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Team USA rolls into WJC semifinals

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
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A year ago, Rangers prospects Chris Kreider and Ryan Bourque needed to play seven games to win a World Junior Championship gold medal with Team USA.

This time around, the two future Blueshirts can get it done in six.

Rangers prospect Chris Kreider fires a pass during Team USA's 2-1 win over the Swiss on New Year's Eve at Buffalo. The Americans will play next in the World Junior Championship semifinals on Monday.
The shorter path is the result of unbeaten Team USA's winning Group A outright with a 2-1 victory over Switzerland in their final preliminary-round game at the 2011 World Junior tournament on Friday night. The win gave the U.S. squad a bye out of the quarterfinals.

Kreider scored his second goal of the tournament, and alternate captain Bourque was among the team leaders with six shots on goal as the Americans held off a pesky Swiss team that refused to fold in the third period and actually outshot the Americans over the final 20 minutes.

Now 4-0-0, Team USA will return to the ice on Monday for a semifinal matchup against the winner of Sunday's quarterfinal game between Canada and Switzerland. Canada will be heavily favored in that game, despite a 6-5 overtime shootout loss to Sweden on Friday that prevented the Canadians from winning Group B and gave an automatic semifinal berth to the Swedes.

The possibility of the U.S. facing Canada in the semifinals, rather than the final, means the two teams will not face off for a gold medal as they did last year. A USA-Canada matchup has been brewing ever since the U.S. upset the Canadians to win the 2010 gold in Saskatchewan.

As they await their opponent, the Americans can look back with pride at four-game preliminary round that saw them collect 11 of a possible 12 points and outscore their opponentsw by a combined 15-4 margin.

In the opening period, the Swiss struck first for an early lead at 7:01 of the first period before Kreider pulled the Americans into a 1-1 tie on a power play just over three minutes later. Kreider's goal, his second of the tournament, was assisted by Charlie Coyle and Justin Faulk at 10:15 of the first.

Kreider's tying goal came halfway through a cross-checking penalty against Switzerland's Nino Niederreiter, a 2010 Islanders first-round draft pick. Kreider now has eight career goals at the World Junior tournament. The goal was a big one for Kreider, who had been one of the U.S. players onthe ice when Switzerland's Inti Pestoni opened the scoring

Team USA outshot the Swiss 19-10 in the opening period, but ran into a hot goaltender in Switzerland's Benjamin Conz. Kreider had two of the 19 U.S. shots, while alternate captain Bourque led all skaters in the game with four first-period shots on goal.

The Americans broke through Conz again for a 2-1 lead at 13:53 of the second period, when Mitch Callahan scored on a wraparound for what would prove to be the game-winning goal. There was no scoring in the third period.

Bourque added one shot on goal in the second period and another in the third, while Kreider was also credited with one shot in the second to finish with three for the game.

In the third period, Kreider was forced wide by Conz on a breakaway that showcased his tremendous speed and nearly drew him a penalty shot. That was perhaps the best American scoring chance in the scoreless third that saw Team USA outshot by Switzerland even though the Americans finished with a dominating 42-26 overall shots advantage.
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