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Gameday: U.S. Faces Sweden in 2018 World Juniors Semifinals

By, 01/04/18, 7:00AM EST


Puck drop slated for 4 p.m. ET at KeyBank Center in Buffalo. Game will be televised live on NHL Network

The U.S. National Junior Team faces Sweden today in the semifinal round of the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. Puck drop is set for 4 p.m. ET live on NHL Network.

The U.S. National Junior Team faces Sweden today in the semifinal round of the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. Puck drop is set for 4 p.m. ET live on NHL Network. 
    The U.S. is 14-1-0-15-2 (W-OTW-OTL-L-T) all-time against Sweden. In eight playoff round meetings, the U.S. holds a 7-1 record. Over the last 10 U.S.-Sweden meetings, Team USA is 9-1 with its only loss being a 1-0 preliminary round setback in 2016. Those nine wins include four medal games (gold - 2013; bronze - 2007, 2011, 2016).
    The two teams last met in 2016 where the Swedes claimed a 1-0 preliminary round win before the U.S. won a rematch in the bronze medal game, 8-3. Anders Bjork, Ryan Donato and Matthew Tkachuk each scored twice and Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 35 shots in the win.

All-time, Team USA holds a 4-1-1-7 (W-OTW-OTL-L) record and has been outscored 40-31 in 13 semifinal appearances. Last year, Team USA topped Russia, 4-3, in a shootout victory. 
    Team USA and Sweden have met just once in semifinal play, when the U.S. claimed a 5-2 victory en route to its gold medal finish at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship.

At the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, the U.S. beat Sweden, 4-2, to win the bronze medal ... Casey Mittelstadt (4-6—10) and Brady Tkachuk (2-5—7) have tallied at least one point in every U.S. game … Yesterday (Jan. 3) was Ryan Poehling’s 19th birthday … On Jan. 2, the NHL named Brock Boeser (2016 - bronze) the NHL's rookie of the month ... Today Taylor Heise was named captain of the 2018 U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team with Gracie Ostertag, Dominique Petrie and Madeline Wethington tabbed alternate captains. The team opens the 2018 IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship this Saturday (Jan. 6) against Sweden. For more, click here ... On Jan. 1, USA Hockey announced its rosters for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team and Women’s Ice Hockey Teams and 2018 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team. For more, click here.

Team USA will wear its special Bills-themed jersey for today’s game. The jersey was originally worn for the first-ever outdoor game in a World Junior Championship played on Dec. 29 at New Era Field. The U.S. beat Canada in that contest, 4-3, in a shootout before a record crowd of 44,592.
    “With our team advancing to the semifinals and the Bills making the playoffs for the first time since 1999, we thought it would be great to wear those jerseys again tonight,” said Jim Johannson, general manager of Team USA. “Our guys really like the jersey and have had some fun with the connectivity to the Bills by playing at New Era Field and seeing the success they’ve had.”
    Former Buffalo Bills great Thurman Thomas will drop the puck for a ceremonial opening faceoff. Thomas, the hall of fame running back, was a mainstay with the Bills from 1988 to 2000 and helped the franchise to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances.

Entering today's semifinal games, five U.S. players sit in the top five of several statistical categories.
    Casey Mittelstadt (Eden Prairie, Minn./University of Minnesota) leads the tournament in points with 10 while being tied for first in assists (6) and tied for fifth in goals (4). Kieffer Bellows (Edina, Minn./Portland Winterhawks) leads the tournament in goals with six while Brady Tkachuk (St. Louis, Mo./Boston University) is fourth in points (7) and tied for fifth in assists (5).
    Among defensemen, Adam Fox (Jericho, N.Y./Harvard University) ranks fourth in points with five (1-4) and is tied for third in assists with four while Joseph Woll (St. Louis, Mo./Boston College) ranks third among starting goaltenders in goals against average (2.26) and is fifth in save percentage (.905).
    As a team, the U.S. is the most disciplined remaining team with only 15 penalties taken. Team USA is second in goals for (20); third in power play efficiency (30.43%) and goals against average (2.37); and fifth in penalty kill (80%) and save percentage (.897).

Team USA has received well-wishes from several notable individuals, including current Buffalo Sabres head coach and 2013 gold medal-winning U.S. National Junior Team head coach Phil Housley, and PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, who grew up playing hockey with USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher and played hockey at Trinity College where he was an Academic All-American as a senior. 
    Additionally, the U.S. received good luck wishes from Lou Vairo, USA Hockey's director of special projects for USA Hockey since 1992, who is here in Buffalo. Vairo's coaching resume includes serving on the staff for two U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Teams (2002, 1984) along with four U.S. Men's National Teams (1983, 2000-03) and five U.S. National Junior Teams (1979-82, 2003). An assistant coach for Herb Brooks at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Vairo coached Brady Tkachuk's father, Keith, at those Games in addition to coaching U.S. head coach Bob Motzko during Motzko's high school days in Austin, Minnesota.

On Jan. 2, the NHL named Brock Boeser (Burnsville, Minn.) the NHL's Rookie of the Month for December. Boeser also earned the honors in November while Clayton Keller (St. Louis, Mo.) took the honor in October. Two years ago, Boeser helped the 2016 U.S. National Junior Team earn a bronze medal while Keller  led last year's U.S. team in points (11) and assists (8) en route to winning the gold medal in Montreal.

2018 World Juniors

U.S. Roster

Official Event Site

U.S. Schedule

Date Opponent Location Result U.S. Player of Game
Wed., Dec. 20 Belarus
Pre-Tournament Game
Northwest Arena
Jamestown, N.Y.
W, 14-0 NA
Fri., Dec. 22 Sweden
Pre-Tournament Game
Erie Insurance Arena
Erie, Pa.
W, 3-1 NA
Tues., Dec. 26 Denmark
Preliminary Round
KeyBank Center
Buffalo, N.Y.
W, 9-0 Casey Mittelstadt
Thurs., Dec. 28 Slovakia
Preliminary Round
KeyBank Center
Buffalo, N.Y.
L, 2-3 Brady Tkachuk
Fri., Dec. 29 Canada
Preliminary Round
New Era Field*
Orchard Park, N.Y.
W (SO) 4-3 Casey Mittelstadt
Sun., Dec. 31 Finland
Preliminary Round
KeyBank Center
Buffalo, N.Y.
W, 5-4 Joey Anderson
Tues., Jan. 2 Russia
KeyBank Center
Buffalo, N.Y.
W, 4-2 Kieffer Bellows
Thurs., Jan. 4 Sweden
KeyBank Center
Buffalo, N.Y.
L, 2-4 Josh Norris
Fri., Jan. 5 Czech Republic
Bronze-Medal Game
KeyBank Center
Buffalo, N.Y.
W, 9-3 Trent Frederic

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