Shane Berschbach (Clawson, Mich./Indiana Ice/1-1--2), Jeff Costello (Milwaukee, Wis./Cedar Rapids RoughRiders/1-1--2) Nick Jensen (Rogers, Minn./Green Bay Gamblers/0-2--2) and Colten St. Clair (Gilbert, Ariz./Fargo Force/1-1--2) each tallied two points as the U.S. Junior Select Team downed Russia, 6-3, here today in the semifinals of the World Junior A Challenge at Credit Union Place. With the win, Team USA looks to defend its 2008 World Junior A Challenge title in the championship game Sunday (Nov. 8) at 4 p.m. EST. The U.S. will play the winner of tonight's semifinal matchup between Canada East and Canada West.
"We came out hard in the first period and finished the game strong," said Mark Carlson, head coach of the 2009 U.S. Junior Select Team. "We're very happy we get to play for another championship Sunday."
After John Parker (Green Brook, N.J./Indiana Ice) knocked the puck loose from a Russian defenseman along the boards, Connor Brickley (Everett, Mass./Des Moines Buccaneers) picked up the puck and cut below the right faceoff circle before firing a shot through Russian goaltender Sergey Kostenko's five hole at 11:25 of the first period. Less then five minutes later, Jensen sent a pass to Mac Bennett (Warrick, R.I./Cedar Rapids RoughRiders) at the blue, who fired a shot toward the far post that Berschbach tipped past Kostenko for a power-play marker at 15:37. At 18:54 of the opening frame, while coming down the ice on a 2-on-1 rush, Costello tipped St. Clair's pass over the netminder's left shoulder to extend the U.S. lead to 3-0.
In the second period, Nick Mattson (Chanhassen, Minn./Indiana Ice) gave the U.S. a 4-0 lead with a power-play goal at 2:56. Eamonn McDermott (Shaker Heights, Ohio/Fargo Force) was just inside the blue line at the left point when he sent a cross-ice pass to Berschbach at the faceoff dot. Berschbach then sent a pass across the goalmouth to a waiting Mattson, who sent it to the back of the net.
After being held scoreless for half of regulation, Russia scored three straight power-play goals to close the gap, 4-3. Alexey Marchenko tallied the first at 10:04 before Nail Yakupov scored at 14:00, both in the second period. Ignat Zemchenko potted his power-play marker at 1:27 of the final stanza.
Team USA responded with two goals in the third frame, including a tally from Beau Bennett (Gardena, Calif.) at 15:29. While on a 5-on-3 power play, Jensen fed Bennett at the right faceoff dot, where he snapped a shot over Kostenko's shoulder. With 11 seconds remaining in the game, St. Clair took passes from Derek DeBlois (East Greenwich, R.I./Cedar Rapids RoughRiders) and Costello at the slot and beat Kostenko over his blocker.
U.S. netminder Eric Mihalik (Avon Lake, Ohio/Des Moines Buccaneers) turned aside 13 shots in the win.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)