FeaturedWorld Junior Championship

Russia Edges U.S.A., Reaches Semifinals

Well, I did not see this coming. No, seriously, I did not. Swear on me mum.

 

Two days into the New Year, IIHF World Junior action in full tilt, the plucky Russian contingent picked up where it left off at last year’s tournament, sending Thatcher Demko and his American compatriots home early for the second consecutive year. Burying his third goal of the tournament, Carolina Hurricanes’ prospect Sergei Tolchinski twisted the knife into a scrappy U.S. squad, the left winger’s goal proving decisive in bolstering first period markers from Ivan Barbashyov and Alexander Sharov.

 

Coming off of a difficult 4-1 loss to the Czech Republic that stranded them as Group B’s third-seed, the Russians came flying out of the gates, taking advantage of an undisciplined American side to commence scoring in the first period. With forward Tyler Motte and University of Minnesota defenseman Ryan Collins serving time in the sin bin for hooking and high-sticking penalties respectively, Barsbashyov opened an account for the game, muscling home a loose puck in the crease to give the Russians an early lead. Vyascheslav Leshenko and Pavel Buchnevich notched assists on the broken play, with Leshenko’s deflected feed causing chaos in front of Demko’s cage. In dire penalty trouble, another minor call would prove costly for the boys in red, white and blue; nine seconds after L.A. King Hudson Fasching was released from the penalty box after serving two minutes for hooking, the Red Machine was at it again, grinding out another tally and widening the gap to a two-goal advantage. As Maxim Mamin drove down the right wing, Alexander Dergachyov cut a swathe down the slot, mishandling a puck slid to him across the ice by Mamin. Deflected off of the Russian’s stick, the saucer careened off of the skate of rearguard Brandon Carlo, sitting pretty just outside of the crease, allowing Sharov ample time to smack a backhander past a scrambling Demko.

 

Finding themselves in a two-nil hole, the Americans traded penalties with the Russians, finally pulling within one on the final Russian misstep of the frame. On a two-man advantage of their own, Team U.S.A. roared back to halve the deficit; as Yale University forward John Hayden screened netminder Igor Shestyorkin, Tampa Bay Lightning first-rounder Anthony Deangelo ripped a cannonade from the blueline, sending the puck whistling high over Shestyorkin’s blocker for his second goal of the tournament. Picking up his only point of the championship, rearguard Will Butcher scored the primary assist on the play, with wunderkind Jack Eichel netting his fourth point in five games.

 

The Americans knew they would have to dig deep to pull a win out of the contest; unfortunately, they nullified any chance of victory, as the penalty problems that plagued them all game reared their ugly head and struck a fatal blow in the form of a Sergei Tolchinski power play goal. Within a minute of starting the third period, Sonny Milano found himself booked for tripping, affording a Russian power play unit that had already solved the American penalty kill another chance to dent twine. Slipping away from a stick-checking Fasching, the diminutive forward skated his way through the left face-off circle before wristing a shot at the American net. Attempting to poke the saucer off of the shifty Russian’s stick, leading American scorer Dylan Larkin succeeded only in deflecting the puck en route to Thatcher Demko. Taking a funny hop, it flipped up and rose over the glove hand of the Boston College goalie, propelling the Russians to another two-goal lead.

 

Down, but far from out, the desperate Yankees ripped shot after shot at Igor Shestyorkin’s net, outshooting their opponents 20-5 on the frame. Only one attempt would solve the SKA St. Petersburg goalkeeper, and it was a fairly weak one at that; receiving a pass at the blueline, Michigan Wolverine Zach Werenski unleashed a wrist shot that inexplicably beat a visibly distraught Shestyorkin high to his blocker side. Auston Matthews, a product of the U.S. National U18’s, recorded the play’s lone assist. In spite of allowing the United States to pull within one, Shestyorkin held the fort, repulsing shot after American shot on the way to a 39 save performance, good for a .951 Save Percentage and a Russian berth to the semifinals.

 

Russia. Sweden. Sunday, January 4th. BE THERE. Or, you know, just watch it on T.V. Eh, why even bother with that, when you can just read it here?

 

 

 

Alex Lopez

Alex Lopez

Ridiculously injury-prone Business Administration major who tries to row, enjoys writing, digs rap, appreciates Chance The Rapper a tad bit too much, and loves the Florida Panthers. Spirit animal-Left Shark. Once set a food challenge record at some diner in High Springs, Florida. "Nice beard, dude"-Chadwick Stokes, Dispatch. Also enjoys long walks on the beach, guacamole and doing everything "for the bois".
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