FeaturedWorld Junior Championship

Russians Hang On Against Pesky Danes

It’s that time of year again; with the Holidays bearing down upon North America like a relentless North Korean hacking, altruism and Christmas cheer fills the air, accompanying the snowbirds fleeing the Great White North for the tropical aisles of the Caribbean/Florida. Populating the great Canadian cities of Toronto and Montreal in their stead, the best junior ice hockey players in the world have congregated under the IIHF’s banner, duking it out for the title of 2015 World Junior Champions. Friends, family, and hockey-what more could you want? Nothing. That’s what.

Photo Credit: Andrew Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Photo Credit: Andrew Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

Opening Group B action, the perennial powerhouse that is the Russian Ice Hockey Federation took the ice at the Air Canada Centre this Friday. Their target: an underground Danish squad highlighted by the electric Nikolaj Ehlers. A contest viewed by most as decidedly one-sided, the Danish Lions stormed out of the gate, taking advantage of a lethargic Team Russia and bounding ahead to a first period 2-0 lead. The brunt of the damage was dealt on the power play; following a Rinat Valiev interference call, Columbus Blue Jackets‘ third-rounder Oliver Bjorkstrand took a Mads Larsen feed from the point, and-finding a soft spot in the Russian penalty kill-unleashed a laser of a blast (too accurate for Sand People…) from the right face-off circle that ripped past the glove-hand of a helpless Ilya Sorokin. Forward Mathias Asperup picked up the secondary assist on the play. Little over two minutes later, the dynamic Ehlers -selected ninth overall by the Winnipeg Jets this past NHL draft- forced his way onto the scoresheet with another Danish power play tally. Following a near miss by the active Bjorkstrand after pretty tic-tac-toe passing play, Ehlers collected the puck along the Russian half-boards; patient on the puck, the forward walked the blue-line and, curling towards goal just outside of the slot, uncorked a cannonade that evaded a fearless Alexander Sharov en route to blowing past Sorokin glove-side high. Larsen would notch his second helper of the game, helping to extend the Danish lead while padding his own statline.

 

In spite of outshooting the Danes eight to nine, the Russians needed to quickly right the ship, lest they should sink even lower in the middle stage of the contest. Turning it up to eleven, the Red Machine peppered netminder Georg Sorensen like a machine gun, whipping an impressive 17 shots at the Herning Blue Fox product’s cage. He almost weathered the storm, too; coming within 47 seconds of escaping scot-free, San Jose Sharks prospect Nikolay Goldobin solved the Danish goalie’s riddle, popping in a special teams marker to cut the deficit in half. Spinning away from his mark along the boards, Rinat Valiev dished a pass to a wide-open Ivan Provorov. Activating from his blue-line position, the rearguard marched his way untouched to the hashmarks, lashing a hellish wrister just wide of the Danish net. Coming to the top of his crease, Sorensen-missing his initial save attempt-was stranded out of position, his desperation lunge to the near post undoing his shut out as Goldobin bounced the puck in off of the seat of the keeper’s pants.

 

Big Mo wouldn’t leave the Russian bench for the entirety of the third; with the tide of the game swinging from storm surge to full-blown tsunami, defense and offense melded into one perfect unit, shelling the Danish cage on twelve occasions while holding the opposing attack to three attempts on goal. Even with this blitzkrieg, the contest came within three minutes of ending before the even-strength equalizer was produced. Pouncing on a turnover shallow into the Russian defensive zone, a streaking Vladimir Bryukvin reeled in a puck deflected off of the skate of Alexander Sharov and cut through the left flank of the neutral zone like a warm knife through butter. Evading a lazy backcheck, the Dynamo Balashikha forward danced towards the slot, chipping the puck over the stick of the Danish right defender and putting the lunging left-sided counterpart to the ice. Skating around that failed diving poke check, Bryukvin let loose a wrist shot, a seeing-eye shot that hugged the ice, slunk below a sprawling Sorensen and ricocheted in off of the left skate of an entangled Maxim Mamin.

 

A scoreless overtime produced quality chances for both sides; for the Danes, the dynamic duo of Ehlers and Bjorkstrand combined to force Sorokin into an uncomfortable position, making a quality blocker save on a Bjorkstrand shot from the left-side barrier. Although the Danes lashed four shots at the Russian cage, the lone Russian attempt came within inches of ending the game; an exquisite individual effort by Alexander Sharov saw the Lada Togliatti forward snake through the Danish zone, slipping two defenders and wrapping around the Danish cage, only to have his shot from in close denied by a last-ditch split-save by the prolific Sorensen.

 

Entering the shootout, the Danes fielded the effective pairing of Ehlers and Bjorkstrand; the Russians opted to select Sergei Tolchinski of the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds and the aforementioned Goldobin. It was over within a matter of minutes. Leading off the proceedings, Ilya Sorokin stood tall, denying Nikolaj Ehlers and affording Tolchinski the opportunity to gift the Russians their first lead of the game. Tolchinski wouldn’t disappoint; dekeing left and right, the diminutive forward beat his Danish foe with a quick snapshot low to the blocker side. Justifying the New York Islanders‘ third-round selection, Sorokin held strong once again, repulsing Bjorkstrand’s effort and setting up Goldobin’s game-winning tally. Attempting to juke forehand to backhand, the puck rolled off of his stick, accidentally producing a better result; the rubber saucer squeezed through five-hole, sealing a Russian victory and securing an important two points.

 

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? If you’re so inclined, the Russians will do battle yet again on December 28th, aiming to tackle Mirco Mueller and the Swiss contingent, and hoping to solidify a top seed in a competitive Group B.

 

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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