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World Junior Hockey: USA Drops Semifinal Heartbreaker to Russia 2-1

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After an impressive offensive showing against lesser competition, the United States couldn't keep that momentum rolling against a stronger opponent. The US was held to a single goal in a 2-1 loss to Russia, and will now play Sweden tomorrow morning for the bronze medal.

Russia dominated the early stages of the game, putting the US on its' heels and generating some early power play opportunities. But it was the US that would strike first when Sonny Milano made a beautiful rush into the offensive zone and hit Christian Dvorak in front of the Russian net for a tip-in goal, giving the US a 1-0 lead after one period.

But Russia continued their onslaught of the US net, and despite a stellar effort from goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, the Russians finally broke through late in the second period. Pavel Krashkovski jammed home a loose puck off a scramble in front of the net to tie the game, and Yegor Korshkov would score the eventual game-winner 2:48 later.

The US would generate moderate pressure in the third pressure, but Russian goalie Ilya Samsonov, who had been the back-up for Russia most of the tournament, but got the call due to his past success against the US, was solid in net, not yielding a tying goal.

The Russians advance to tomorrow's gold medal game against Finland. The US will play Sweden for the bronze at 9AM EST.

Notes and Thoughts:

-I'll do a full postmortem after the tournament concludes. But for the third straight year, the US just didn't have enough offense to get past a big, experienced, talented Russian team. It was easy to see this coming. From the day the first preliminary US roster was announced:

Leaving [Jeremy] Bracco and [Conor] Garland off the roster for [Kyle Connor, Alex Tuch, Jack Roslovic] is completely understandable. Leaving them off for these guys..

Hitchcock and Bjork fit the profile of the type of guy that seems to populate the US WJC line-up every year, but I think, or at least hope, that with so much depth available this year, the US tries to put together a line-up that can score from anywhere, rather than relying on just one or two lines and hoping the bottom two can just get to the next shift.

...is inexcusable.

Which is to say nothing of the fact that Tuch, Connor, and Roslovic weren't picked either. As roster decisions go, this ranks right up there with the US trying to outsmart everyone by picking Jim Fraser over Bobby Ryan in the 2007 tournament.

That 2007 US team also lost a 2-1 game in the semifinals(though in a shootout). Anders Bjork was on the ice for the US with under two minutes remaining, needing a game-tying goal; Kyle Connor was somewhere in Michigan.

-I'd say Ron Wilson should probably keep his mouth shut from now on, but I doubt we hear anything from Ron Wilson for a very long time anyway.

-For what it's worth, I actually could name many of Russia's players. But of course, it's my job and I actually gave a shit.

-Alex Nedeljkovic was outstanding for the US and gave them a chance to win a game they were mostly dominated in. Nedeljkovic has been really solid all tournament. It makes it all the more painful that the US squandered a best-case scenario in goal, in addition to some rare talent up front like Auston Matthews.

-Ilya Samsonov was ridiculous against the US last year at the World U-18 championships. He didn't have to have as good a performance today, but he was really good when he needed to be and ended up making the difference.

-There were a couple defensive breakdowns from the US defense on the two goals, but it's hard to fault them. This is a tournament for 17-19 year old kids. It's not fair to ask them to be perfect against a team with the size and skill of Russia. Mistakes are going to happen at this level, and you have to be able to bounce back from them. The defense played well enough to win, the US just didn't have the offense to bounce back when needed.