Gabe Perreault, Photo Credit: USA Hockey
The U.S. needed overtime on Sunday, April 30, to come-from-behind and defeat Sweden to capture gold at the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Switzerland.
Ryan Leonard scored the game-winner at 2:20 of OT to give the U.S. a 3-2 win and a tournament-record 11th gold medal. The U.S. win also avenged last year’s 6-4 finals loss to Sweden – and it was America’s first gold since 2017.
“It was awesome; the experience was unbelievable, one to never forget,” said defenseman Cole Hutson, an Illinois native who sent the puck to Leonard for the game-winning assist as Leonard’s shot slid past Sweden goalie Noah Erliden.
Illinois and AHAI certainly enjoyed the golden celebration as the state was represented by Hutson (Barrington), forward Gabe Perreault (Hinsdale) and defenseman Paul Fischer (River Forest), plus assistant coach Anthony Walsh (Burr Ridge).
Walsh is in his first stint as an assistant coach of the U.S. U18 Men’s National Team and is currently an assistant coach for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (NTDP) U18 Team.
In addition, Brian Galivan is in his third year as director of sports science for the U.S. U18 Men’s National Team. He is the founder of GVN Performance and Revitalab Chicago.
“It was a super high-paced game and when (Leonard) scored, it was awesome,” said Hutson, who attended elementary and middle schools in Barrington, played locally for Barrington and Team Illinois.
Cole Hutson, Photo Credit: USA Hockey
The U.S went 7-0 in the 10-team tournament that opened on April 20 and they outscored their opponents 51-10. U.S. forward Will Smith was the tournament’s leading scorer (9 goals, 11 assists), followed by Perreault (5 goals, 13 assists). “Gabe has been unreal all year,” Hutson said.
Leonard finished with 17 points – third-most in the tournament.
Hutson had 1 goal, 11 assists – eighth-most points in the tournament and his lone tournament goal, a short-hander in the 7-1 semifinal win over Slovakia on April 29, was the game-winner.
Sweden led 1-0 after the first period in the final, then 2-0 after two. The Americans never quit.
“(With) the energy we had on the bench, we knew we were never out of it,” Hutson said. “We had a bit of a slow start, but we stuck to our game, played to our identity, and it worked out.
“Those two (Sweden) goals set us back a little bit, but we just punched back at them. After the second period, in the locker room, the coaches were amped up and we knew we weren’t out of it.”
Hutson said the leadership of forward Carter Slaggert “helped push us through (in) the finals. He made sure we still had fight (after falling behind).” Slaggert hails from South Bend, Indiana, and skated three seasons for the Chicago Mission.
Hutson’s first call after the victory was, naturally, to his dad: Rob, a former player turned coach who, after four years coaching in New Jersey, is set to return to the Team Illinois coaching staff for the 2023-24 season.
Paul Fischer, Photo Credit: USA Hockey
The elder Huston admittedly was a “nervous wreck” throughout the finals, listening and watching. “I had more anxiety than I’ve ever had, even when I played,” he said. “It was a very exciting (finals) and once they scored, you could feel the momentum change and their confidence just grew.”
Rob Hutson has spent the past four seasons coaching the North Jersey Avalanche. He formerly coached Barrington High School and other Illinois teams.
The gold medal, Hutson said, “is exceptional for USA Hockey and that group of kids.
“Everyone did a great job and what an experience it was for Cole.”
Coach Hutson tagged Perreault as “a stud” on ice and said the same thing about Fischer. He has coached against them in the past.
Perreault, Fischer and Slaggert were teammates on the Mission, then-coached by Yanik Perreault, who played 13 seasons in the NHL before transitioning to coaching.
“Yanik Perreault did a fantastic job coaching those boys, bringing them up. I think he deserves a lot of credit,” Hutson said.
“The future is bright,” for Illinois players on the international stage.
Cole Hutson also praised his past TI coaches: “The coaching staff we had (years ago) at Team Illinois was awesome; they helped push me to where I’m at today.”