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Canada, Czech Republic, U.S. Advance to Semis

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

The quarterfinals have been a thorn in Canada's side in recent years at the World Championship.

That is not the case in 2015 though, as the Canadians continued their offensive surge Thursday in a 9-0 victory over Belarus at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2009.

Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly, Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin and San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns led the way for Team Canada, which is averaging 7.25 goals per game in the tournament. O'Reilly scored twice and added an assist versus Belarus, while Seguin had a hat trick and Burns finished with four points (two goals and two assists).

This year marks the first time that Canada will play for a medal since the team made it to the semifinals in seven straight years from 2003 to 2009. Canada last won gold in 2007, but its last medals have been silvers, earned in 2008 and 2009.

The Canadians appear primed to break their medal-less drought with a scoring attack the country hasn't seen in the tournament in over 50 years. The 58 goals scored in eight games are Canada's most since it had that many at the 1962 Worlds when the country finished second behind Sweden.

The matchup against Belarus was decided quickly. The Canadians scored four times in the first frame, including Burns' first just 27 second after the opening faceoff, before adding two more tallies in second and finishing off with three additional goals in the third.

"I thought it was great," O'Reilly said to the official IIHF website. "Sometimes we don’t start the way we wanted to, and today I felt we did exactly what we wanted to. We came out and had great intensity. We started right away. We held on to the puck. We were working together, and again, [goaltender Mike Smith] played a great game. It’s something that we’re definitely proud of, but we have to get ready and focus on the next game."

Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie finished with one assist, setting up Tyler Ennis' score from the slot that gave Canada a 2-0 lead 7:36 into contest.

O'Reilly tallied his first goal less than three minutes later when he redirected Burns' shot from the low slot past Belarus goalie Kevin Lalande at 10:15.

After assisting on Burns' second tally on the power play with 8:52 left in the second period and following Seguin's third goal midway through the third, O'Reilly scored his second to extend Canada's lead to 8-0. O'Reilly grabbed a loose puck off a rebound in front of Lalande and flicked a shot into the open cage while the Belarusian netminder was out of his crease with 6:58 remaining.

Other Avs that played in the contest for Team Canada included Matt Duchene, who ended the night with a plus-1 rating, and Nathan MacKinnon, who fired four shots.

Canada's semifinal opponent is the Czech Republic, which marks a rematch from preliminary play. Canada defeated the host nation 6-3 on May 4. Game time is set for 7:15 a.m. MT.

UNITED STATES (3) VS. SWITZERLAND (1)

The United States will have a chance to win a medal at the 2015 World Championship, but it will have to get past a familiar opponent in the semifinals if it wants to be playing for gold.

Despite falling down 1-0 in the first period, USA scored three unanswered goals to defeat Switzerland 3-1 in the quarterfinals at CEZ Arena in Ostrava, Czech Republic. The Americans will face Team Russia on Saturday in the semifinals after the Russians beat Sweden 5-3 in the other quarterfinal contest on Thursday. The U.S. won 4-2 in a preliminary-round matchup against Russia on May 4.

"I thought overall we had a really solid effort," said United States head coach Todd Richards. "We fell behind 1-0 after the first period, but I thought we played a pretty good period. Our goaltender made some good saves early in the second period and when we got that first goal, I thought things started to change. This team continues to find a way to win and I’m really proud of the group."

USA is guaranteed to play for a medal on Sunday, but whether it is for a gold or a bronze will be decided with the outcome against Russia. The U.S. last medaled in 2013 when it defeated Finland for the bronze. The USA-Russia game will be televised live in the U.S. on NBCSN at 11:15 a.m. MT.

The U.S. now has seven victories at the tournament, which ties the 1939 and 2013 teams for the most in a single World Championship. No American squad has ever won eight games at the event.

Avalanche goaltender Reto Berra made 21 saves on 24 shots while backstopping the Swiss. He stopped nine shots in the first period and received offensive help on the other end of the ice when teammate Roman Josi tallied with 6:56 left in the first period.

Team USA wouldn't go away and flipped the score in the second period with two goals in a matter of 57 seconds. Ben Smith tied the game 1-1 with a goal from the slot at 10:17 and Charlie Coyle deflected Seth Jones' slap shot from the point past Berra at 11:14 to give the Americans the lead.

Jake Gardiner finished the scoring for the United States with 9:27 remaining in the third period when he fired a shot from the point that beat Berra on his blocker side and ricocheted off the post before settling into the net.

Berra finished the tournament with a 3.48 goals-against average and .876 save percentage in five games.

Colorado defenseman Zach Redmond did not play in the contest as he was a healthy scratch for the U.S.

CZECH REPUBLIC (5) VS. FINLAND (3)

The host nation has punched its ticket for at least two more games at the World Championship.

Jaromir Jagr broke a tie with 4:30 left in the third period, and the Czech Republic advanced to the semifinals after beating Finland 5-3 at O2 Arena in Prague.

Trailing 2-1 in the middle period, the Czechs scored two power-play goals in 1:38 to take their second lead of the night. Jagr, who finished with two goals and an assist, had a hand in both tallies as he scored the first at 13:51 before assisting on Jan Kovar's second goal of the game at 15:28.

Finland's Aleksander Barkov tied the contest 3-3 early in the third period before Jagr's game-winning goal put the sellout crowd of 17,383 into a frenzy. Vladimir Sobotka added insurance by scoring into an empty net with 23 ticks left.

Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda had two shots for the Czech Republic while playing 20:30, second most on the squad.

The Czech Republic plays top-seed Canada on Saturday in the semifinals and, depending on that result, will close out the tournament Sunday with a gold or bronze medal on the line.

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