Jordan Greenway broke a 2-2 tie with a power-play goal midway through the third period, giving the U.S. a 3-2 win over the Swiss at the Air Canada Centre.
But the story of the game was the play of American goaltender Tyler Parsons at the right moments. He stoned Swiss teen sensation Nico Hischier with a great glove save in the dying minutes.
Hischier scored both Swiss goals and was the best player on the ice along with defenceman Jonas Siegenthaler, who had 27:24 of ice time.
“You can’t give a great team like that a power play,” Siegenthaler said of the winning goal. “It’s just stupid.”
The United States now advances to the semi-finals against Russia on Wednesday in Montreal. The U.S. beat Russia, 3-2, during the round robin in Toronto.
“The crowd was in their favour, and they fed off that,” said American forward Jeremy Bracco. “But Parsons was huge in the net for us.”
“They outplayed us,” Colin White admitted, “but good teams find a way to win. Our goalie was awesome, made some big saves. But we didn’t prepare as well as we could. We’ll learn from that and be ready for Russia.”
The Swiss are headed home after advancing in impressive fashion to the quarter-finals for the second time in four years.
The U.S. has never lost to Switzerland in U20 history, a streak that now includes 21 wins and two ties. Last year, the Americans won, 10-1, chasing tonight’s goalie, Joren van Pottelberghe, from the game.
“We had a bad start, but we said we talked about putting more pucks at the net, and we did that,” Hischier said. “We always believed we could win. We had a good tournament, and we have a good group of guys. We never gave up. It hurts.”
“We had a great four games, but we kind of felt it coming,” Parsons admitted of the team’s overall poor play. “We needed some adversity. This was our worst game of the tournament, but it’s big for us moving forward.”
The Americans started with an intensity too great for the Swiss. Bracco opened the scoring on the power play. He took a nice feed from Troy Terry and beat van Pottelberghe with a quick shot at 8:32.
Just two minutes later, they doubled their lead off a play at the top of the crease. Greenaway found captain Luke Kunin in close, and Kunin got just enough of his stick on the puck to push it over the line.
The Swiss had a great passing play to create a superb scoring chance for Raphael Prassl, but the puck was rolling and he couldn’t get a good shot on the open side of the goal.
Van Pottelberghe made a couple of good saves late in the period to keep it a 2-0 game, and that counted for something when Nico Hischier made it 2-1 just 13 seconds into a power play.
Hischier, a top prospect for 2017, made a great deke on Charlie McAvoy to move in on goal and then beat Parsons with a shot to the far side at 10:47.
Indeed, the Swiss played a much better period and allowed only two shots by the U.S., taking seven of their own and playing on equal footing for the middle 20 minutes.
The Swiss continued their fine play in the third, drawing two penalties early and tying the game, 2-2, on the second one. In a mad scramble around Parsons’s goal, Hischier pulled the puck free and executed a quick wraparound at 6:00, stunning the Americans but exciting the pro-Swiss crowd.
“Somehow the puck came to me,” Hischier described, “so I tried to lift it at the near post, and that didn’t work. I saw an opportunity for a wraparound, and it worked, so that was great.”
The celebration didn’t last long. Moments later the Swiss were down a man, and the U.S. regained its lead. McAvoy’s point shot dropped in front and Greenway knocked it in to make it 3-2.
Late in the period, Hischier had a great chance to tie the game again but Parsons snapped his glove out and denied the Swiss star. “He was there with his glove. It was a good save, but I should have shot higher as well,” Hischier said.
“I have to make those big saves when the team needs it,” Parsons said. “That’s what I focus on. There was a deflection, and I followed the puck back over. I know the good players like to get the puck high, so I tried to get my glove and leg up, and fortunately I got a glove on it.”
And with that save, the Americans are off to a semi-finals date with Russia, their medal hopes still alive and kicking.