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USA advances with 3-1 victory over Switzerland

by Julie Robenhymer / Los Angeles Kings

USA defeated Switzerland, 3-1, in the quarterfinals of the 2015 IIHF World Championship at CEZ Arena in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

The Americans started a bit slow in terms of generating offense in the first period, but they were extra stingy on the defensive side of things barely letting the Swiss into the zone and even when they did manage to cross the blue line, USA got sticks in lanes, blocked shots and forced turnovers.

With just under seven minutes left in the opening frame Swiss defender Roman Josi steamrolled past Jake Gardiner and Anders Lee and roofed a shot over USA goaltender Connor Hellebuyck to give Switzerland the 1-0 lead.

In the past few games, USA has struggled in the second period and it looked to be more of the same in the first few minutes of the second stanza today as Switzerland immediately put up five shots on goal.

"I liked our first period despite being down 1-0," said USA head coach Todd Richards. "A key moment came in the first I don't know how many minutes of the second period because they had a few opportunities right in front of our goaltender. Our goalie made some saves and kept it a 1-0 game."

USA managed to get it together and mount an aggressive attack in the offensive zone that finally paid off just past the midway point.

Mark Arcobello picked up the loose puck in the neutral zone, got it up ice to Jimmy Vesey who wheeled around behind the net and then dished it to a waiting Ben Smith, wide open in the slot, who slammed it past Reto Berra to tie the game, 1-1.

"We've had a lot of chances this tournament and we haven't always buried them," said Vesey. "Personally, I had a few more chances tonight that I would have liked to have buried too, but feels good to get one, especially to tie the game up."

Less than a minute later, Seth Jones fired a bomb from the point that tipped off Charlie Coyle as he created a big screen in front of the crease. Berra never saw it. 2-1 USA.

"The momentum went our way very quickly after that and we kind of rode that wave until the end of the game. We didn't give them much offensively and we played solid and protected the front of our net for the most part," said Jones.

"We didn't have as great a start today, but we found a way," said USA alternate captain Trevor Lewis. "The second period was big for us. We had everyone contributing and it was a good battle for us. That was the kind of second period we needed and I think we kept it a lot more simple tonight and we executed better."

In the third period, the Swiss were on the hunt for the equalizer, but USA gave them little opportunity. Then, with 9:27 left in regulation, Jake Gardiner fired a wrister from the top of the point, Lee used his big body in front of the crease to screen Berra and USA got the insurance goal to go up 3-1.

The Swiss weren't going down without a fight though. They poured on the offense with the goalie pulled and the extra attacker on for the final 2:25 with many Grade A chances, but Hellebuyck was up to the challenge and shut the door.

"He's been great all tournament and when we've really needed him he's stood tall. We tried to keep everything to the outside, but anything that managed to get to him, he made great saves on. He's been outstanding," said Lewis.

"He's been unbelievable and been a rock back there for us," said Jones. "He's made some incredible saves and he's a major reason why we're advancing to the semifinal."

With the win, USA advances to a world championship semifinal game for the second time in three years and is guaranteed to play for a medal. They will face the winner of Sweden/Russia on Saturday at O2Arena in Prague.

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