For the first time in three years, the US is guaranteed to at least play for a medal at the World Junior Hockey Championship. But what color they play for will be determined by if they can do something else they have failed to do in each of the last two World Juniors: beat the Russians.
In each of the past two seasons, Russia eliminated the US in the quarterfinals. This year, the Americans had a strong group stage and cruised past the Czech Republic to get in to the semifinals. But once again, it's the Russians who await them in the semis.
You'll forgive US fans for feeling good; the Americans have looked completely at ease in each of their last three games, whereas Russia had to put on a gigantic third period surge just to get past the upstart Danes in the quarterfinals. But the US team certainly won't take Russia lightly; they're notorious for turning it off and on in international competition and it's hard to see them not having the switch firmly in the "on" position against the Americans.
Auston Matthews, Matt Tkachuk and BC's Colin White have formed a formidable first line for the US, with Matthews in particular making a strong case for being the tournament's most valuable player so far. Can they keep it going today against Russia?
USA vs. Russia
World Junior Hockey Championship Semifinals
Game Time: 8:00 PM Helsinki time, 1:00 PM Eastern Time
Venue: Hartwall Arena, Helsinki, Finland
TV Info: NHL Network (US), TSN (Canada)
Twitter Updates: @USAHockeyScores
9 AM ET (4 PM Helsinki): Finland vs. Sweden, NHL Network
USA Today: Why NHL fans should be watching the US's quest for Gold