Team USA wins Youth Olympic opener in shootout

A.J. Francisco of Hermantown was one of the shootout scorers.

Gangwon 2024 Winter Youth Olympic Games
Gavin Weeks, from left, Jackson Marthaler (of Superior) and Xavier Wendt of the United States celebrate with their teammates after winning a penalty shoot off in the ice hockey men’s tournament preliminary round match between United States and Slovakia at the 2024 Winter Youth Olympics on Saturday, Jan. 27 in Gangwon, South Korea. 

By Staff reports

Today at 4:18 PM

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 News reporting

GANGWON, South Korea — The United States pulled themselves out of big trouble on Saturday, Jan. 27, rallying to force overtime, then defeat Slovakia 5-4 in a shootout in their first of two preliminary games of the boys hockey tournament at the 2024 Winter Youth Olympic Games.

The Americans found themselves down 4-2 with seven minutes to play before Cole Bumgarner (St. Michael-Albertville) scored with 8:03 to play to make it a one goal game. Superior’s Jackson Marthaler earned a secondary assist on the play.

Team USA pulled its goaltender with 1:23 to play and generated an extra-attacker goal from Zane Torre, his second score of the game, with :54 to play.

The teams went directly to a three-round shootout, where Hermantown’s A.J. Francisco buried his attempt to confirm his team’s 2-0 victory in the third round.

Francisco had a primary assist on a USA goal from J.P. Hurlbert early in the second period to make it 2-1 before the Slovaks scored three in a row to end the period.

Team USA will face Czechia in their second and final preliminary game at 2 p.m. Korea time (11 p.m. Monday in Duluth), with the semifinals of the six-team tournament on Tuesday and medal matches on Wednesday.

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