The United States, Canada and Finland are all one step closer to capturing the gold medal in the 2012 World Championship.
The three teams that contain members of the Carolina Hurricanes – Justin Faulk and Patrick Dwyer (USA); Cam Ward, Jeff Skinner and Kirk Muller (coach) (CAN); and Jussi Jokinen (FIN) – qualified for the quarterfinals within the Helsinki group.
To advance to the semifinals, Team USA will have to once again beat the hometown Team Finland. The American squad, which hasn’t medaled in this tournament since 2004, shut out the defending world champions 5-0 on Sunday in a commanding victory.
Faulk continued to be one of Team USA’s top players throughout the preliminary round. He scored two goals, including the game-winner in overtime, against Kazakhstan in the team’s 3-2 win. He finished the preliminary round with 7 points (4g, 3a), ranking first among Team USA defensemen and tied for third among all tournament blue-liners. His 4 goals and plus-8 rating paced Team USA and ranked tied for second among all tournament defensemen.
Dwyer wrapped up prelims with 3 points (1g, 2a) and a plus-2 rating. He scored Team USA's lone shorthanded goal and averaged 10:24 of ice time per game.
Scoring 32 goals in the preliminary round, Team USA averaged 4.57 goals per game, well surpassing expectations. The American squad saw balanced production across its four offensive lines and healthy contributions from the blue line; if this continues, the team could have a shot at medaling.
Ward started in five of Team Canada’s seven preliminary round games. Going 4-1, he recorded a 2.58 goals against average and a .915 save percentage.
Skinner saw his tournament production dip a tad from last summer. This year, he totaled 4 points (2g, 2a) and a plus-4 rating in 15:56 of average ice time per game. The now-20-year-old forward scored a goal in Canada’s 5-3 win over Finland on Friday.
Team Canada finished the preliminary round atop the Helsinki group with a 6-0-1 record. Their plus-20 goal differential paced all tournament teams.
Team Finland’s offense got off to a slow start, as the team scored just two goals in its first two games – both wins, however. They scored 19 goals in their next five games, and Jokinen was a big factor in that resurgence, especially on the power play where he’d regularly set up shop at the top of the crease. He finished third on the team in scoring with 7 points (4g, 3a), and all four goals were scored on the man advantage.
All four quarterfinal match-ups will be aired live on NBC Sports Network beginning with the Canada-Slovakia game at 6 a.m. EST. USA and Finland face off at 11:30 a.m. EST.
Saturday, May 19 will feature semifinal action. In the semifinals, the winner of the 1v4 game meets the winner of the 2v3 game in the opposite group. For example, the winner of (2) USA vs. (3) Finland will face the winner of (1) Russia vs. (4) Norway. Likewise, the winner of (1) Canada vs. (4) Slovakia will face the winner of (2) Sweden vs. (3) Czech Republic.
The annual tournament will draw to a close on Sunday with the bronze and gold medal games. The gold medal game will be aired on tape delay on the NBC Sports Network at 9 p.m. EST.
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