FARGO-MOORHEAD, USA – Bring on the Battle of North America. USA beat the Czech Republic 6-2 and will face Canada in Friday's late U18 semi-final. Meanwhile, Russia beat Sweden 4-1, and will confront Finland in the other semi-final. The Swiss thumped Norway 7-3 in relegation play.
USA – Czech Republic 6-2 (2-1, 4-0, 0-1)
The USA's offensive firepower was too much for the Czechs and it was reflected in the host team's 58-23 edge in shots. Netminder Jack Campbell recorded his second win for the Americans.
In Friday's semi-finals, the Americans will likely face a tougher challenge against Canada, the defending champion.
Against the Czechs, Drew Shore jumpstarted the American offence with two goals midway through the first period. Even though Antonin Honejsek's power play marker at 14:48 cut the deficit to 2-1, the Czechs weren't able to put up the same kind of fight they did versus Canada.
Matt Nieto beat Czech goalie Filip Novotny for what proved to be the deciding goal just 55 seconds into the second period. Near the halfway mark, Kenny Ryan put the USA up 4-1 with a two-man advantage. Jerry D'Amigo scored the next American goal at 15:52, and then assisted on Jeremy Morin's 6-1 goal with under two minutes left in the period, capping off a three-point game for D'Amigo.
At 4:24 of the third, Ondrej Palat mustered one more power play goal for the Czechs after Chris Brown was sent off for kneeing. But there would be no miraculous rally, as the teams settled for a string of roughing minors down the stretch.
The Americans are gunning for their sixth straight medal at the IIHF World U18 Championship.
The Czechs must now refocus for the fifth-place game versus Sweden, which is Saturday in Fargo.
Sweden – Russia 1-4 (1-0, 0-2, 0-2)
The resurgent Russian U18 program wasn't about to miss a chance to compete for a medal for the third straight year. Russia got two-point performances from forwards Alexander Burmistrov and Evgeni Kuznestov in the victory, and scored in four different game situations.
Against Finland in the semi-finals, Russia will seek revenge for a 7-4 loss to the Finns that opened the Preliminary Round.
Sweden, which has never won an IIHF World U18 Championship, finished out of the medals for the second straight year.
Sweden opened the scoring at 16:39 when Jacob Josefson, a centre for Djurgarden of the Swedish Elitserien, capitalized on a play set up by Oliver Ekman-Larsson and William Wallen.
But just 5:09 into the second period, the Russians had an answer, as Dmitri Orlov tied the game with the man advantage. And with 45 seconds left in the middle frame, Kirill Kabanov notched the eventual winner on a setup from team scoring leader Vladimir Tarasenko, who earned his 15th tournament point in five games.
The Swedes had an opportunity to tie it early in the third period when Kabanov went off for hooking, but instead, Burmistrov made it 3-1 on a shorthanded set-up from Kuznetsov.
The clincher came with 8:10 remaining when Kuznetsov scored on a penalty shot.
As both teams took penalties in the dying minutes, the Swedes pulled goalie Robin Lehner on two separate occasions in a desperate comeback bid. But they couldn't generate anything on the scoreboard, even though the final shots favoured Tre Kronor 45-31. Russian netminder Igor Bobkov earned his third win of the tournament.
On Saturday, Sweden will play the Czech Republic to determine fifth and sixth place.
Switzerland – Norway 7-3 (3-1, 4-1, 0-1)
Outshooting Norway 42-26, the Swiss built an early three-goal lead and just kept going en route to a lopsided Relegation Round win. Switzerland took over possession of top spot in the group with six points, including three points carried over from Tuesday's 8-3 win over Germany.
Norway, which sits pointless, will likely be relegated to Division I, unless it gets some serious help from Germany, which plays Slovakia on Friday and Norway on Saturday. This is Norway's first year at the elite level of the IIHF World U18 championship since 2006.
The Norwegians clicked three times with the man advantage, but even though they got as close as 3-2 early in the second period, they couldn't compete with Switzerland at even strength.
Tristan Scherwey led the Swiss attack with two goals and two assists, while Benjamin Antonietti added a goal and two assists, and Gaetan Haas had three helpers. For the Norwegians, Mats Rosseli Olsen assisted on all three goals.