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2015 IIHF World Championship: Let's play two

As teams at the 2015 IIHF World Championship move ahead to the semifinal round, the Coyotes' continue to have a strong presence on international ice. However, their most productive representative will not be moving on.

Matej Divizna/Getty Images

The Arizona Coyotes will have six players representing their respective countries in the semifinal round of the 2015 IIHF World Championship, but that doesn't come without a big hit to the Valley's contingent.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson was eliminated—along with team Sweden—in a 5-3 loss to Russia on Thursday, thus closing the book on the most productive Coyotes representative and the highest-scoring defensemen at the World Championship. OEL had 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists) in just eight games. He was just one point behind Team Canada's Jason Spezza (13) for the scoring lead.

On the bright side, there are two stellar semifinal match ups on tap for this weekend, each featuring a taste of Arizona hockey. So, with the OEL lamenting out of the way, let's look ahead to Saturday's action.

Semifinal No. 1 - United States vs. Russia

Coyotes: John Moore (USA), Connor Murphy (USA), Mark Arcobello (USA), Viktor Tikhonov (Russia)

For the first time since the 2013 edition, the United States has advanced to the semifinal round of the IIHF tournament. Also good news for the Americans is the teams that have given the U.S. the most trouble over the last few years—Finland and the Czech Republic—both played in Canada's end of the bracket, and only the host nation Czechs remain.

On Thursday, the U.S. was able to execute a bit of vengeance against its opponent. The last time the Americans played for a medal—in the 2013 IIHF World Championship—they were blanked by none other than Switzerland. The Swiss narrowly edged out Tobias Rieder and the Germans in Group A to get into the medal round, and the strong Coyotes contingent for Team USA helped them send Switzerland home to the tune of a 3-1 victory.

As for those American representatives, Arcobello recorded an assist for the second straight game at the tournament vs. the Swiss, bringing his tournament totals to 3 points.

Moore, who recorded an assist in United States' 5-4 victory over Slovakia to close out preliminary play, nearly notched another helper on a slick pass to Charlie Coyle, who missed a wide-open net on Switzerland's Reto Berra in the second period.

Murphy, however, is still looking for his first point. He can't go the whole tournament without scoring, right? Book it vs. Russia.

As for Team USA's opponent, Russia makes for an interesting match up—especially considering the teams' memorable clash at the 2012 Winter Olympics in Sochi. And although there's no T.J. Oshie for the Americans this time around, the game should still prove extremely competitive with Alex Ovechkin joining the defending champion Russians in wake of the Washington Capitals's loss to the New York Rangers in the latest round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The only Coyotes representative for Team Russia is Tikhonov, who recorded an assist in his team's 5-3 triumph over Sweden on Thursday. That brings Tikhonov's tournament points total to three.

Russia has won four gold medals at the tournament since 2008. The U.S. has medaled just three times (all bronze) since 1996, and has not taken home gold since 1960.

Semifinal No. 2 - Canada vs. Czech Republic

Coyotes: Mike Smith (Canada), Martin Erat (Czech Republic)

Canada just continues to obliterate everything in its path, with its latest triumph coming in a 9-0 shelling in the quarterfinals vs. Belarus on Thursday.

Smith went the distance and earned his first shutout of the tournament against the Belorussians, which brings his tournament stat line to 6-0-0 with a 1.83 GAA. Backup Martin Jones has played in just two games thus far, and it will be interesting to see whether Todd McLellan rolls with the hot hand that is Smith over some fresh legs in Jones for Saturday's semifinal.

The host nation Czech Republic edged 2014 silver medal-winner Finland 5-3 on Thursday, with the ageless Jaromir Jagr netting the go-ahead score in the game's last few minutes. The Czechs' lone Coyotes representative—Erat—notched an assist in the win to bring his points total to 4 (1 goal, 3 assists).

The Czechs will need all the home-ice advantage it can get, as the Canadians have been outscoring its opposition quite handily all tournament long. Canada, who is a perfect 8-0-0 thus far, has 58 goals through eight games. The next-closest is Team Russia, with 35.

Without question, the Canadians are a squad no team wants to come across, but the Czech Republic—with the benefit of a home crowd—may be the team to pull of an upset. Jakub Voracek leads the team with 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) and Ondrej Pavelec has proved himself sturdy between the pipes (1.79 GAA).

Interestingly enough, Canada has not medaled at the tournament since 2009, and has not claimed gold since 2007. The Czechs, on the other hand, have experienced more recent success—claiming bronze in 2012 and 2011 and gold in 2010 and 2005, as well as three-straight gold medals from 1999-2001.

However, Canada is still the team to beat. With six players having scored 10 or more points already (no other team had more than two, and that was Sweden), and each player on its roster hailing from the NHL, it will be a tall task to take down the Canadians.


And so, the semifinal match ups are set, and the games are slated begin tomorrow—with the U.S. and Russia getting underway at 10:15 a.m. and Canada vs. Russia beginning at 2:15 p.m Arizona time.

The Gold Medal Game is slated for Sunday at 3:45 p.m., and the Bronze Medal Game at 11:15 a.m. Arizona time.

We will continue to provides updates on how the various Coyotes players are doing, as well as how the remaining countries are performing, all the way through the medal-awarding contests on Sunday.