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U.S. tops Switzerland, makes World Junior A final

by Mike G. Morreale

Nick Schmaltz, an "A"-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list for the 2014 NHL Draft, had two goals and three assists Friday night to lead the United States Junior Select Team to a 7-4 victory against Switzerland in the semifinal round of the World Junior A Challenge in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

Switzerland opened a 2-1 lead when Marc Marchon scored 4:19 into the second, but Schmaltz evened the game 2:36 later. He then assisted on goals by Matthew Weis and Connor Hurley to give the U.S. a 4-2 edge. Dennis Kravchenko scored 34 seconds into the third to give the Americans a 5-2 lead.

Schmaltz not only tied a tournament record for points in a game, he also equaled a tournament record with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in only three matches. Schmaltz, who plays for the Green Bay Gamblers in the United States Hockey League, needs one more point to establish a record for points in a single year held by Kyle Turris (2006) and Mike Connolly (2007). He's committed to the University of North Dakota in 2014-15.

The United States, which is headed to the tournament final for the fifth time in six years, will play Russia in the championship round on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET. Russia is in the final for the first time. The country captured a bronze medal in 2006 and 2009.

"I'm really happy with how we responded tonight after trailing in the second period," U.S. coach Derek Lalonde said in a statement. "It was important for our best players to be our best players. Nick Schmaltz and Connor Hurley stepped up and they have been very good all week. Russia will be tough in the title game. We played them earlier in the tournament and we need to use our speed and be disciplined to have success."

Connor Hurley (Muskegon, USHL), selected in the second round (No. 38) of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Buffalo Sabres, had two goals and two assists in the win and C.J. Franklin (Sioux Falls, USHL) and Kravchenko (Sioux Falls, USHL) each had a goal and one assist. Cal Petersen (Waterloo, USHL), drafted in the fifth round (No. 129) by the Sabres in 2013, made 14 saves. The U.S. finished with a 37-19 shot advantage and went 3-for-9 on the power play.

In the other semifinal, Russia beat Canada West 5-2. Semyon Afonasyevski scored a pair of goals as Russia rallied from a two-goal deficit. Daniil Vovchenko, Kirill Pilipenko and Ivan Igumnov also scored for Russia. Nicholas Jones and Andrew Taverner had goals for Canada West, which failed to reach the final for only the second time in the tournament's eight-year history.

Canada West will face Switzerland in the bronze medal game on Saturday; Canada East plays the Czech Republic in the fifth-place game.


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