Canada held off the United States in a dramatic preliminary round matchup earlier in the week, but early Thursday morning they'll meet in a do-or-die semifinal at the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championship. The winner will earn the right to play either Sweden or Russia in the gold-medal game, while the loser will drop to the bronze-medal contest.
The Canadians are well-rested after earning a bye through to the semifinals thanks to their top showing in Group B play during the preliminary round. They've yet to lose in the tournament, making their way through the Americans, Russians, Germans and Slovaks in the so-called "Group of Death." They scored more goals in the prelims than any other team in the tournament -- at 21, two more than the USA's 19.
Team USA advanced to the semifinals with a convincing 7-0 win over the Czech Republic on Wednesday. They leaned heavily on special teams play, which one could argue have been their backbone so far in a tournament which has seen many a whistle from IIHF officials. After a slow start, the USA offense has really come to life in recent games, but they'll have to beat a stifling Canada defense and goaltender Malcolm Subban, a task they were not up to in the prelims.
The Americans will get defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere back in their lineup against Canada after he missed the game against the Czechs with a suspension. J.C. Lipon and Boone Jenner were not in the lineup for Canada during the first meeting between the clubs, but they'll be on the ice Thursday morning. It'll be John Gibson vs. Subban in goal.
Puck drop is at 4 a.m. ET from Ufa, Russia and can be seen live on NHL Network and NHL.com in the United States. TSN has coverage of the game in Canada, and you can follow along with the action live right here at SBNation.com.