. "We stuck together through penalties and after falling behind a couple of times, and came away with a big win."
Cristoval Nieves of the Kent School in Connecticut almost won it with 20 seconds remaining in regulation, but his breakaway attempt was denied by Slovakian goalie Richard Sabol (29 saves) of P.H.K. Presov.
Slovakia, which failed to hold leads of 2-0, 4-2 and 5-3 in the game, will next face Switzerland in Friday's seventh-place game. Defenseman Peter Sohajda, who stars for HK 36 Skalica in Slovakia, scored twice to give the host team a 4-2 lead 15:53 into the second.
Masters, who had four goals and 11 points in 49 games with Muskegon last season, then scored the first of his two goals at 17:25 to pull the U.S. within 4-3. Masters, who's eligible for the 2012 Entry Draft, leads all American players in the tournament with four goals, including three on the power-play, and six points.
Slovakia took a 5-3 lead at 13:58 of the third on a goal by Mario Lunter of HC Banska Bystrica. The U.S. also received first-period goals by Brendan Silk (U.S. National Team Development Program) and Louie Nanne (Edina High School, Minn.).
The semifinal round matches on Friday will feature defending champion Canada against Russia and Sweden against Finland. Finland boasts the leading point producer in the tournament, 2012 draft-eligible forward Teuvo Teravainen (4-4-8) of Jokerit.