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World Junior Semifinal Open Thread: USA vs. Russia and Canada vs. Sweden

Homestretch time.

Canada v Czech Republic - Quarterfinal -  2017 IIHF World Junior Championship
This guy.
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The IIHF World Junior Championship semifinals are today with four heavy hitters looking for a spot in Friday’s gold medal game.

First, at 3 pm, it’s Team USA versus Team Russia, with the undefeated Americans barely making it past Switzerland in the quarterfinals. To get into the final, Team USA is going to have to get past all world goalie Ilya Samsonov, a first round pick of the Capitals from a couple of years ago.

Islanders pick Kieffer Bellows has yet to score in the tournament, netting one assist in five games.

In the later game at 7 pm, Canada faces Sweden in a battle of heavy favorites too take the gold. For some reason, Canadian coach Dominique Ducharme decided to tweak the Swedes’ ability to win the big one, handing out a little extra motivation to an opponent you might not want to piss off.

“They showed in the last 10 years that they’re really good in the first round, but they have ways to lose when things get tougher,” Ducharme said. “And we want to make it tough on them.

“We’ll see how they react to pressure.”

Bold strategy, coach.

Mathew Barzal has seven points (three goals, four assists) in five games and is among Canada’s leaders in ice time. They’re going to need another stellar showing from him to get past the high-scoring Swedes.

Both games can be seen on NHL Network and TSN. I think. Good luck.