2023 NHL Draft

USA Wins Gold In OT At IIHF World U18 Championship, Will Smith Named MVP

USA Wins Gold In OT At IIHF World U18 Championship, Will Smith Named MVP

Ryan Leonard scored the overtime game-winner as the U.S. secured its first gold medal at the Men's World Under-18 Championship since 2017.

Apr 30, 2023 by Chris Peters
2023 NHL Draft Profile: Ryan Loenard

Despite entering the third period of the championship game of the 2023 IIHF World Men's Under-18 Championship with a 2-0 deficit against Sweden, Team USA made a dramatic comeback in the third to force overtime. That set the stage for Ryan Leonard, who scored the game-winner early in overtime to secure USA's first gold medal at the Men's World Under-18 Championship since 2017.

Leonard scored the game-winner not long after the U.S. killed a late penalty that carried over into the extra frame. The U.S. winger cut to the middle of the ice before firing a wrist shot that snuck under goaltender Noah Erliden’s left arm and trickled into the net 2:20 into overtime. 

The Americans probably felt fortunate to even be in that position after a somewhat listless performance through the first 40 minutes that saw them give up goals to Sweden without much answer. The switch flipped in the third period, however.

Danny Nelson’s deflection goal halfway through the third period seemed to light the fuse as the U.S. provided a greater push into the remainder of regulation. A late penalty by Sweden put the Americans’ dangerous power play on the ice. With just 3:16 remaining on the clock, 16-year-old sniper Cole Eiserman sent a wrist shot that deflected off of Carey Terrance and inside the left post to level the score. 

That set the stage for overtime, but not before the U.S. had to stave off the Swedish power play to end regulation as Will Smith was whistled for tripping with just over a minute to play. 

Goaltender Trey Augustine had some of his best moments of the tournament, turning aside multiple chances to end regulation and get the game to OT. 

Augustine finished the game with 30 saves to avenge last year’s gold-medal game loss to Sweden.

Will Smith, who led the tournament with 20 points, was named MVP for 2023. He had an assist on Terrance's game-tying marker to pull even with Jack Hughes for the most points ever by an American at this event. Smith fell one point shy of matching Nikita Kurcherov's record 21 points scored at the 2011 Men's Under-18 World Championship.

In addition to taking home MVP honors, Smith was named the tournament directorate award winner for best forward in the tournament and was named to the media all-star team.

Team USA's top line forwards finished 1-2-3 in tournament scoring with Smith's 20 points leading the way. Gabe Perreault finished second with 18 points, while Ryan Leonard finished third with 17 points. 

Tournament Awards

Directorate Award

Best Forward: Will Smith, USA

Best Defenseman: Axel Sandin Pellikka, Sweden

Best Goaltender: Noah Erliden, Sweden

Tournament All-Star Team

Forwards: Will Smith (USA), Otto Stenberg (Sweden), Dalibor Dvorsky (Slovakia)

Defense: Cole Hutson (USA), Axel Sandin Pellikka (Sweden)

Goaltender: Noah Erliden (Sweden)

Earlier in the day, Canada defeated Slovakia for the bronze medal.