World Championship Semifinals Preview: Canada, Latvia, USA and Germany Advance

World Championship Semifinals Preview: Canada, Latvia, USA and Germany Advance

The quarterfinals at the IIHF men’s World Championship featured a pair of stunning upsets and two powerhouse nations winning their way to the semifinals and a chance to play for a medal.

After starting the tournament with three consecutive losses, Germany is set to play for a medal after upsetting Switzerland, Group B’s top-ranked team, following the preliminary round at the World Championship.

Germany’s NHL representation in Nico Sturm and J.J. Peterka both scored in what turned out to be a 3-1 upset of Switzerland. Peterka’s second-period goal would hold up as the game-winner, while a shorthanded 2-on-1 finished by Sturm gave the Germans insurance.

“We kept playing the same way we’ve been playing the whole tournament and trusting and being confident that the team game above the individual game is going to be enough to beat any team in this tournament, and if we keep going like that, who knows what’s going to happen,” said Nico Sturm after the win.

In the other quarterfinals, Casey DeSmith backstopped Team USA to a 3-0 shutout win, although he faced only 15 shots as the Americans played solid team defense in the win. Cutter Gauthier got his team-leading seventh goal of the tournament, while Nick Perbix and Matt Coronato rounded out the scoring for the Americans. Perbix has been a pleasant surprise for the Americans leading the team in time on ice through eight games.

Jack Quinn got Canada on the board early with the lone goal of the first period against Finland. In the second, Sammy Blais helped to silence the home crowd by extending Canada’s lead, finishing off a feed from Jake Neighbours on a 2-on-1. After Michael Carcone added another for Canada, Finland got one back with their goalie pulled late, but Tyler Toffoli found the empty net to secure Canada’s 4-1 win and a ticket to the semis.

Latvia looked to continue their Cinderella run to the medal round facing Sweden. Dans Locmelis sent the home crowd in Riga into a frenzy, getting the co-host nation on the board first. Playing 4-on-4 hockey, Timothy Liljegren tied the game, ripping a wrister from the slot off a high cycle to tie the game 1-1. Heading to the third tied, Latvia fed off the energy in the crowd by scoring twice more, with goals going to Miks Indrasis and Janis Jaks. Between the pipes, Arturs Silovs held on for Latvia, who took the 3-1 win despite being outshot 41-15. Latvia will now play for a medal, the first time in the nation’s history they will have that opportunity at the World Championship.

Here are the semifinal matchup previews:

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Team USA vs. Team Germany

USA edged Germany 3-2 in their preliminary round meeting, a game in which Germany actually outshot the Americans 32-26. German forward Sturm, a member of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, believes his team doesn’t need to change a thing from their first game against the Americans. He said if bounces go their way, as they did in the quarterfinals, his team could beat Team USA.

“I don’t think we need to change anything, we played fantastic against them…stick to the game plan, I’m confident we can beat them,” Sturm said following the quarterfinal win.

Germany’s Kai Wissmann will play big minutes trying to shut down the Americans, while Sturm and Peterka will need to find ways to generate the offense. USA will look to Tynan, Gauthier and Rocco Grimaldi for the output.

Team USA enters as the only undefeated team in the tournament. USA’s only World Championship gold medal came in 1933, and the team has not appeared in a gold medal game since 1950. Germany last played for a medal in 2021, falling to the Americans in the bronze medal game.

While the USA is the favorite, don’t count out Germany’s team approach.

Team Canada vs. Team Latvia

How far can the Latvians go? From the outset of the tournament, Latvia was an underdog to make the quarterfinals, let alone win the first quarterfinal team in the country’s history. Now they’ll face Canada, and this time, unlike in their win over Sweden, they won’t have their home crowd behind them as all games are now in Finland.

Canada has not been the dominant team most expected, but it’s hard to imagine a team with as much NHL talent as Team Canada succumbing to Latvia. It would take another historic performance from Arturs Silovs, who played five games for the Vancouver Canucks this season, spending most of his year with Abbotsford in the AHL. The 6-foot-4 netminder, who is still only 22, is giving Canucks fans hope for the future. In the meantime, he’ll look to play the role of the giant-killer against Team Canada.

The forward line of Rudolfs Balcers, Rodrigo Abols and Kaspars Daugavins played more than 20 minutes in Latvia’s quarterfinal win over Sweden and will need to find more gas in the tank to put out a similar effort against Canada. They’ve paced the Latvians offensively throughout the tournament.

For Canada, MacKenzie Weegar continues to lead the team in scoring and often in ice time from the back end. The Canadians will continue to look to Carcone and Lawson Crouse for offense and Scott Laughton to play a strong two-way game as he has throughout the tournament.

This is Canada’s game to lose and Latvia’s chance at more history.

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