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Rangers prospects get shot at WJC gold

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Game 1 Recap: Stepan Gets Three Points in Win

Game 2 Recap: Kreider Nets Winner in Shutout
Game 3 Recap: Hat Trick for Kreider in Rout of Latvia
Game 4 Recap: Canada Edges USA in OT Shootout
Quarterfinals: Kreider Scores in 6-2 Win Over Finns
Bourque Watch | Kreider Watch | Stepan Watch

Rangers prospects Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider and Ryan Bourque are going where few American teen-age hockey players have ever gone before -- the gold medal game at the World Junior Championship tournament.

Team USA pulled off a stunning 5-2 upset of Sweden on Sunday night in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to advance to Tuesday night's gold-medal game against five-time defending champion Canada.

Rangers prospect Chris Kreider, top, jumps onto a heap of jubilant U.S. teammates after Sunday night's 5-2 upset victory over Sweden at Saskatoon.
This is only the third time in the World Junior tournament's 34-year history that a U.S. team will play for gold. Team USA won the silver in 1997 and the gold in 2004, when the Americans beat a Canadian team featuring Sidney Crosby.

Stepan, the Rangers' 2008 second-round draft pick, is the captain of this year's team and the tournament's top scorer with 12 points in six games.

A sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, Stepan registered his tournament leading 12th point and ninth assist on the fourth USA goal on Sunday, a shorthanded tally that knocked the wind out of Sweden.

In addition to his shot at becoming only the only American other than current Boston Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart to captain a U.S. team to World Junior gold, Stepan is also looking to become the first Rangers prospect to lead a World Junior tournament in scoring since Doug Weight in 1991.

Kreider, the Blueshirts' 2009 first-round pick who plays at Boston College, and Bourque, a 2009 third-rounder who plays in the QMJHL with the Quebec Remparts, are among the youngest players on this year's American team. The U.S. (5-0-1) now gets an eagerly-anticipated rematch with the unbeaten Canadians, who defeated Team USA 5-4 in an overtime shootout during the tournament's round-robin portion.

Despite being the underdogs against a Swedish squad that had rolled over its round-robin competition, the U.S. team set the tone early, scoring a 1:24 of the opening period for a 1-0 lead. Tyler Johnson got the goal from New Jersey resident and Anaheim Ducks first-rounder Kyle Palmieri.

The 1-0 lead held up through the first period, in which the Americans outshot the Swedes 11-8. Stepan, who had entered the game tied with Canada's Jordan Eberle for the tournament scoring lead, had two of the USA shots.

After killing off an early second-period penalty, called just 25 seconds into the period, the Swedes tied the game 1-1 on an even-strength goal from Anton Lander at 4:17 of the second. Team USA, however, got two straight power-play opportunities over the next five minutes when Tim Erixon, the son of former Rangers forward Jan Erixon, went off for interference at 5:05, and Marcus Johansson was called for tripping at the 7:31 mark.

The Americans were unable to capitalize on their man-advantages, and at 12:17 of the second, Lander scored again at even-strength to make it 2-1.

Team USA refused to buckle, however, and responded during a 4-on-4 situation just under four minutes later. Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick Jerry D'Amigo tied the score at 2-2 off an assist from Washington Capitals prospect John Carlson at 15:06 of the second, and the teams went into the third period in a deadlock after Team USA killed off a late penalty to Stepan.

Team USA was outshooting the Swedes 26-19 through 40 minutes. Stepan, Bourque and Kreider each had a shot on goal in the middle period, and Kreider was on the ice for D'Amigo's tying goal.

The Americans caught a big break early in the third period when ohansson received a five-minute major and was ejected from the game for elbowing D'Amigo in the head just 39 seconds into the period. D'Amigo was unhurt, and Team USA was awarded an uninterrupted five-minute power play. They could not convert the opportunity, and found themselves shorthanded when 2010 NHL draft prospect Cam Fowler was called for slashing at 5:37 of the third.

The big break finally came at 12:34 of the third when Carlson scored the game-winner. Shortly after the goal, Bourque was called for delay of game at 13:48, but the Americans turned the tide when D'Amigo scored his second goal of the game, shorthanded from Stepan, with 16 seconds left in Bourque's penalty.

A.J. Jenks added an empty net goal to close out the scoring at 19:05 of the third period.

Team USA outshot Sweden 34-29, as U.S. goalkeeper Mike Lee, a Phoenix draft pick, made 27 saves.

Stepan tied for the U.S. team lead with four shots in the game. Kreider finished the night with two shots and a plus-3 rating.

Canada advanced to the gold medal game with a 6-1 win over Switzerland earlier on Sunday.

Roman Horak, the Rangers' 2009 fifth-round pick who is playing for the Czech Republic, also had a big game on Sunday in a Relegation Round matchup against Latvia.

Horak, a member of the Chilliwack Bruins of the WHL, helped the Czechs rout the winless Latvians 10-2 at Saskatoon. Although he did not figure in the scoring, he was even for the game and had one shot on goal in limited ice time.

The Czechs, who led Latvia 5-0 after the first period, will play their final Relegation Round game for seventh place vs. Slovakia on Monday. The victory on Sunday prevented the Czech Republic from dropping out of the top division next year.
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