We're almost halfway through the semifinal game between Team USA and Sweden in Saskatoon, and as expected, it's extremely tight, 1-1 thanks to goals by Tyler Johnson in the first period and Anton Lander in the second.
UPDATE: Lander has just given Sweden the lead with his second of the night, 2-1. Fired home the rebound of an Anton Rodin shot after Rodin got the puck on the right halfwall, stickhandled through the USA defense and got a wrister off that Lee couldn't corral.
Pressure's now on the USA.
Both goalies, Jakob Markstrom and Mike Lee, have been very good, but Markstrom has more experience and is playing against men in Sweden, so he's going to be tougher to beat.
UPDATE: Big scrum here in front of the USA net in the second. Swedes are playing feisty and they've owned this period so far. Credit Lee for focusing on the puck and tying it up. If he'd allowed a goal there, the hole would be deep indeed.
UPDATE: What pressure? Jerry D'Amigo makes a huge play in the neutral zone to elude a would-be checker by chipping the puck off the boards to himself and then exploding into the offensive zone and let rip a wrist shot that beat Markstrom through the five-hole for the 2-2 score. Nice assists by the D, Jake Gardiner and John Carlson to get that puck transitioned out of the zone to spring D'Amigo for the strike.
UPDATE: 2-2 heading into the last 20. Given how much better Sweden was in that period, Team USA and their fans will take it.
UPDATE: USA on a five-minute power play after being elbowed in the head by Johansson. Oi. Cam Fowler mishandled the puck at the blue line, Jakob Silfverberg broke away and Fowler took a slash at the last minute. Lee made a nice save to prevent the shortie. Sweden has killed the major- now on PP.
UPDATE: USA 3, Sweden 2- John Carlson takes the lead with big point blast that hit Markstrom and bounced in. Color man Dave Starman is surprised that the shot eluded Markstrom, but I'm not. Been watching Carlson in two Washington Capitals summer development and rookie and veteran training camps. He has a howitzer of a shot and he gets it off quickly. Big goal.
And while I was typing this, Jerry D'Amigo just scored a shorthanded goal with Ryan Bourque in the box top shelf to put USA up 4-2. Captain Derek Stepan made a great play to take the puck away from the Swedish pointman and do the jailbreak with D'Amigo. Stepan was patient- waited for Eriksson to go down to try and block the pass, then slid it over to D'Amigo, who took it off the skate to the stick blade and roofed it on Markstrom. How do you say "No chance" in Swedish?
Can USA finish Sweden off? They couldn't hold off Canada, and this one ain't over.
UPDATE: Markstrom pulled; down by 2 with 1:58 to go. The longest two minutes of these young USA players' lives...coming up.
UPDATE: A.J. Jenks puts the biscuit in the empty basket, 5-2 USA. Bring on Canada!
Canada smashed the Cinderella Swiss today to advance to the gold medal game for the ninth consecutive year. Taylor Hall had two goals, but it was Marco Scandella's second period shorthanded goal that opened the floodgates. B's prospect Jordan Caron had a nice primary assist, but has yet to find the back of the net after having battled the flu for much of the tourney.
Swiss goalie Benjamin Conz has made a name for himself in this tournament by keeping his team in every game and backstopping the huge upset of Russia with 50 saves. More on him later.
This is a nice feeling as I close things out. I've been a little down in the dumps today after watching New England Patriots Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker go down with what has been reported as a ACL and MCL tear after making a cut in the open field and blowing his knee in a loss to the Houston Texans in the regular season finale. Devastating loss for the Pats as they prepare for their next playoff game, so rookie Julian Edelman, who was referred to as Wes Jr. during the season gets a chance to step up.
USA got it done against a tough opponent tonight. Markstrom was off, but USA made the most of their opportunities and deserve to be in the WJC final. Game to be played Tuesday at 8 pm ET.