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Canada's loss may mean earlier bout with U.S.

by Mike G. Morreale /
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The U.S. National Junior Team could very well be meeting their rivals from the north a lot sooner than anticipated.
And, really, that's exactly how Sweden coach Roger Ronnberg had planned it all along.
"I would love to sit in the stands and watch the semifinal between the U.S. and Canada," Ronnberg told hours before his team would ultimately take the ice and score a stunning 6-5 shootout decision over Canada on Friday. The victory forced Canada into a quarterfinal-round match with Switzerland on Sunday -- the winner meeting the U.S. on Monday at 7:30 p.m. at HSBC Arena.
Following their 2-1 victory over Switzerland on Friday, several U.S. players were asked if a possible semifinal-round showdown with Canada instead of a gold-medal rematch would be disappointing. The U.S. ended Canada's five-year reign as WJC gold medalists last year with a dramatic 6-5 overtime win in Saskatoon.
"It's obviously never disappointing reaching the semifinals and to play such a great team like Canada, that's why you come to these tournaments," U.S. goalie Jack Campbell said. "You want to play the best and if we end up playing Canada in the semifinals, it's going to be a great test for our club, and hopefully a great hockey game. They're a great team and it's obviously a big challenge ahead."
U.S. forward Chris Kreider admitted most of the players had gotten word of Sweden's triumph following their 2-1 victory over Switzerland on Friday.
"It was obviously interesting to see … it was a hard-fought battle that either team could have won but we were trying to concentrate on our game to be honest," Kreider said. "We did catch flashes of it and someone filled us in after the game, but it doesn't really affect us because both of those teams (Canada and Sweden) are so strong that if we want to make it to the gold medal game and eventually accomplish what we set out to accomplish, we're going to have to face probably both of those teams at some point or a mixture of those teams."
Kreider was a key participant in last year's championship-round win over Canada. He remembers the atmosphere and the buildup leading up to the game.
"Regardless of whether or not a matchup (with Canada) would be in the final doesn't matter because it would be an unbelievable environment," he said. "We know that in order to reach our goal, we'd have to cross paths eventually, regardless of when we play them. Hopefully, we'll be ready."
Meanwhile, all this media talk of a potential U.S.-Canada semifinal had Switzerland captain Nino Niederreiter more than a tad agitated. Switzerland, which finished fourth at the 2010 WJC for only the second time in its history, is looking forward to matching up against Canada.
"(Canada) can think whatever they want to think about the Swiss," Niederreiter, a 2010 draft pick of the New York Islanders, said. "But I just think we're not just Swiss cheese with big holes. We play simple and gritty."
Against Canada, Niederreiter will be going against his teammate of the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks, Canada forward and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Ryan Johansen.
In four games, Johansen has 1 goal, 6 assists, a plus-4 rating and 14 shots on goal for the Canadians while Niederreiter has produced 2 goals, 1 assist, a plus-1 rating and 18 shots for Switzerland.
"We talked before the tournament and he said we should go out to dinner, but he hasn't reached out," Niederreiter said. "Maybe (Canada) is disappointed they have an extra game to play and it's against the Swiss, but if we play the same style we played (against the U.S.), anything is possible."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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