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U.S. advances to final of World Junior A Challenge

by Mike G. Morreale

The U.S. Junior Select Team erupted for five goals in the first period en route to a 7-4 victory over Switzerland in the semifinal round of the 2012 World Junior A Challenge on Friday at Mariners Centre in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

The United States advances to Sunday's championship game to face defending champion Canada West at Mariners Centre.

Sheldon Dries, Nicholas Schilkey, Vince Hinostroza, Ryan Fitzgerald and Blake Heinrich scored goals in the opening period, when the U.S. held an 18-9 advantage in shots.

"We had a fantastic first period, our best period of the tournament, because we used our speed to get pucks in deep and we were rewarded for it," said U.S. coach Brett Larson. "Then we got into some discipline problems with penalties and Switzerland took advantage. In the end, we hung in there and got the win. We will need to play a complete 60-minute game to be successful on Sunday."

Hinostroza, the U.S. captain, and Schilkey each had two goals. Hinostroza was named the U.S. Player of the Game for the second time in the event. Schilkey's second goal 12:54 into the second gave the U.S. a 6-1 advantage.

Switzerland pared the deficit to 6-3 on power-play goals by Robin Leone at 3:28 and Jan Neuenschwander at 5:16 in the third, before Christoph Bertschy pulled the Swiss within two goals at 16:21. Hinostroza then sealed the victory when he capitalized on a 3-on-2 breakout with 1:18 remaining in regulation.

U.S. goalie Eamon McAdam stopped 23 of 24 shots through two periods before Michael Bitzer took over in the third, turning aside nine of 12 attempts.

In the other semifinal, left wing Seb Lloyd scored the only goal 3:24 into the second period and goalie Jonah Imoo made it stand with 17 saves as Canada West scored a 1-0 victory over Canada East. Canada West earned a 4-2 victory over Canada East in last year's gold medal game at the World Junior A Challenge.

The United States, which has outscored the opposition, 20-8, in three tournament victories, has won three of the last four World Junior A Challenge events (2008, 2009, 2010). The Americans finished third last year.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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