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U.S. Downs Russia, 3-2, Earns Bye Into Semifinals at WJC

NHL.com @NHL
LIBEREC, Czech Republic – The U.S. National Junior Team fired 49 shots on goal in helping it to a 3-2 win over Russia in its third preliminary-round game at the 2008 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship here tonight.

"Our guys played with deep belief in themselves," said U.S. Head Coach John Hynes. "Our commitment to team play was evident and I thought as the game wore on, we showed good survival skills when we needed to. We definitely took another step forward."

Team USA forced five straight Russia penalties to start the game and eventually capitalized on a five-on-three power play at 11:31 when Tyler Ruegsegger (Lakewood, Colo./University of Denver) put home the rebound of a shot from the center point by Jordan Schroeder (Prior Lake, Minn./U.S. National Under-18 Team). Kyle Okposo (St. Paul, Minn.) also drew an assist on the play. The United States, which outshot Russia 18-7 in the period, had several other golden opportunities in the stanza, but was held at bay by Russian netminder Sergei Bobrovsky.

The only goal of the second period came at 8:36 when Alexei Cherepanov put the puck past a helpless Jeremy Smith (Brownstown, Mich./Plymouth) off the rebound of Nikita Filatov's initial shot from near the bottom of the left circle. Rhett Rakhshani (Huntington Beach, Calif./University of Denver) nearly put the United States back in the lead with under eight minutes to go in the period, but his shot from the low slot rang off the post. Two minutes later, Mike Carman (Apple Valley, Minn./University of Minnesota), who was foiled at least twice in the first period, had a good chance from point blank range but was stopped by Bobrovsky.

Team USA recorded a pair of goals in the first half of the third period to open up a two-goal lead. James vanRiemsdyk (Middletown, N.J./University of New Hampshire) recorded the first on the power play at 3:01 when he sent an innocent-looking shot toward the net that Bobrovsky got a piece of, but then had deflect off his pad and into the net. Then at 7:44 Carman grabbed a loose puck at the side of the net, came out in front, and found the back of the net. Blake Geoffrion (Brentwood, Tenn./University of Wisconsin) and Chris Summers (Milan, Mich./University of Michigan) also gained assists on the play. Russia made it interesting when Viktor Tikhonov beat Smith at 14:36, but Team USA played strong down the stretch and gained the victory.

Smith made 28 saves to pick up the win, while Bobrovskky had 46 stops in a losing effort.
Team USA will finish preliminary-round play Monday (Dec. 31) against Finland at 12 p.m. EST in Liberec. Regardless of the outcome, Team USA has earned a bye into the semifinals of the tournament and will play a yet to-be-determined opponent on Friday (Jan. 4).

NOTES: Defenseman Chris Summers was named Team USA's Player of the Game ...Team USA did not allow Russia a shot on goal through the first 14 minutes of the game ... All Team USA games in the 2008 IIHF World Junior Championship are audiocast live on usahockey.com with Jack Swanson and Jeff Sauer calling the action. In addition, all games of the medal round will be televised live by the NHL Network in the United States ... Brian Strait (Waltham, Mass./Boston University) is Team USA's captain, while Chris Summers (Milan, Mich./University of Michigan), Blake Geoffrion (Brentwood, Tenn./University of Wisconsin) and Tyler Ruegsegger (Lakewood, Colo./University of Denver) are alternate captains.
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