By Gabrielle Scheder-Bieschin | Jan. 22, 2020, 2:12 p.m. (ET)

Cutter Gauthier plays at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 on Jan. 22, 2020 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

 

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- The men’s ice hockey team clinched a spot on the podium at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020, with Team USA earning the silver medal after falling to Russia, 4-0, at Lausanne Vaudois Arena on Wednesday. 

While some players had previously played together, the team as a whole came together just a short few weeks before Wednesday’s final game. To prepare for the tournament, the American players attended a camp just prior to Lausanne 2020 and played a tune-up game against host country Switzerland, winning 4-0. Despite the short preparation time, the players quickly became close, on and off the ice. 

“We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, but we definitely had the right chemistry,” said captain Jimmy Snuggerud. “You feel like you’re all brothers and family out there.”

That quick chemistry carried them through the tournament to the final game. The U.S. opened the tournament with a preliminary game against Finland, winning 7-5. The team continued its winning ways with an 8-2 victory against host country Switzerland to advance out of the preliminary round to the semifinals. 

In the semifinals, Team USA faced a familiar rival, Canada. There, forward Frank Nazar opened the scoring, finding the back of the net on a penalty shot. Forward Isaac Howard joined him on the scoreboard, becoming the first man at any Youth Olympic Games to score more than six goals in the tournament. While Canada scored in the third, Team USA stayed focused and killed two penalties in the final minutes to earn the victory, 2-1, and clinch its spot in the gold-medal game. 

“It feels amazing, beating that rivalry country,” said Howard after the game. “It feels unbelievable - I can’t put it into words really.”

The following afternoon, the team found themselves back in the arena to face another familiar international competitor - Russia. While the American men found 15 shots on goal, they were unable to find a way past Russian goalkeeper Sergei Ivanov and Team USA fell 4-0. Despite the loss, their strong tournament performance and advancement to the final game earned them a spot on the podium with the silver medal. 

“It’s obviously not the result we wanted,” said forward Cruz Lucius. “But we played hard together and I’m glad we were able to at least earn silver for the USA.”

Head coach Scott Paluch echoed the sentiment after the final game. 

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“I’m tremendously proud of this group of players and what they accomplished,” said Paluch. “They fought very hard, we just got behind early and could never really get established. I’m very proud of their effort and their representation of USA Hockey and Team USA.”

For the team, the Youth Olympic Games experience and the opportunity to represent Team USA will bind them for years to come. 

“It’s definitely an honor, you dream of it your whole life and it’s obviously super fun to be playing with your friends for Team USA,” said Snuggerud. 

“Wearing your country’s name on your chest… It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” agreed alternate captain Maddox Fleming. “I’d do it every day of the week if I could - it’s amazing.”