Sunday, January 3, 2010

Live Blog - WJC Semifinal: USA vs. Sweden

Team USA takes on its second Scandinavian country in as many nights tonight when they play Sweden at 9pm ET in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the World Junior Championship semifinals.  Live blog starting at game time, with a postgame wrap-up at the bottom.

First Period
0:00 - After his 42 save performance last night, Mike Lee is in goal for USA again tonight.  Derek Stepan wins the opening faceoff.

1:24 - USA out to a quick lead as Kyle Palmieri pokes a free puck from behind the net into the slot and Tyler Johnson roofs it.  Palmieri gets the only assist although McRae forced the turnover with a big hit.

2:25 - Kreider forces a turnover that leads to another quick USA scoring chance.  Markstrom makes a couple of nice saves for Sweden.

7:16 - USA goes on the game's first power play as a Swedish skater is sent off for hooking.

13:35 - Scramble in front of the USA net...a couple of nice saves by Lee, but even more that didn't make it to him.

16:01 - Ryan Bourque drives to the slot from the right point and creates a great scoring chance for himself, but shoots high.

19:45 - Bourque just created another great scoring chance, sending a dangerous pass across the crease, but no one was there to finish.

20:00 - WOW!  Chris Kreider just showed off his speed again, and I think this was the fastest I've seen him.  He skated in hard alone on the forecheck, poked the puck away from one defenseman, and almost got to the far corner before the second Swedish defenseman.

First Intermission: A decent overall period by the American side, but they were getting outworked by the Swedes for the middle portion of the period.  For coming into this game as the underdog, you have to be happy with a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.  NHL Network had a nice feature on Ryan Bourque during the intermission, with him talking about having his father as his coach when he was younger and Patrick Roy as his Junior coach now.  He said he used to butt heads with his dad a lot because he was "an immature kid" but that he realized that he should probably listen to his Hall of Fame father Ray.

Second Period
0:25 - Stepan completely undresses a Swedish defenseman but is stopped by Markstrom.  He drew a penalty on the play by driving hard to the net with the puck.

4:45 - Bourque just made a great defensive read to block a high percentage shot.  As the color commentator just said: "Bourque has been the best player on the ice for USA for a period and change now."

4:17 - Sweden ties the game after Lander skates a rebound around Lee and fires it home.  Assists to Rodin and Andersson.

7:29 - Jan Erixon's son Tim gets whistled for interfering with Jerry D'Amigo.  Sweden has the best penalty kill in the tournament and it's clear why...they don't give anyone time to set up and they make it hard to get into the zone.  Back at even strength now.

7:31 - Bourque takes a rare faceoff, pokes it forward, then draws a tripping call while trying to retrieve it.

10:24 - Huge rebound save by Markstrom robs USA of a 2-1 lead.  Announcers just compared him to Lundqvist.

12:17 - Lander pots his 2nd rebound goal for Sweden.  Stepan was beaten to the net by Rodin on the original shot.  Assists to Rodin and Silfverberg.

15:06 - Skating 4-on-4 D'Amigo skates in on a 2-on-1 with Kreider, elects to shoot and it pays off.  Assist to Carlson.

16:32 - Stepan takes the first USA penalty of the night by flipping the puck over the glass.

0:00 - Markstrom sprung Sweden on a 3-on-1 break during their power play, but Cam fowler did a great job breaking it up and not allowing a shot.

Second Intermission: 2-2 after 40 minutes.  Despite Sweden having the better of the play in both periods,Team USA is hanging in there and has found a way to lead the Swedes 26-19 in shots on goal.  Something tells me that if USA wants to win this game, they're going to have to cash in on one of their power play attempts...they're currently 0-for 4.

Third Period
0:39 - D'Amigo loses the puck a center ice then takes a late elbow to the head and stays down briefly.  Johansson gets sent off for a 5 minute major.  USA needs to put one on the board here.

5:37 - Sweden kills off the major penalty and picks up a power play of their own as Silfverberg is slashed on a shorthanded breakaway.

7:07 - Stepan and Bourque have a good penalty killing shift and create 2 shorthanded scoring chances, but don't get any shots on net.

9:24 - Another good shift by Ryan Bourque getting open on a 3-on-3 rush up the ice, and creating energy for Team USA behind the net.

12:34 - The puck comes to John Carlson at the right point and he decides to let a slapshot rip and it pays off as it gets past Markstrom as Kreider created some distraction in front.  Goal is unassisted.

13:48 - Bourque takes a delay of game penalty after finding a lose puck in front of Lee and flipping it over the glass.

14:15 - Another strong PK shift by Stepan, who creates a turnover and a scoring chance.

15:28 - D'Amigo with another goal, this time shorthanded.  Stepan did a great job of stealing the puck from the Swedish defender at the point and skated it into the Swedish zone before coaxing the lone defender down to his belly and finding D'Amigo in the slot on the 2-on-1...and the announcers laud praise on Stepan again.  "That's a great play by Stepan on the 2-on-1.  That's something you expect to see out of an NHL player.  Boy, is that 2nd round pick by the NY Rangers looking good."

17:55 - ANOTHER strong shift by Bourque, getting in hard on the forecheck, stealing the puck away, and getting a bad angle shot on net.  Markstrom leaves Sweden's net for an extra attacker.

19:07 - Hard forecheck by Kreider frees up the puck and AJ Jenks puts it in the empty net.  Kreider gets the lone assist.  5-2 USA

USA 5, Sweden 2: Team USA gets what it wanted...guaranteed hardware and a rematch with Canada on Tuesday in the Gold Medal Game.  Jerry D'Amigo was named USA Player of the Game with his 2 goal performance.  I agree with D'Amigo's assessment in his postgame interview: "It was tough We were slow in the first two periods, but we found a way to get it done."

Rangers prospects: Bourque, Kreider, and Stepan all had good games again for Team USA.  In my opinion, this was Bourque's best game of the tournament so far.  He created energy all around and was especially effective on the forecheck and penalty kill.  Stepan was strong away from the puck, created a few good scoring chances for himself, and did a great job setting up D'Amigo for the goal that effectively put the game away at 4-2.  Kreider again used his speed as his biggest weapon, getting good pressure on the forecheck and creating chances for his teammates, as well as going to the front of the net and creating distractions in front of Markstrom.

Gold Medal Game: USA takes on Canada at 8pm ET Tuesday night for the Gold Medal.  The game will be shown live on the NHL Network.

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