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WHC: Five Flyers set to face off in Semis

Canada's dramatic victory sets stage for showdown with Czechs

by PhiladelphiaFlyers.com @nhlflyers

Wednesday was another day of dramatic action at the 2019 IIHF World Championships in Slovakia. The quarterfinals featured three late-game comeback bids; two that were successful.

A few minutes after a desperate late push by Team USA fell one goal short in a 4-3 loss to undeated Russia, Team Canada forced overtime against Switzerland on a buzzer-beating goal with a mere 0.4 seconds remaining on the clock when a Damon Severson shot crossed the goal line. Mark Stone scored twice for Canada, including the game winner in overtime. 

James van Riemsdyk started the USA-Russia game on a line with Jack Eichel and Johnny Gaudreau. JVR ended up seeing time with a variety of linemates as Team USA head coach Jeff Blashill juggled combinations. The Flyers left winger had three shots on goal in 16:14 of ice time. With Team USA now eliminated, he finished the tournament with five points (2g-3a) in eight games.

Sean Couturier, unsurprisingly, was tabbed by Team Canada head coach Alain Vigneault to go head-to-head with Switzerland's top line with Nico Hischier whenever possible. Couturier had several golden opportunities in the third period to tie the game but was unable to bury one. However, he started the shift near the end of regulation that ended with the Severson goal by winning a left circle faceoff. Couturier had four shots on goal and was +1 in 19:51 of ice time. 

"It's a 60-minute game and in the third period we played our best hockey," said Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault to TSN. "We threw everything we could at the net and it took 19 minutes and 59 seconds to get the tying goal, but we worked hard and at the end of the day, I think we were the better team today."

Defenseman Philippe Myers skated 14 shifts in the quarterfinals (11:36 TOI). Goaltender Carter Hart backed up Matt Murray, and is likely to do so again in the semifinal.

In the third quarterfinal match, two-time defending gold medalist Sweden made an early exit this year after arch-rival Finland came back from deficits of 3-1 and 4-3 to prevail in OT, 5-4.

Flyers left winger Oskar Lindblom, who opened the tourney with a four-game point streak (3g-1a) but saw his ice time drastically reduced when more experienced NHL players became available, was limited to a single, 10-second shift in the second period. For the fourth straight game, Flyers defenseman Robert Hägg dressed as a 7th defenseman but did not receive a shift. 

The Czech Republic found themselves in a 1-1 tie with Germany heading into the third period. Finally, Jakub Voracek opened the floodgates early in the third period with what proved to be the winning goal in a 5-1 win.

"I've known him for a while now, more than a decade, and it's been fun to follow him throughout the years," said Radko Gudas about Voracek to the IIHF website. "He's a great player. I'm really happy that he's confident and he's showing what he's capable of. He's dragging us through this tournament. It's fun to watch it and help him lead this group."

For Voracek, it was his fourth goal and 16th point of the tournament. Gudas was +3 in 17:08 of ice time.

The semifinals are now set with Russia & Finland playing the early game (9:15 ET) on Saturday, which will clear the stage for Flyers fans to catch the showdown between Canada and Czech Republic at 1:15 p.m. ET.

The respective winners will play for the gold medal on Sunday in Bratislava, while the other teams will play for bronze early on Sunday morning.

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