Canada dumps U.S. 4-1
USA folds again...
PARDUBICE, Czech Republic - Canada is a win away from another gold medal at the world junior hockey championship and this time it's Sweden, not Russia, standing in the way.
The Canadians beat the U.S. 4-1 in Friday's semifinal and will face Sweden in the final Saturday. It will be a rematch for Canada, which lost 4-3 to the Swedes in a preliminary Pool A game last weekend.
Canada (5-1) is chasing a fourth straight gold medal in this tournament after beating the Russians in the last three finals and has reached the championship game for a seventh straight year.
Shawn Matthias of the Belleville Bulls, Brad Marchand of the Halifax Mooseheads, Colton Gillies of the Saskatoon Blades and Calgary Hitmen defenceman Karl Alzner scored four unanswered goals for Canada before James vanRiemsdyk replied for the U.S.
"It was sweet," Gillies said. "That was our best one so far.
"We haven't accomplished anything though so we're trying not to show our emotions too much."
Canadian goaltender Steve Mason, who was a controversial choice to start over Jonathan Bernier, earned the win stopping 33 of 34 shots and was named player of the game.
Mason had quite a day. While he was reading on the Internet that many people back home thought he shouldn't start, his major junior rights were traded from the London Knights to the Kitchener Rangers.
"Through the media and whatnot, everybody kind of questioned Coach (Craig) Hartsburg's decision to start me and that gave me motivation to prove Coach Hartsburg right," Mason said. "I was a little disappointed to see what people were saying, but at the same time I used it in my game today and hopefully I proved a lot of people wrong."
Sweden beat Russia 2-1 in overtime in an earlier semifinal.
U.S. goaltender Jeremy Smith, who plays for the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers, made 20 saves in the loss.
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The Canadians played their best game of the tournament so far as they passed the puck crisply and attacked the U.S. zone with authority.
Another horde of Canadians filled Pardubice Arena to cheer them on as at least half of the announced crowd of 5,621 were wearing red and white.
As the home team, the U.S. had right of last line change. The Canadians had to play airtight defence to shut down the tournament's top-scoring trio of vanRiemsdyk, Colin Wilson and Jordan Schroeder until Hartsburg could get Brandon Sutter's checking line on the ice.
VanRiemsdyk, the No. 2 pick in this year's NHL draft by the Philadelphia Flyers, ended Mason's shutout bid at 13:26 of the third period when he banged in a rebound.
Marchand padded Canada's lead 20 seconds after Gillies beat Smith five-hole on a shot from the left faceoff circle to make it 3-0 for Canada at 7:04 of the third period.
Alzner's shot from the blue-line beat Smith for a power-play goal at the midway point of the second period and made it 2-0 for Canada. Hard work cycling the puck down low by Kyle Turris and Marchand drew the American defence down and gave Alzner the time to line up a laser shot.
Matthias put Canada on the scoreboard at 2:46 of the second period on a give-and-go with winger Matt Halischuk. Behind the goal-line Matthias tapped the puck over to Halischuk and drove the front of the net to collect Halischuk's backhand pass and beat Smith.
CP player of the game - The weight of the world was on Steve Mason's shoulders heading into this game. The 19-year-old goaltender from Oakville, Ont., didn't have to make many highlight reel stops, but made several through traffic and played with a confidence.
Notes - Canada is 27-5-all-time against the U.S. at the world junior championship and 6-1 against them in playoff games . . . The U.S. has 20 NHL draft picks on its roster and seven of them are first-round selections compared to Canada's 17 and seven respectively . . . The average height and weight of the Canadian team is six feet and 187 pounds, while the U.S. is six feet, 193 pounds.