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Gameday: U.S. Faces Russia in 2019 WJC Semifinal

By, 01/04/19, 10:45AM MST


Puck drop set for 4 p.m. ET live on NHL Network; Winner advances to gold-medal game

The U.S. (4-0-1-0) meets Russia (5-0-0-0) tonight in the semifinal round of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. Tonight's game, which will be televised live on NHL Network, is set for 1 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET) here at Rogers Arena.

All-time, the U.S. is 7-1-0-12 (W-OTW-OTL-L) against Russia in tournament play. This is the fifth-straight year the two teams are meeting in the playoff round. After three-straight losses, including two quarterfinal setbacks (2014, 2015) and one semifinal loss (2016), the U.S. claimed its first-ever playoff win over Russia with a thrilling 4-3 semifinal shootout victory in 2017 before edging the Russians in the quarterfinals, 4-2, last year on home ice.

On home ice in Buffalo, N.Y., the U.S. met Russia in the quarterfinal where Kieffer Bellows (Edina, Minn./Portland Winterhawks) tallied twice to lead the U.S. to a 4-2 victory. Captain Joey Anderson (Roseville, Minn./University of Minnesota Duluth), brother of current U.S. captain Mikey, added an empty-netter while Joseph Woll (St. Louis, Mo./Boston College) made 27 saves in the quarterfinal win. The win -- Team USA's third-straight against Russia -- eliminated the Russians from tournament play, bringing to end its streak of seven-straight tournament medals.

After its victory over Russia, the U.S. met Sweden in the semifinal where it fell, 4-2. Kieffer Bellows (Edina, Minn./Portland Winterhawks) and Brady Tkachuk (St. Louis, Mo./Boston University) both scored while current U.S. forward and alternate captain Josh Norris (Oxford, Mich./University of Michigan) was tabbed the U.S. Player of the Game. Returning from last year's U.S. team are five players in Mikey Anderson (Roseville, Minn./University of Minnesota Duluth), Quinn Hughes (Orlando, Fla./University of Michigan), Josh Norris, Ryan Poehling (Lakeville, Minn./St. Cloud State University) and Dylan Samberg (Hermantown, Minn./University of Minnesota Duluth) as well as current assistant coach Steve Miller (Sun Prairie, Wis./Ohio State University), who also helped the U.S. win its 2017 semifinal en route to winning a gold medal in Montreal.

LAST USA-RUS Semifinal: USA 4, RUS 3 (SOW)
Two years ago today at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, the U.S. edged Russia with a thrilling 4-3 semifinal shootout victory. Colin White (Hanover, Mass./Boston College) scored twice and captain Luke Kunin (Chesterfield, Mo./University of Wisconsin) added a goal before a seven-round shootout saw Troy Terry (Highlands, Ranch, Colo./University of Denver) score three five-hole goals and Tyler Parsons (Chesterfield, Mich./London Knights) turn aside five of seven Russian shooters in the win. 

Tonight's game will see the tournament's top two performing powerplay and penalty kills units, as the U.S. is first in penalty kill (.910%) and second in powerplay (.300%) while Russia ranks second in penalty kill (.895%) but first in powerplay (.313%). Russia enters tonight having taken 26 penalties, second-most of any team, while the U.S. has been the tournament's most disciplined team having been called for just 13 infractions. Since 2015, the gold medal-winning team in an IIHF World Junior Championship has ended the tournament with the most efficient powerplay unit. Additionally, in 2013 and 2014, the team with the tournament's best penalty kill unit also ended as gold medalists.Additionally, since 2010, the U.S. has finished top three in at least one special teams unit all but twice (2015, 2018).

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