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U.S. Junior team wins exhibition in overtime

by Mike G. Morreale

MANKATO, Minn. -- United States National Junior Team coach Don Lucia smiled when asked for his thoughts on the brilliant overtime goal by Hudson Fasching in a 3-2 exhibition win Tuesday night against Minnesota State University at Verizon Wireless Center.

Lucia, who is in his 15th season as coach at the University of Minnesota, knows Fasching quite well -- the 6-foot-2, 200-pound forward is a freshman for the Golden Gophers.

"I gave him grief," Lucia said. "I said his coach would play him more if he could make moves like that."

Fasching was chosen in the fourth round (No. 118) of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Los Angeles Kings.

"But good for Hudson," Lucia said. "We wanted to play four groups of two on the 4-on-4 in overtime, and those guys made a nice play on that. They made a nice play coming up the rink and Hudson made a nice 1-on-1 play."

Fasching's overtime goal at 3:14 came off a feed from defenseman Jaccob Slavin. He raced down the left wing, deked around a defenseman and stretched the puck around the goalie and inside the right post.

"I came off the bench and got a nice pass from Slavin coming off the boards and saw a 1-on-1 opportunity and took the puck hard to the net," Fasching said.

Lucia will announce three cuts Wednesday morning; two forwards and one defenseman are likely to go. The 26-player roster, which would include 15 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies, will then depart for Angelholm, Sweden, to continue the evaluation process.

The United States will play exhibition games against Sweden on Dec. 20 and Finland on Dec. 22 before announcing the official 23-player roster on Dec. 23. The 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship begins Dec. 26.

The United States pulled into a 2-2 tie at 9:03 of the third period on a power-play goal by defenseman Ian McCoshen (Boston College; Florida Panthers), a blast from the top of the right circle. McCoshen was assisted by Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia Sting, OHL; 2014 draft eligible) and Stefan Matteau (Albany Devils, AHL; New Jersey Devils).

"We learned some things with our team and put some people in positions that maybe they haven't been in a long time," Lucia said. "I thought our goalies [Jon Gillies and Anthony Stolarz] did a good job. We didn't give up a 5-on-5 goal, and that was good. Our specialty teams haven't had much work and we'll continue to spend more time and improve. We were just victimized a few times [with two power-play goals], but I thought our pressure points were good."

Gillies (Providence College; Calgary Flames) played the first half of the game and stopped 11 of 12 shots. Stolarz (London Knights; Philadelphia Flyers) made nine saves on 10 shots.

Although 17-year-old center Jack Eichel (U.S. U-18 NTDP; 2015 eligible) didn't register a point, he became more of a force as the game progressed. Eichel's overall play has improved steadily at each practice this week. Every so often, Lucia would come over to Eichel on the bench after a shift and provide some advice.

"He was encouraging me to use my speed and he gave me confidence," Eichel said. "He was making quick in-game adjustments. He was telling me I could curl this way instead of that way. It was all positive feedback. I'm just excited to get this opportunity."

Eichel nearly ended the game a few seconds before Fasching's winner when he unleashed a slap shot from between the circles that was turned away.

"I thought Jack did a good job," Lucia said. "You could see his skill level. He made some plays in real tight areas and that's what makes certain guys special; they can do those things. I thought from a defensive standpoint, he did a good job. We had him out there in the last minute of the game to see how he would react."

The teams traded goals in the second period. Minnesota State opened the scoring at 6:05 when Jean-Paul LaFontaine, the nephew of Buffalo Sabres president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine, scored on the power play against Gillies.

The United States tied the game at 8:51 when Quentin Shore (University of Denver; Ottawa Senators) swept a shot past MSU goalie and New York Islanders prospect Stephon Williams. Slavin (Colorado College; Carolina Hurricanes) and Steven Santini (Boston College; New Jersey Devils) assisted on the goal.

U.S. forward Adam Erne left the game at 19:19 when he received a major penalty for checking from behind. Erne knocked into MSU forward Bryce Gervais along the boards in the neutral zone. Erne, who plays for the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct.

Erne, drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning last June, was skating hard on the backcheck and knocked into Gervais near the penalty box door. The MSU sophomore went into the glass awkwardly before falling to the ice, but he did return to the game.

"It's a tough play, but that was a borderline check from behind," Lucia said. "Adam did a good job of back pressuring up the rink and the guy turned on him. It wasn't a vicious hit, but it's a good lesson that games get called tight. The only positive is it gave us a chance to work on our penalty kill."

Erne made headlines earlier this month when he hit fellow Lightning prospect Jonathan Drouin (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL) from behind along the half boards in the first period of a regular-season game. Erne was assessed a five-minute major, a game misconduct and five minutes for fighting on that play.

Minnesota State scored during the long power play when Johnny McInnis chipped a centering pass over Stolarz's glove 2:44 into the third period.

The United States allowed two power-play goals on four chances.

Williams made several big saves. His most spectacular came four minutes into the second period when he denied U.S. forward and teammate Zach Stepan (Minnesota State; Nashville Predators) with his glove on a rising wrist shot from the right circle.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL

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