The Tre Kronors were going for a third consecutive meeting with Canada in the gold-medal game of the world junior hockey championship, but the United States had different plans.
The U.S. upset Sweden 5-2 to advance to the final tomorrow against Canada. Sweden was the undefeated winner of Group B in Regina last week.
The Americans beat the Canadians in the 2004 gold-medal game in Finland, and the sides have played two thrilling New Year's Eve contests over the last two years, including a 5-4 shootout victory for Canada at this tournament.
Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick Jerry D'Amigo scored two goals, and defenceman John Carlson netted the winner with less than eight minutes to play on a point shot that evaded a screened Jacob Markstrom, the Swedish goaltender. D'Amigo cemented the win with a short-handed tally three minutes later after a mistake by Swedish defenceman David Rundblad led to a rush.
Derek Stepan assisted on the goal to reclaim the tournament scoring lead from Canadian forward Jordan Eberle. Stepan has 12 points to Eberle's 11.
Mike Lee made 27 saves for the U.S., while Markstrom stopped 29 shots. A.J. Jenks scored into an empty net with less than one minute remaining, and two Swedish players simultaneously banged their sticks against the glass in frustration. Sweden had been targeting a gold medal over the last two years, having assembled two of their most talented under-20 teams ever.
The Americans struck first, just 84 seconds into the game, when Kyle Palmieri stole a puck behind the net and fed a centring pass to Tyler Johnson, one of three returning players on the U.S. squad.
Sweden pulled even early in the middle period after an Anton Rodin shot hit Lee in the mask and left him momentarily stunned. Anton Lander cleaned up the rebound, and he scored again - precisely eight minutes later - on another rebound. Through two periods, Lander, Rodin and Jakob Silfverberg formed Sweden's best line. All three forwards have been drafted by Canadian NHL teams: Lander by Edmonton, Rodin by Vancouver, and Silfverbeg by the Ottawa Senators.
The U.S. knotted the score 2-2 by the second intermission. D'Amigo beat Markstrom with a delayed slap shot.
D'Amigo was also in the centre of the action early in the third period. He was on the receiving end of a hellacious, open-ice hit by Swedish captain Marcus Johansson, who received a five-minute elbowing penalty and a game misconduct.
D'Amigo returned to the game, but the Americans were stifled by Markstrom on their extended advantage, and blew their first six power-play opportunities.
Just as Johansson's penalty was about to expire, Silfverberg burst out on a breakaway, only to be impeded by U.S. defenceman Cam Fowler, who received a two-minute penalty. Debatably, Sweden could have been awarded a penalty shot.