Cayden Primeau (Voorhees, N.J./Northeastern University) made 34 saves as Oliver Wahlstrom (Quincy, Mass./Boston College) and Sasha Chmelevski (Northville, Mich./Ottawa 67's) scored to help the U.S. National Junior Team advance to the gold-medal game of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship with a 2-1 semifinal victory over Russia.
"When we got together on the (Dec.) 14th, we said this was the goal, to make it to the gold-medal game and our players made that a reality here tonight," said Mike Hastings, head coach of the 2019 U.S. National Junior Team. "Give credit to Russia, who gave us everything we could handle. We battled through, earned a hard-fought win and now have a chance to go after what we came here for and that's a gold medal."
With the win, the U.S. (5-0-1-0/W-OTW-OTL-L) will play for gold tomorrow against the winner of the Finland-Switzerland semifinal that is currently under way. Puck drop tomorrow (Jan. 5) is set for 5 p.m. local time (8 p.m. ET) here at Rogers Arena and will be televised live on NHL Network.
Tonight's win secures a fourth-straight medal finish for the United States, the first time it has ever accomplished the feat. Team USA won gold in 2017 and earned bronze-medal finishes in 2016 and 2018.
Chances were limited through the first few minutes of play as both teams spent a majority of time in the neutral zone.
Near the midway point of the frame it appeared Russia scored when a shot from the point was redirected past Primeau, but the call was overturned due to a kicking motion.
With 5:31 to play in the opening frame, the U.S. made it 1-0 when Wahlstrom one-timed a pass from the slot Russia's goaltender, Pyotr Kochetkov. The play started when Dylan Samberg (Hermantown, Minn./University of Minnesota Duluth) fed the puck to Logan Cockerill (Brighton, Mich./Boston University) at the blueline where he pivoted and sped down the left-hand wall before curling towards goal and finding Wahlstrom alone for a 1-0 U.S. lead.
Two minutes later Josh Norris (Oxford, Mich./University of Michigan) nearly doubled the U.S. lead but his shot was covered by Kochetkov to keep it a one-goal game entering the first intermission.
The middle frame opened with Team USA's tournament-leading penalty kill unit defending a Russia powerplay before a penalty of their own 2:33 into the frame gave the U.S. its first powerplay of the game.
Just 1:16 into the man-advantage, Chmelevski gave the U.S. a two-goal cushion off a centering feed from Jack Hughes (Orlando, Fla,./U.S. National Under-18 Team). From the top of the zone, Mikey Anderson (Roseville, Minn./University of Minnesota Duluth) sent a pass to Jack Hughes at the right faceoff dot who found Chmelevski stationed atop the crease for the tap-in goal.
The U.S. continued to press for another goal, as Norris fed Joel Farabee (Cicero, N.Y./Boston University) by cutting to the net for a shot Farabee deflected that was stopped.
With 6:24 to play in the frame, Grigori Denisenko cut the U.S. lead to one when he rushed down the right wing and tucked a shot over Primeau's shoulder.
In the closing minutes of the frame, Primeau was called on again with a pair of pad saves to keep the score 2-1 entering the final stanza.
The third period opened with the U.S. again running a perfect penalty kill unit, denying a series of Russian chances that included a highlight save by defenseman Phil Kemp (Greenwich, Conn./Yale University). With Russia surging, a shot from the right faceoff dot snuck through Primeau's arm and bounced in the crease before Kemp lifted a Russian forward's stick and swiped the puck off the goal line and out of harm's way.
Four minutes later, Ryan Poehling (Lakeville, Minn./St. Cloud State University) almost added a goal for the U.S. when a shot bounced past Kochetkov but it was swatted away.
Primeau stood tall down the stretch, denying a series of Russia shots. With 40 seconds left in regulation, Russia pulled its goalie in favor of an extra skater as its search for a tying goal continued. With seconds to play, a clearing attempt by Kemp secured the 2-1 U.S. final as Primeau finished with 34 saves.
NOTES: Goaltender Cayden Primeau was tabbed U.S. Player of the Game ... The U.S. was outshot by Russia, 35-27, went 1-for-2 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill. For complete game statistics, click here … Team USA will enter tomorrow's gold-medal game with a 2-2-0-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L) all-time in gold-medal games … A gold medal tomorrow will give the United States its fifth-ever gold medal in tournament play after winning in 2004, 2010, 2013 and 2017 ... John Vanbiesbrouck (Detroit, Mich.), assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey, is serving as the general manager of the U.S. National Junior Team ... NHL Network is the official U.S. broadcaster of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. For more information about the tournament, click here.