Steve Mason didn't need to raise his trade value Friday, so the former London Knights goalie stuck to proving his worth to Canada at the world junior hockey championship.
Dealt to the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers earlier in the day, Mason rebounded from a shaky quarter-final start with a 33-save performance in Canada's 4-1 semifinal win over the United States in Pardubice, Czech Republic.
"It was sweet," Canadian forward Colton Gillies said. "That was our best one so far.
"We haven't accomplished anything though so we're trying not to
show our emotions too much."
Canada will meet Sweden in Saturday's final (2 p.m. ET) and is looking for its fourth gold medal in a row in its seventh consecutive appearance in the championship contest.
The Swedes, who handed Canada its only loss in the preliminary round, will play for gold for the first time in 12 years after defeating Russia 2-1 in overtime earlier Friday.
The Canadians played their best game of the tournament so far Friday as they passed the puck crisply and attacked the U.S. zone with authority.
Mason, who allowed a pair of ugly goals in his team's 4-2 quarter-final victory over Finland on Wednesday, was focused from the outset versus the Americans.
His shutout bid was alive until 13:26 of the third period, when tournament scoring leader and Philadelphia Flyers draft pick James vanRiemsdyk collected his fifth goal and 11th point of the tourney off a goalmouth scramble.
VanRiemsdyk and linemates Colin Wilson and Jordan Schroeder sat 1-2-3 in the scoring race after the preliminary round but were rendered practically non-existent by Mason and company.
Despite calls from some observers to give Los Angeles Kings prospect Jonathan Bernier another start, Canadian coach Craig Hartsburg stuck with Mason and the Oakville, Ont., native made him look like a genius.
"Through the media and whatnot, everybody kind of questioned
Coach Hartsburg's decision to start me and that gave me
motivation to prove Coach Hartsburg right," Mason said. "I was a
little disappointed to see what people were saying, but at the same
time I used it in my game today and hopefully I proved a lot of
Mason will get his shot at the Swedes, who beat Bernier four times in a 4-3 triumph on New Year's Eve that helped them earn a bye to the semifinals.
The victory also snapped a streak of 20 consecutive victories for Canada at the world juniors, dating back to early 2004.
Bronze medal game goes Saturday morning
Sweden outplayed Canada over the final 40 minutes, overcoming a two-goal deficit in the third period. Tobias Forsberg scored the winner with seven seconds left in regulation.
Alzner fired Friday's decisive goal — the captain's first of the tournament — against the Americans midway through the second period on a power play after Shawn Matthias broke a scoreless contest earlier in the frame.
Matthias found the net at 2:46 on a give-and-go with winger Matt Halischuk. Behind the goalline Matthias tapped the puck over to Halischuk and drove the
front of the net to collect Halischuk's backhand pass and beat netminder Jeremy Smith.
Gillies put the game out of reach at 7:04 of the third with his first goal, ripping a shot along the ice and under Smith's right pad.
Brad Marchand, who scored the winning goal against Finland, rounded out the scoring for Canada on Friday and added an assist.
Canada is 6-1 all-time against the U.S. in playoff games at the world juniors. Last year, Jonathan Toews scored the shootout winner to cap a 2-1 decision against the Americans in the semis.
Russia and the U.S. will tangle in Saturday's bronze-medal game at 10 a.m. ET.