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Canada, Russia earn trips to World U-18 semifinals

by Adam Kimelman
Big third-period efforts carried Canada and Russia into Saturday's semifinals at the World Under-18 Championship in Crimmitschau, Germany.
Canada rallied from a pair of deficits Thursday to beat Germany 4-3 and earn a spot against the U.S. in one semifinal, while Russia scored three times in the third against Finland to earn a 5-2 win and a game against Sweden in the other semifinal.
The semifinal winners will meet Sunday at Crimmitschau Arena in the gold-medal game.
Canada, which finished seventh last year, got the game's opening goal from team captain Ryan Murray, a top prospect for the 2012 Entry Draft. However, Germany pulled ahead on goals by Leonhard Pfoderl and Tobias Rieder, who plays for the OHL's Kitchener Rangers and is No. 73 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2011 Entry Draft.
Brett Ritchie scored with 11 seconds left in the second period to tie the game, but Alexander Ackermann put Germany back on top 1:57 into the third.
Just over nine minutes later, however, Morgan Rielly took over. The defenseman scored a power-play goal to tie the game midway through, and then set up Nick Cousins' extra-man goal with 4:42 remaining.
"He (Rielly) shows a ton of poise back there," Canada coach Mike Williamson told Canadian Press. "He has a great shot, he finds lanes and guys off the net and he can shoot it."
Williamson knows Rielly well from coaching against him in Western Hockey League -- Williamson coaches the Calgary Hitmen while Rielly just finished his first season with the Moose Jaw Warriors.
"A situation like this speaks volumes about how good this kid is going to be," Williamson said. "It was a crazy atmosphere, it was loud, there was a ton of pressure and really no time to think, and he had all the poise in the world and got it done."
Malcolm Subban stopped 28 of 31 shots to backstop the victory.
"I thought we played extremely hard and did the right things for the most part," Williamson said. "We did rush a few things and you could feel that a little bit. But I thought after the second period we were able to concentrate on taking deep breaths and relaxing and realizing if we stuck with it good things would happen."
The U.S. and Canada met in a pre-tournament exhibition game, with Canada winning 2-1.
"Obviously, Canada-U.S. is a huge, huge hockey rivalry and there will be no lacking of emotions," Williamson said. "We just have to play under control and with controlled emotions.
"Even in the exhibition game we had against them, there's a love-hate relationship there but also a lot of mutual respect as well, and you won't find any two countries that have more pride. The Americans are a different team than they were in that exhibition game, but every team here is different. I know our team has come a long way since then and so has theirs."
In Thursday's other quarterfinal, Russia used a timely power-play goal to advance past Finland.
The game was tied 2-2 midway through the third period when Nikita Kucherov, the tournament's leading scorer, banged in the rebound of a Mikhail Grigorenko shot with 10:10 left in regulation to give Russia a 3-2 lead.
Kucherov, No. 17 on Central Scouting's final ranking of European skaters for June's draft, leads the tournament with 9 goals and 4 power-play goals.
Anton Slepyshev scored his second of the game finished a 2-on-1 break to put Russia ahead 4-2, and then Kucherov fed Nikita Nesterov for an empty-net goal to close the scoring.
The assist gave Kucherov a tournament-best 17 points in just five games.
Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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