FeaturedWorld Junior Championship

Sharov, Russians Trounce Sweden, Advance To finals

I…I’m just…Uhh…The Matrix blew up. Or something to that effect. I got nothin’.

 

Ending Team Sweden’s perfect tournament in resounding fashion, Team Russia shelled the Småkronorna  into submission, advancing to the Gold Medal Round of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships for the first time since 2012. Powered by Alexander Sharov’s brace, the Big Red Machine exacted revenge on the Swedish for last year’s semifinal exit, pummeling Head Coach Rikard Gronborg’s boys four goals to one.

 

A scoreless first period spelled trouble for the Swedish, the eventual result foretold by a misfiring power play. The tournament-leading special teams unit failed to convert on either of two opportunities, with a golden chance brought about by a Maxim Mamin hitting-from-behind/game misconduct going unclaimed. Exchanging chances at even-strength, the Swedish attack forced quarterfinal hero Igor Shestyorkin into several sensational saves, the highlight of the bunch being a rebound-less stop on a Julius Bergman wrist shot from the slot. Equaling his Russian counterpart, Djurgarden Stockholm goalkeeper Linus Soderstrom kept up to the task in the face of unrelenting pressure, as the Russian skaters doubled the shot output of the Swedes.

 

Entering the second frame, the Russians controlled the flow of play, putting another 12 shots on net and spending 3:47 with a man advantage compared to the Swede’s :21. The scoreline underwent its first change at 11:18; after a Swedish turnover in the Russian zone, a clean breakout left Alexander Dergachyov leading a three-on-two break through the neutral zone. Skating onto a drop pass, Anatoli Golyshev gained the offensive zone before sliding the puck left to an unmarked Sharov, who coolly deposited in the upper 90, the rising puck tearing over the glove of Soderstrom. Wresting full control of the contest, the Russian power play clicked just over a minute later, punishing the hot-headed Anton Blidh for his interference penalty. Playing pitch-and-catch along the blueline, Ak Bars Kazan rearguard Ziat Paigin latched onto Rinat Valiev’s return, pounding a one-timer into the net for an emphatic finish and a two-goal edge. Vladislav Kamenev notched the hockey assist on the 6’6″ Paigin’s first goal of the championships.

 

The Swedes were clearly on the back heel, struggling to get their skates under them and mount a meaningful comeback. Effectively killing off whatever mojo the Swedes were building, the prolific Sharov applied the coup de grace, spearing any remnant of hope harbored in the Swedish locker room. A mere 1:31 into the third period, the KHL skater struck twine for his second of the game and fourth of the tournament; after Sebastian Aho lost an edge behind his own net, the puck squirted along the baseline, picked up by Maxim Mamin along the halfboards. Rifling a backhanded pass into the slot, the saucer ricocheted off of an entangled Vladimir Bryukvin, falling into the grateful possession of Sharov. Soderstrom, the 6’4″ netminder, could offer no resistance, watching helplessly as a laser of a wrister zapped by his blocker into the side netting.

 

Though the Swedes would amp up the pressure-to the tune of 14 shots-Igor Shestyorkin held his own in the Russian net, keeping their desperate assaults at bay. Clawing back a goal through Lucas Wallmark, the Swedish contingent had their work cut out for them if they hoped to even force overtime; 1:09 later, any fleeting optimism was snuffed out, with Mamin-a CSKA Moscow product-extinguishing the Swedish insurrection. With a two-on-one odd-man rush developing, Ivan Fishenko cranked a slapshot low that was dampened by the left pad of Soderstrom. The dead rebound, however, lay tantalizingly close to the Swedish crease, and a charging Mamin, beating his backchecker, slotted home, putting the game completely out of reach. Bryukvin recorded the secondary helper on the play, jamming HC Linkopings defenseman Gustav Forsling at the Russian blueline.

 

Registering a second consecutive victory in playoff contention, the semifinal triumph sets up a titillating test, pitting Valeri Bragin’s boys against a hometown Canadian squad that dominated an overmatched Slovakia 5-1 in its semifinal match-up. Slated to begin at 8:00 P.M. on Monday, January 5th, the match will take place at the Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and about as polar of an opposite to “neutral ground” as you can muster. I’m honestly just bummed that the Canadians don’t have as sick flow as the poor Swedes did.

 

And on the seventh day, God made hockey. And He grinned a toothy grin, chiclets amiss, for what He created was good, and it pleased Him so. He then bestowed an Almighty and Righteous hip check upon the Archangel Michael, dislodging the puck and allowing Moses to clear the holy halo from the defensive zone. Old Testament hockey

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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