Russia and Slovakia played the final IIHF game of 2016 in the final group game of the U20s, beating Slovakia 2-0 to complete the round-robin stage of play.
Ilya Samsonov stopped 16 shots for the shutout.
It was a tame game which saw only five minor penalties called (three to Slovakia).
The result means that the quarter-finals include the Russians playing Denmark in Toronto at 1:00pm while Slovakia will now travel to Montreal to play Sweden at 3:30pm on the same day.
“We wanted to win and give our fans a little gift for New Year’s,” a playful Mikhail Sergachyov said. “We got a lot of pucks on net and our power play was working, but our defensive play wasn’t that good.”
Despite the fact that almost the entire first period was played in the Slovak end, the game was scoreless after 20 minutes. While the Russians were the faster and more skilled team, the underdogs did a great job of keeping them to the outside and limiting dangerous scoring chances.
Russia came close to the first goal midway through the second when captain Kirill Kaprizov fed a nice pass to Mikhail Vorobyov in full flight, but Vorobyov’s shot rang off the post.
Moments later, Marek Sloboda took an unnecessary tripping penalty deep in the Russian end, and this time the Russians made no mistake. Denis Guryanov snapped home a loose puck from a scramble in the slot at 9:06.
Slovakia had its best chance to score early in the third when the Russians incurred their first penalty of the game. Vorobyov was called for a hook deep in the Slovak end, but the ensuing man advantage was of little benefit for the Slovaks and the score remained 1-0.
The Russians doubled their lead at 9:39 off the rush. The puck ended up in the corner where Kirill Urakov made a nice pass in front to Yakov Trenin. Trenin fired a quick shot to the far side, past the outstretched blocker of Matej Tomek.
“We’re getting better every game,” Sergachyov said. “We are mostly from the KHL, so it’s taking a bit of time to get used to the smaller ice. But we’re happy where we are. But we have to be better in our own end against Denmark.”