The United States can thank a trio of players from the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League for helping lead the team into the semifinals of the 2013 World Junior A Challenge with a 4-2 victory against Canada East on Wednesday in preliminary-round play at Mariners Centre in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
In addition to starring for the Fighting Saints this season, the three players, who accounted for all four goals Wednesday, are on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list for the 2014 NHL Draft.
Karson Kuhlman, a "C"-rated prospect, scored a pair of goals and Shane Eiserman and Seamus Malone also scored in the victory. Chris Birdsall of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL made 24 saves in his first start for the United States.
The United States (2-0-0) snapped a 2-2 tie 10:07 into the third period when Eiserman, a "B"-rated prospect, scored an unassisted even-strength goal. Malone, also a "B"-rated prospect, scored into an empty net with 35 seconds remaining.
The U.S. will play either Switzerland (1-1-0) or Canada East (0-2-0) in its semifinal-round game Friday. In the other semifinal, Canada West (2-0-0) will face either Russia (1-1-0) or the Czech Republic (0-2-0). The championship game is slated for Sunday at 11 a.m. ET.
"We accomplished our first goal and that was winning our division," U.S. coach Derek Lalonde told reporters after the game. "We were tired out there and it showed. Canada East took the play for a large majority. They were a very determined team. I liked our fight-back, I liked our composure during a very hard third period, and all in all it was a very good win for us."
The Americans, who finished 1-for-3 on the power-play, held a 28-26 edge in shots.
Canada East got goals by Mike Soucier in the second and Morgan Messenger in the third. Messenger's goal, off assists from Marly Quince and Derian Plouffe, pulled Canada East into a 2-2 tie.
In the other preliminary-round game Wednesday, Switzerland scored a 2-0 victory against Czech Republic behind a spectacular 42-save performance by Maxim Mauerhofer. Felix Girard and Luca Hischier, who is a "C"-rated prospect on Central Scouting's list of skaters from Switzerland, each scored in the second.