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U.S., FINLAND ADVANCE TO WORLD JUNIOR SEMIFINALS

Tuesday, 01.03.2006 / 12:00 AM / Pittsburgh Penguins
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U.S., FINLAND ADVANCE TO WORLD JUNIOR SEMIFINALS

The United States and Finland moved on at the World Junior Championships in Vancouver on Monday.

The United States scored twice in the first period and held off the Czech Republic, 2-1, while defenseman Teemu Lakso’s power-play goal with 34 seconds left in overtime gave Finland a 1-0 win over Sweden. Goaltender Tuukka Rask stopped 53 shots to earn the shutout.

The Sweden-Finland battle pitted two Penguins prospects against each other. Swedish forward Johannes Salmonsson was Pittsburgh’s 2004 second-round pick (31st overall), while Finnish defenseman Tommi Leinonen was the Penguins’ 2005 fourth-round choice (125th overall). Neither skater had a point Monday night.

On Tuesday, the two victorious squads play in the tournament’s semifinal round. Finland (3-2) tangles with Canada (4-0) at 7 p.m. (EST), while the United States (3-1-1) meets Russia (4-0) at 11 p.m.

Canadian defenseman Kristopher Letang, the Penguins’ 2005 third-round pick (62nd overall) will have a chance to battle Leinonen and Finland in the first game. The nightcap features the tournament’s top two scorers in America’s Phil Kessel and Russia’s Evgeni Malkin. Kessel, who had a goal and an assist Monday night, leads the tournament with 10 points (1+9) in five games, while Malkin, Pittsburgh’s 2004 second-overall pick, has eight points (4+4) in four games.

Slovakia and Norway battle at 4 p.m. in the relegation round. Sweden and the Czech Republic will play a relegation game on Wednesday.

For complete tournament information, game reports, box scores, schedules and photos, please log on to www.hockeycanada.ca.

Statistical information, rosters and schedules also are available on the International Ice Hockey Federation website at www.iihf.com.

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