2013 IIHF World Junior Championships: Recapping the Quarterfinals in Russia
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Just four teams survive at the World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia following Wednesday's quarterfinals. Team USA and Team Russia earned their tickets to the final four.
Here is a recap of Wednesday's knockout matchups.
USA 7, Czech Republic 0
Team USA knocked the Czech Republic out of the tournament with a dominant effort. The Americans produced their best performance of the tournament to book a semifinal date with Canada.
The United States were superior in every aspect of the penalty-ridden game, with the Czech Republic failing to offer any legitimate resistance.
Team USA lit the lamp five times with the man advantage, beginning with John Gaudreau's opening goal midway through the first period.
After completely controlling play in the first, the United States blew the doors off in the second. John Gaudreau scored his second goal of the game just 28 seconds into the period, and Ryan Hartman made it 3-0 40 seconds later.
Down by three, the Czech Republic replaced goaltender Patrik Bartosak with Matej Machovsky, who would surrender four goals in the game despite making a number of highlight-reel stops.
University of Miami freshman Riley Barber beat Machovsky twice before John Gaudreau completed his hat trick, once again on the man advantage.
With five goals in his last two games, John Gaudreau tied himself for the tournament's goal-scoring lead with Finland's Markus Granlund. His sudden explosion after three scoreless games bodes well for Thursday's battle with Canada.
J.T. Miller scored the USA's final goal early in the third period, assisted by star defensemen Jacob Trouba and Seth Jones. Jones and Trouba each tallied four assists in the game.
American goalie John Gibson once again played a spectacular 60 minutes to earn his second shutout of the tournament. He will play a pivotal role against the high-scoring Canadians on Thursday.
Team USA faced Canada in a Group B clash on December 30. The U.S. lost 2-1 in a tight game as they struggled to beat Canadian goalie Malcolm Subban. With his squad scoring 16 goals in its last two games, Coach Phil Housley seems to have transformed the U.S. team into a far more dangerous offensive threat.
The underdog Americans will have their hands full on Thursday, but they have what it takes to hand the Canadians their first loss of the tournament.
Russia 4, Switzerland 3 (SO)
Team Russia was pushed to the brink within their own borders by the upstart Swiss, but the tournament's most surprising team failed to complete the quarterfinal upset. In Thursday's semifinals, Russia will now face Sweden in a rematch of the 2012 gold-medal game.
Early on, the heavily favored Russians looked to be in control, with Boston Bruins second-rounder Alexander Khokhlachev giving his team the lead on the power play six minutes into the first.
Swiss captain Christoph Bertschy tied the game with a shorthanded effort four minutes later. It was Bertschy's third goal of the tournament.
The Russians took the lead once again in the second by way of Buffalo Sabres top prospect Mikhail Grigorenko. However, for the second time in the game, the Russians failed to hold their lead for long.
Martin Ness brought the Swiss even three minutes later, assisted by Samuel Guerra and Dario Simion.
Midway through the third, Sven Andrighetto gave Switzerland its first lead of the game, beating Russian goalie Andrey Vasilevskiy from point-blank range.
The Swiss hoped to avoid their fourth overtime trip of the tournament, but 60 minutes were once again not enough to give the Swiss a result.
With two minutes remaining, Russia seemed doomed when Grigorenko's would-be game-tying goal was disallowed because the net came loose just before the puck crossed the line.
Despite the setback, Nikita Kucherov saved the Russians from elimination with a power-play goal moments later, assisted by Grigorenko.
A fruitless overtime led to a nerve-racking shootout, with Russia's Andrey Vasilevskiy and Switzerland's Melvin Nyffeler denying the first three rounds of shooters.
Grigorenko put Russia on the brink of victory in the fourth round, but Alessio Bertaggia rescued the Swiss by sneaking his shot just inside the post.
In Round 5, Nikita Kucherov earned hero status for the second time in the game as he beat Nyffeler with the go-ahead shot. Vasilevskiy then denied Bertaggia's second attempt of the shootout to seal Russia's semifinal place.
The Russians will now seek revenge against Sweden, who beat them 1-0 in an overtime thriller in the 2012 final. Mika Zibanejad, who scored the overtime winner to give Sweden gold in Canada, has been withheld from this tournament by the Ottawa Senators, who opted to keep him in the AHL.
On paper, the Russians are the clear favorites, especially with Sweden missing three injured first-rounders on their blue line.
However, Russia will need greater production from 2012 first overall pick Nail Yakupov if they are to continue their quest for gold. Yakupov has five points in five tournament games but has failed to lead the way in crucial moments, taking a back seat to Mikhail Grigorenko.
The undefeated Swedes, led by captain Filip Forsberg, will now face one half of the tournament's best goaltending tandem of Andrey Vasilevskiy and Andrei Makarov.
Vasilevskiy and Makarov have alternated throughout the tournament for Russia, both performing exceptionally well.
If the Russians continue their pattern of rotating every game, Andrei Makarov will get the nod against the Swedes after making an astonishing 56 stops against them in the 2012 gold-medal clash.
Aided by an extra day of rest, the Swedes should make Thursday's semifinal a World Junior classic.
1. Nikita Kucherov—Russia
Nikita Kucherov's clutch play kept Team Russia alive in their shootout victory over Switzerland. After assisting on Mikhail Grigorenko's second-period goal, Kucherov sent the game into overtime by scoring the game-tying goal with just 1:39 remaining. In the shootout, Kucherov beat Swiss goalie Melvin Nyffeler in the fifth round to send Russia into the semifinals.
2. John Gaudreau—USA
Two days after a two-goal effort against Slovakia, John Gaudreau scored a hat trick in a U.S. rout of the Czech Republic. The so-called "Johnny Hockey" lit the lamp three times on the man-advantage to help Team USA advance to the semifinals. The Boston College star is now tied for the tournament goal-scoring lead with Finland's Markus Granlund.
3. Mikhail Grigorenko—Russia
Mikhail Grigorenko was a constant threat against Switzerland on Wednesday. He scored Russia's second goal of the game to give the team a second-period lead, and he was robbed of the game-tying goal with two minutes remaining in regulation as one of his teammates knocked the net loose.
Despite the bad luck, he persevered to set up Nikita Kucherov for the equalizer seconds later. He also scored Russia's first goal of the shootout, giving Kucherov the chance to win it in the following round.
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