U.S. edges past Hischier, Swiss for semifinal berth; will face Russia next

U.S. edges past Swiss for semifinal berth

TORONTO — Nico Hischier nearly put an end to the United States’ run at the world junior hockey championship, but it was the Americans that just prevailed over Switzerland in Monday’s quarter-final at Air Canada Centre.

Minnesota Wild prospect Jordan Greenway scored the eventual game-winner after Hischier — nicknamed the “Swiss McDavid” — brought the Swiss back from a 2-0 first period deficit with a pair of power-play goals.

Switzerland not only dug out from the early deficit, but held the U.S. to just two second period shots while outshooting them 21-17 overall.

“We’re fortunate enough to be moving on,” said American forward Jeremy Bracco, who had a goal and an assist in the win. 

Tyler Parsons added 19 saves for the U.S., which will have to go through Russia in Wednesday’s semifinal in Montreal for a shot at their first gold medal since 2013. The Americans topped the Russians 3-2 in the preliminary round and still have yet to trail at any point in the tournament.

“You know what they say, to beat a team twice in a tournament’s hard,” said Bracco, the Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick. “But we’re looking forward to that. Russia’s had the U.S.’s number in the last couple tournaments and international events so we’re hoping to avenge that.”

Russia has won a medal at each of the last six world junior tournaments, finishing with a silver in 2015 and 2016.

The Americans started quick against the Swiss, striking twice in quick succession around the midway point of the first, Bracco at the centre of both goals.

The Kitchener Rangers winger a fired a shot from just inside the right face-off circle on an American power play to give the U.S. the early 1-0 lead. He followed up on his third goal of the tournament by setting up the second marker from behind the Swiss goal, captain Luke Kunin ultimately banging home a puck that bounced around in front.

Though the Americans had the territorial advantage for the better part of the first 20 minutes, Switzerland had chances to get on the board, but the 19-year-old Parsons stopped them all in the first.

A Calgary Flames prospect and current London Knight goaltender, Parsons was making his third start of the tournament.

He made two quality stops as the Swiss pushed early in the second, the latter on a Hischier set up of Damien Riat shorthanded.

Already a star rookie in the QMJHL for the Halifax Mooseheads, Hischier got his nation on the board midway through the frame, the 17-year-old dancing around Boston Bruins first rounder Charlie McAvoy before beating Parsons with his third goal of the tournament.

It was a sleepy middle frame for the Americans, who had only two shots and one through the first 17-plus minutes. The U.S. was coming off an emotional 3-1 win over the Canadians on New Year’s Eve.

The Swiss made it tough on them every step of the way, blocking shots, hounding the puck and getting sticks in passing lanes. Their speed also posed challenges for the Americans.

Switzerland has won only one medal at the world juniors, a bronze in 1998.

They grabbed two power plays in the first six minutes of the third, Hischier tying the game at two on the latter following chants of “Let’s go Swiss” from a noisy, if still relatively small Toronto crowd. After a scramble in front of Parsons, Hischier grabbed the puck, wrapped it around the net and beat the American netminder.

It was Hischier’s second power-play goal of the night. He finished the tournament with four goals and seven points while increasing chatter about his potential as the No. 1 overall selection at next year’s NHL draft.

“I don’t really think right now about this,” said Hischier, who played almost 22 minutes. “We (just) had a tough loss.”

The Americans grabbed the lead right back 18 seconds after the Swiss tied it, Greenway, tucking a blocked point shot past Swiss goalie Joren van Pottelberghe on a power play.

Greenway finished with a goal and an assist following a three-point outing against Canada.

Hischier nearly tied the score again with his third of the game with just over four minutes left, but he was robbed by the glove of Parsons. The American goalie later turned aside a Jonas Siegenthaler point blast in the waning seconds of regulation.

Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press

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