SPISSKA NOVA VES, SLOVAKIA - APRIL 20: USA's Josh Norris #14 scores a third period goal against Switzerland's Akira Schmid #29 while Nico Gross #26 defends during quarterfinal round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Two late goals give Americans 4-2 quarter-final win
Josh Norris and Jacob Tortora scored 27 seconds apart late in the third period to break a 2-2 deadlock and give Team USA a 4-2 victory over Switzerland.
With overtime looming, Norris scored the winning goal with 3:17 on the clock, picking up the puck at the side of the Swiss net and lifting it over a fallen Akira Schmidt.
"I thought we stuck with it all game and didn't get frustrated," Norris said afterward. "The coaches just told us to keep going, stay positive, and if we kept going eventually we'd get one."
"Right now, it makes it more difficult," Swiss head coach Thierry Paterlini said about coming so close. "Just a few minutes before the end it was 2-2 and it could have gone to overtime, where just one shot can win the game. It's too bad we gave up such an easy goal from behind the net."
Then, if any doubt about the outcome remained, Tortora erased it 27 seconds later, knocking home a loose puck that was sitting just outside the goal line.
"It was a great play by [Sean] Dhooghe," Tortora described. "He did all the work there and the puck just trickled out there and I just put it in. It was just a great feeling.
"We knew the goalie was really good," Tortora said about Schmid, who made 40 saves in the game, "but we figured if we just kept at it we would break him at the end."
The way the game started, it didn't seem like the Americans would need any late-game heroics. It took just 51 seconds for them to strike, with Braeden Tkachuk picking up the puck behind the net and feeding out front to Michael Pastujov, who snapped it home.
From there the Americans kept up the pressure, thoroughly dominating the opening period, but they didn’t get another goal despite outshooting the Swiss 16-2. Dhooghe had the best chance to give his team a two-goal lead late in the period - Schmid made a great save on his initial shot, but then with the goalie down and out, Dhooghe got his own rebound and missed.
"We had a really bad start," Paterlini said. "We knew that they would come hard the first 10 minutes and we just weren't ready. They were better the first period, but then we had some answers, we played more compact, and we turned the game our way in the second period."
The Swiss came out better in the second period and tied it when Nico Hirschier deflected Nico Gross’s point shot. For the potential No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, it was his first goal of the tournament to go along with five assists.
"I saw the shot coming and I just tried to deflect it, but I didn't know exactly where it would go," Hirschier described. "We didn't have a very good start but we knew we could play better hockey. We were a little bit nervous at the beginning, but then we started playing like we know we can, we started creating some chances and we got the momentum on our side."
Then the Americans ran into some penalty trouble and the Swiss started applying more pressure. Dylan St. Cyr, who has been cool under pressure in the U.S. net throughout the tournament, made some fine saves with his team down two men, but he couldn’t hold out forever. With their second 5-on-3 advantage of the period, Nicolas Muller gave the Swiss the lead, finally forcing the puck across the goalline in a scramble.
"We knew the Swiss were going to come with a push there and a couple of unfortunate calls - three of them, actually - meant we had to weather the storm a little bit," said U.S. coach John Wroblewski. "But I like the perseverence. We knew it was going to be a 60-minute game at this stage of the tournament, and hats off to a Swiss team that never gave up."
Just past the game’s midpoint, Gross was assessed 2+10 for checking to the head, and that gave the Americans a chance to get things going again. Just seconds after his minor penalty ended, but not yet in the play, David Farrance took a pass from Evan Barrett at the top of the slot and beat Schmid to the glove side to tie the game at two.
That’s how the game stayed until Norris and Tortora struck.
In the semi-finals the USA will face Sweden, who they beat 5-1 in the group stage.