The U.S. Junior Select Team and Canada West each advanced in the 2011 World Junior A Challenge after posting quarterfinal-round victories on Thursday in Langley, B.C.
Team USA received a two-goal performance by San Jose Sharks prospect Sean Kuraly, and goalie Ryan McKay (2012 draft eligible) turned aside 26 shots on the way to a 6-3 victory over Russia. Ethan Prow's goal with just 1:40 remaining in the second period had given the U.S. a 4-1 advantage.
"We knew Russia was going to come at us hard, but we showed the will to win tonight," U.S. head coach Regg Simon said. "We need to continue with our process tomorrow in order to advance to the championship game."
Team USA, the three-time defending tournament champion, will now face Canada East in Friday's semifinal round at 7 p.m. ET. The U.S. and Canada East met in last year's gold medal game, won by the Americans, 6-4. The clubs also met in a pre-tournament game last Saturday with the U.S. scoring a 4-1 win.
Kuraly's first goal came just 1:07 after Russia's Alexei Kudreman (2012 draft eligible) had pulled his team within 4-3. Kuraly, who was taken in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL Draft, also scored late in the third to seal the triumph. Kuraly and teammate Mario Lucia (drafted by the Minnesota Wild in 2011) are atop the tournament leaderboard with 3 goals apiece in three games. Lucia, Alex Broadhurst (Chicago Blackhawks, 2011) and Austyn Young (2012 draft eligible) also scored for Team USA.
In the other quarterfinal on Thursday, Curtis Loik (2012 draft eligible) scored twice, including the decisive goal 7:51 into the second, as Canada West pulled out a 4-1 victory over the Czech Republic.
Luke Juha (2012 draft eligible) scored a power-play goal and Travis St. Denis (2012 draft eligible) connected shorthanded for the Canadians, which received a 20-save performance by Sean Maguire (2012 draft eligible). Radim Matus (2012 draft eligible) scored for the Czechs with just 28 seconds remaining in the second to pull his team within 2-1.
Canada West will meet Sweden in the other semifinal on Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET. The Czech Republic will play Russia in Saturday's fifth-place game at 3 p.m. ET.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale