OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC -- The 13th day of the 2015 IIHF World Championship was a travel day for the eight teams going home as well as the four teams switching venues for the quarterfinals on Thursday. Here's what you need to know:
Team USA and Switzerland kick off the quarterfinals at 9:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and TSN 2.
This U.S. team was built around a very young core - Jack Eichel, Dylan Larkin, Jimmy Vesey and Mike Reilly - none of whom have even signed a professional contract, let alone played a minute beyond college hockey until two weeks ago when they faced Austria in exhibition prior to the start of this tournament. Seven games later, they've proven to be just what the powers that be at USA Hockey thought they could be.
"I think they've been growing in - I don't know if confidence is the right word - but presence in the game,” USA Hockey’s Assistant Executive Director of Hockey Operations Jim Johannson said. “I know they're confident players, but they've taken in this level of hockey and applied it to their game and they're earning their ice time here with the coaches just like everyone else and it's fun to watch them do that,"
"They're playing big minutes in all situations and they're doing a great job," said USA captain Matt Hendricks. "Like I've said before, it's a lot of fun playing with them. Their energy level at the rink is tremendous and their willingness to play the right way and wanting to learn has been great, but I also think they've kind of been thrown right into the fire here from Day One.
“There was no sticking your toes in the water, as we like to say. These young kids dove right in and have been playing great for us. Obviously, mistakes are made and there are learning experiences every night, but for the most part, they've all competed hard and that's all you can ask for.”
"Our young guys - all of them, not just Jack and Dylan - have played some big roles on our team and have been big contributors and I'm not just talking about points,” Team USA coach Todd Richards said. “Jimmy Vesey has had some great opportunities in this tournament. That whole line has done a good job, especially if we're talking about needing secondary scoring. He and Mark Arcobello and Ben Smith...You go back and you look and that line could have had four or five more goals themselves.
“So, you like the way they're playing. The one thing about these young guys - all of them - these games now are going to be amped up - the speed, the physicality, the intensity - and, for these young guys, it's going to be a big step and they're going to need to be ready for it."
Now that we've hit the single elimination stage of this tournament, the focus for the U.S. is squarely on playing the second 20 minutes as well as they've been playing the first 20 minutes and the last 20 minutes.
For a reason no one can seem to put a finger on, the second periods of most of their preliminary round games have been rather disastrous. That's when the Belarussians ran away with their victory (Team USA's only loss) and when Slovakia scored four goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and take the one goal lead.
The U.S. was able to tie that game and get the winner in overtime, but it was a flashing, neon arrow pointing to exactly what this team needs to avoid in the medal round.
“Everyone in our room knows that we can win gold if we play the way we are capable of, but we need to play a full 60 minutes instead of having those lapses,” alternate captain Trevor Lewis said. "We just need to play our game and stop playing to the scoreboard or to the other team. We need to keep putting the pressure on and play our game for a full 60 minutes."
They will have to do that against Switzerland because five of their seven games in the preliminary round were not only one goals games, but were decided in overtime.
Next up, Tyler Ennis and Canada will play Belarus at 10:15 a.m. ET and will be joined in progress on NBCSN after the conclusion of the USA-SUI game and in its entirety on TSN.
Canada is the most offensive team in the tournament, outscoring opponents by 35 goals and scoring 15 goals more than any other team in the tournament. To say they have a plethora of offensive weapons is an understatement.
Belarus likes to take advantage of opportunities and use their speed through the neutral zone to get in behind the defense and try to make something happen.
The late games start with Sweden and Russia at 1:15 p.m. ET on TSN 2.
These teams played twice in exhibition prior to the tournament and Sweden won both games. That said, they haven't been all that happy with their play thus far in the tournament especially on the defensive side of the ice.
In fact, the only thing the coach really likes about his team is that they have enough skill to score a lot of goals, which means this game could be an absolute barn burner because Russia's offense is rather effective as well, especially with the man advantage where they are converting on 40 percent of their opportunities….you read that right.
Finally, Finland will play the Czech Republic in front of 17,000-plus screaming, cheering, jumping, chanting fans at a sold out O2 Arena in Prague.
The Czechs have been consistent in their scoring with a great group effort, but Pekka Rinne has been reluctant to let any past him and even set an IIHF record with 207 scoreless minutes that included four consecutive shutouts in the preliminary round.
The Czechs also have had a lot of success on the power play scoring seven goals with the man advantage in seven games, while the Finns have yet to allow a power play goal. This seems to be one of those games involving two immovable forces and will be decided by which ever team simply imposes their will more than the other.
Looking ahead, the winner of USA-SUI will play the winner of SWE-RUS, while the winner of CAN-BLR will play the winner of FIN-CZE. Both semifinal games will happen on Saturday in Prague for the right to play for gold.