The United States managed to navigate its way through a helter-skelter quarterfinal stage of the 2019 World Juniors that saw traditional powers Sweden and the hosts Canada upset far earlier than expected.
But a 3-1 victory over the Czech Republic to move the Americans into a third-straight semifinal does not ensure that it's a cakewalk to the gold-medal game. In fact, the most impressive side of the World Juniors stands in the United States' way in unbeaten Russia.
The Russians have won all five of their games at the 2019 World Juniors, including a 2-1 win in the preliminary round over Canada before cruising to an 8-3 victory over Slovakia in the quarterfinals.
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Their calling card has been their defense as they've allowed just nine goals in five games. Montreal Canadiens prospect Alexander Romanov, currently playing for CSKA Moscow, has paced the blue line with a team-leading seven points (1 G, 6 A) and a plus-nine rating. Three of Russia's defensemen are in the team's top-10 in points recorded at the tournament.
A stout defense has made goalie Pyotr Kochetkov somewhat easier, but he's been one of the best goalies in British Columbia over the past two weeks. In three games, he's posted a sterling .965 save percentage, saving 82 of 85 shots thrown his way.
It will provide a stout test for the Americans, who are averaging 3.5 goals per game at the 2019 World Juniors.
There will be a reliance on Ryan Poehling, who leads the US with five goals and three assists at the tournament. His efforts were crucial for the Americans while star center Jack Hughes missed two preliminary-round games. Hughes, who is expected to be the No. 1 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft, has been limited to just two assists in three games.
Here is how you can watch all the action on Friday evening from Vancouver.
USA vs. Russia viewing information: 2019 World Juniors
Date: Friday, Jan. 4
Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV: NHL Network (USA), TSN (Canada)
Free Live Stream: Reddit