On to the next one.
With a number-one seed in the elimination round at stake, Team Russia took it to Slovakia, handily winning their final game of the group stages by a score of two to one.
Outshooting their Slovakian counterparts 27-21, the Russian offense populated the highlight reel, forcing goaltender Adam Huska to make sensational saves on some occasions, rattling iron on others.
Team Russia opened the scoring 15:29 into the tilt: Pinching in from his usual spot along the blueline, rearguard Ivan Provorov shielded the puck along the halfboards, sliding a pass up to fellow defenseman Alexander Mikulovich. Given a sizeable cushion by his mark, Mikulovich held on to the puck before wristing a shot on net through traffic. Huska made the initial save, coughing up a rebound that died mere feet from his crease. Lost in a thicket of legs, Avangard Omsk winger Artur Lauta twice swiped at the puck, his second attempt lifting the saucer over the outstretched stick of Huska and into the upper left corner of the net.
Nursing a one goal lead, the Russians poured it on during the second, throwing 15 shots on net to the Slovakians’ six. With Slovakia on the back foot, it wasn’t long before the Russian attack once again solved the besieged Huska: Grinding for possession in the corner, forward Yegor Korshkov spun free of his mark and whipped a pass into the slot. Given just enough space to operate, assistant captain Pavel Kraskovski hauled in the puck, quickly shifting to his backhand and forcing Huska to make yet another close range save. Lost between Huska’s pads, the puck idled in the blue paint as desperate defensemen took whacks to clear. Pandemonium ensued, and with the netminder out of the play, the puck trickled back through to the high slot, where a waiting Yegor Rykov collected and fired home a wrist shot through a throng of bodies piled in front of net.
The Slovaks, however, refused to go quietly: Kept in the game by Huska and his posts, the Slovakian contingent halved the Russian lead with 4:10 to go in the second. Skating four against four–Russian Andrei Svetlakov and Slovak Ladislav Romancik were serving matching interference minors–pivot Matus Sukel cleanly won a faceoff back to defenseman Christian Jaros, who blasted a slapshot past the glove of goalie Alexander Georgiev.
In the end, Slovakia failed to take advantage of an undisciplined Russian side, committing two minors of their own in the game’s final frame. Unable to pull their goalie with Adrian Sloboda serving a tripping penalty, Slovakia conceded defeat, dropping their third of the group stage.
As for Russia, a first-place seed brings with it the reward of facing fourth-seeded Denmark in the quarterfinal round, a match-up that all but guarantees a semifinal appearance. Should they avoid the upset on January 2, Russia will face either the United States or the Czech Republic in the round of four.