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Canada beats Swiss; will face U.S. in semis

by Mike G. Morreale
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- With less than two minutes remaining, the chanting began.
"We want U.S.A., we want U.S.A.," bellowed those fans of the Canadian National Junior Team.
All this after Zack Kassian had officially sealed a quarterfinal-round victory with an empty-net goal in the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship at HSBC Arena on Sunday.
After dropping a disheartening 6-5 shootout decision to Sweden in the final game of preliminary-round action on Friday, Canada showcased plenty of character and a little moxie in rallying for a 4-1 victory over Switzerland to enable the Canadians to advance to Monday's semifinal-round showdown with the United States at HSBC (NHLN-US, 7:30 p.m. ET).
"We'll start to grind down video of the U.S. and figure out what we need to do (Monday morning)," forward Ryan Johansen said. "This is the one we marked down on our calendar and you can tell the fans really want to see it because they were chanting 'We want USA.' So to hear that is really exciting and I'm already fired up to play them. It's going to be a rough sleep tonight because I'm really looking forward to (Monday)."
The rematch with the U.S. is probably a round earlier than some might have expected, but, nonetheless, both teams can expect an emotionally charged atmosphere. The U.S. scored a 6-5 overtime decision over Canada in the gold medal game of last year's tournament in Saskatoon.
"I think at some point, whether it was the semifinals, round robin or final, we kind of expected to play them," Canada captain Ryan Ellis said. "They're a good hockey team, so I think it was just a matter of time before we faced them. It should be a heck of a game."
Casey Cizikas gave Canada its first lead of the game with just 2:32 remaining in the second after breaking in 2-on-1 with Louis Leblanc against Swiss defender Dario Trutmann. Cizikas used Leblanc as a decoy as Trutmann back-pedaled low to the ice before snapping a quick shot that beat the seemingly impenetrable Benjamin Conz high on the short side.
"I just tried to wait out the goalie and was looking to pass the whole time to Louie, but their defender did a good job taking it away so I just shot it," Cizikas said. "I wasn't thinking top shelf at first, but I think the goalie cheated over a bit. Conz is a good goalie and you don't get too many good chances to score on him, so to get a goal like that on a tender like him was definitely a boost."
Canada coach Dave Cameron agreed.
"Casey provided energy and is good on the penalty-kill," Cameron said. "He just loves that role. He scored a big goal but scoring isn't what drives him -- winning does. I thought he did all the little things (against Switzerland)."
It appeared Cizikas received some new vigor on a line with Leblanc and Carter Ashton, which was pulled together to start the second period.
Leblanc added to the lead 4:17 into the third when he took a pass from Cody Eakin and fired a shot from the right circle that beat Conz on the short side for a 3-1 advantage. Kassian, who was playing in his first game after serving a two-game suspension for Canada, then scored into a empty net wit 1:59 on the clock to close out the scoring.
Conz, who was passed over at the 2010 Draft in Los Angeles even after finishing as the top goalie at the last year's WJC, is certainly in line to make plenty of draft charts this time around during the June selection process in St. Paul, Minn. He finished with 46 saves on 50 shots.
"He's always a big key for us," Swiss captain Nino Niederreiter said of Conz. "He's had a great tournament so far and I think he's one of the best players in the tournament so far."
The 19-year-old Conz, who plays for the SCL Tigers in the Swiss elite league, had 22 saves in the first, 10 in the second and 14 in the third.
"We tried to keep it close the whole game, but in the end it just didn't work out," Niederreiter said. "I think our team had a great effort, but in the end, the little things make the difference. Today, it went to Canada."
Canada pulled into a 1-1 tie with 4:54 left in the first when Johansen jammed home a power-play goal from the slot after taking a feed from Brayden Schenn in the slot. Ellis also assisted on the play, giving him a WJC standard 20 career assists in four fewer games than former record-holder Eric Lindros (19 assists). It was the best the Canadians could do after missing a golden opportunity earlier in the game when they failed to convert on a two-man advantage for 46 seconds.
"I was surprised at the start, it seemed like our decision-making was tough," Cameron said. "I think it was more nerves than anything. In this tournament, it's all about having your team learn how to play that will give you the best chance to win."
Schenn, meanwhile, notched two assists in the game to boost his tournament-leading total to 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists), which is two shy of the record for most points in one WJC established by Dale McCourt in 1977.
The Swiss opened a 1-0 lead 1:09 into the first on their first shot against Canadian starter Mark Visentin. Inti Pestoni, who opened the scoring in an eventual 2-1 loss against Team USA on Friday, took a feed from Sven Bartschi and threw a harmless-looking wraparound at the cage that deflected off the stick of Ellis and past Visentin.
"It certainly didn't start the way I wanted to and it was a goal I wanted back," Visentin said. "I think for me, the bounce back was the fact our team turned it on after the rough start."
To his credit, Visentin would stop the next 21 shots in his direction. Cameron admitted after the game that the Phoenix Coyotes' prospect would make a second straight start against the U.S. on Monday.
"You draw your plan up with your team and you dissect it, but the one thing you can't practice or predict is how your team responds to pressure," Cameron said. "I thought, after giving up that first goal, you saw how Mark was able to handle pressure. He did quite well."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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