Dusting off a shaky start in their own zone, Team Russia would benefit from back-to-back power-play scores en route to a massive quarterfinal victory over the United States. 6’5″ manchild Nikita Zadorov would fire home two one-timed goals-both coming on five-on-three advantages-the second of the bunch proving to be the game winner.
Fellow Buffalo Sabres prospect Mikhail Grigorenko opened the game’s account, roofing a dead puck past US goaltender Jon Gillies to give the Russians an early lead. Unphased by this early setback, the Americans traded goals with their opponent, beneficiaries of goals from Stefan Matteau and Ryan Hartman. Matteau, pouncing on a deflected Brady Skjei wraparound attempt that squirted through netminder Andrei Vasilevski’s legs, outmuscled one Kirill Maslov, winning the battle in the blue paint to whack home his third goal of the tournament. Pavel Buchnevich responded with a goal of his own, similar to that of the American Matteau, swinging away at a botched save attempt. Andrei Mironov let loose a one-timer off of a face-off that was deflected by an American stick; the puck floated in on Gillies, who couldn’t corral the dying quail.
Hartman answered with yet another goal to tie, skating onto a centering feed from the active Matteau to backhand the puck past Vasilevski. The Americans would get to the Russian goalie one final time before the close of the period, as forward Nic Kerdiles knocked down a chipped Riley Barber pass before ripping a laser blocker side.
The Russian power play, however, would prove too much for the 5th ranked American penalty kill; walking the blue-line, Anton Slepyshev would assist both Zadorov tallies, sliding a pass from point-to-point to set-up bombs from the rearguard. Beating Gillies both glove and blocker side, Zadorov’s second marker of the game would prove to be the game winner. Icing the cake, Buchnevich would pot an empty-netter for his second goal of the night; playing the puck in the neutral zone, American defenseman Matt Grzelcyk caught an edge, losing his balance and coughing up the puck. The defending Buchnevich rushed forward, snagging the loose puck before firing an uncontested shot into the vacated net.
Being the nice guy he is, Pavel Buchnevich thought he’d share his excitement with his fallen American comrades, rustling their jimmies as he taunted them, both arms raised, while skating past their bench.
It didn’t exactly go over well.
The New York Rangers prospect got nailed with a ten-minute misconduct in garbage time for taunting a group of players that included fellow Rangers draft-pick Brady Skjei. That should make for some good team bonding.
Following a rough first period, Andrei Vasilevski settled in quite nicely, shutting out the Americans through the final two frames. Stopping 30 of 33 shots for a .909 save percentage, Vasilevski and friends are set for a semifinal tilt with the winner of today’s Slovakia-Sweden match-up. As the Americans are ousted from tournament play, Jon Gillies stopped 20 of 24 shots in what would prove to be his final game of the competition, saving .833% of Russian attempts faced. Russian captain Slepyshev and the US’s Connor Carrick were named Players of the Game during post-game ceremonies.
It’s ok, America. You’ve still got the Olympics to look forward to. No tears, just dreams.