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U.S. Junior National Team downs BU in Walter Brown exhibition

Jack Eichel scored a first-period goal against his Boston University teammates, while Chase De Leo scored a goal and two assists to lead the U.S. Junior National Team to a 5-2 exhibition win on Friday.

Jack Eichel
Jack Eichel
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

BOSTON -- Jack Eichel loves his teammates, but he has different ones for the next couple weeks.

When he joined his Boston University mates for the traditional post-game stick salute, it was very odd.

"It was a little awkward for me playing against my own team. ... I didn't really thinking about (the celebration)," the top 2015 American NHL Draft prospect said. "When I was skating off the ice after I shook their hands, they kind of grabbed me and told me to stay out."

As the nation's top-ranked collegiate squad has done 11 times in 16 games this year, Eichel's team came out a winner on Friday night as the United States National Junior Team topped the Terriers 5-2 at Walter Brown Arena.

It was an absolutely dominant offensive first period for the Americans, taking a 2-0 lead in less than a minute midway through. BU junior Matt O'Connor faced the game's first nine shots on goal and 15 of the period's 16.

"We hadn't skated in a week," BU head coach David Quinn said of the slow start. "We just went through exams and I'm sure for some of them, half of their mind was already home. I think there was a lot that went into it, and that's a heck of the team we played.

"I think you add all that up and you get a pretty big discrepancy in the way the period was played."

A product of Commonwealth Avenue had a hand in each of Team USA's first period goals, both shorthanded as Minnesota's Ryan Collins took an interference penalty at 8:42.

At 9:37, Boston College freshman Noah Hanifin made a great play to join a two-on-one rush and tapped in Chase De Leo's centering pass from directly between the circles.

"I saw an opening, so I just went for it and tried to get up the ice as quick as I could," Hanifin said. "(De Leo) made a really good pass and I just had to tap it in."

BU's own Jack Eichel wowed the crowd with a move alone through the offensive zone at 10:01, quickly stopping and snapping a high wrister over O'Connor from the right circle.

As Eichel told the media, it is exactly what he had in mind for the Terriers' Toronto native netminder.

"I told O'Connor before the game I was going to look to shoot between his legs," Eichel said, "so he went down and I was able to go over him."

U.S. goaltender Brandon Halverson of the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds was tested just once in the opening stanza, snatching a wrister from his right-side faceoff dot off the stick of BU junior Danny O'Regan.

De Leo found the scoresheet for the second time on three U.S. goals as he found the back of the net on a backhander off a pass from Sonny Milano at 2:04 of the second period.

The Terriers cracked the scoreboard at 11:47 as freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey took a pass from partner Brandon Fortunato and beat Alex Nedeljkovic off a heavy shot from the center point.

Michigan's J.T. Compher gave the U.S. a 4-1 lead 9:21 into the third period, tipping in a beautiful centering feed from Jeremy Bracco at freshman Connor LaCouvee's crease.

For the second time in the game, BU cut its deficit to two just over two minutes later at 11:31 as junior Danny O'Regan corralled a rebound left out front from a shot by Hickey. He spun free of a defender at the left side of Nedeljkovic's crease for the score.

"I was proud of the guys, the way we kind of recollected ourselves and gave of them a little bit of push back. We took a little bit more time and space away," Quinn said. "We made them make plays with a little less time, but obviously they were able to make them."

With LaCouvee pulled in the final two minutes, the U.S. iced the tune-up victory as Anthony DeAngelo of the OHL's Sarnia Sting split the posts in an empty net with 28 seconds to play.

Nedelijkovic allowed both goals but made 12 saves over the final 30-plus minutes to earn the victory.

The Americans had a 41-20 total shots on goal advantage in the game, while De Leo of the WHL's Portland Winterhawks posted a goal and two assists to lead the U.S. squad.

"We certainly got an indication of where some of the chemistry is," U.S. head coach Mark Osiecki said. "Obviously, Jack's line has been together (with BC's Alex Tuch and Michigan's Tyler Motte) since Lake Placid ... and we can build out from there."

The Junior National Team leaves Boston on Saturday morning and will face Germany in its first of two international exhibition games at Rogers K-Rock Centre in Kingston, Ontario the following night. Quinn is confident of the team that will represent the U.S.

"It's a great group. I love their chances moving up north and competing in the World Junior Championship," Quinn said, "but it was a good night for our guys ... to play at Walter Brown and play the caliber of team that we faced tonight was a unique experience."