(Medicine Hat, AB) Any version of a Canada versus Russia match up is sure to get the competitive juices flowing, regardless of the age group or the locale.
And when the puck drops, it’s important to play smart.
But, on this night, Team Canada Black poked the bear and the Russian power play unit made them pay the price for its transgressions. The Russians scored five goals in the first 31:48 of the contest, three of the power play variety and it’s 5-0 lead provided plenty of cushion.
When the final buzzer sounded, Russia was victorious by an 8-4 count and is now one win away from taking the ice to defend its gold medal at the World U17 Hockey Challenge.
“We made some bad decisions, we took some unnecessary penalties,” said head coach Jody Hull. “We’ve been preaching since day one, our discipline. It was ultimately probably the biggest thing that didn’t allow us to get the victory tonight.
“Being a former player myself, you have to stay detailed. You’ve got to stick to the game plan but once you get behind, you waiver a bit and then the mistakes compound.”
The Canadians were clearly the aggressors physically early on and the approach kept the Russians hemmed in until Max McCue (London; OHL) took an offensive zone slashing penalty.
Russia went right to work with the man advantage and Mikhail Berezovskiy blew a one-timer from the blueline past Ben Gaudreau (Sarnia; OHL) for a 1-0 lead at 4:45. It was the Russians first shot on goal.
The Russians began to find their legs midway through the period and the persistence paid off at 12:41. Nikita Chibrikov found a passing lane between two Team Canada Black defenders and Prokhor Poltapov drove the net to get his stick on the centering feed to make it 2-0.
Team Canada Black had a late power play opportunity but couldn’t maintain pressure in the attacking zone. The closest the Canadians came to beating goaltender Valeri Brinkman was midway through the frame when Zach Dean (Gatineau; QMJHL) rang a wrister off the goal post.
Early in the second stanza, after Landon McCallum (Sudbury; OHL) was topped on a clear-cut breakaway, Russia entered the attacking zone three-on-two. The Canadians successfully shut down the odd-man rush, but Matvei Nadvorniy chipped a weak backhander toward the net and it slipped past Gaudreau.
It was weak goal, but it gave Russia a 3-0 lead and signalled the end of the night for Gaudreau, as William Blackburn came on in relief at the 3:11 mark.
“It was a tough decision on who was going to start,” said Hull. “We went with Ben, he was with us this summer and we thought he was going to give us the opportunity to win. It just didn’t work out.
“But you know, we kind of hung him out to dry a bit because we took some unnecessary penalties and they capitalized.”
Russia struck again at 8:21 with its second power play goal of the night. Daniil Lazutin converted a nifty cross-ice pass from Poltapov to make it 4-0.
Frustration appeared to set in and Team Canada Black took another minor penalty at 11:38. Just ten seconds into the power play, Poltapov buried his second of the match and it was 5-0.
Team Canada trailed in all three of its preliminary round games and was able to come back to win each tilt in overtime. While spotting the Russians a five-goal lead produced an enormous mountain to climb, Team Canada Black took control during the last five minutes of the second period and scored twice.
A fortuitous bounce for Team Canada Black on an attacking zone entry resulted in Sean Tschigerl (Calgary; WHL) picking up a loose puck and ripping a shot high glove past Brinkman at 15:33. The Canadians converted on a late power play, working the puck deep where Zach L’Heureux (Moncton; QMJHL) sifted a cross-crease pass to Brennan Othmann (Flint; QMJHL), who made no mistake.
Russia held a 25-18 shots on goal advantage and led 5-2 after 40 minutes.
An early tally by Chibrikov, who drilled a rolling puck past Blackburn from the high slot, gave Russia an insurmountable 6-2 lead.
Team Canada Black managed a power play goal at 6:47 when Jayden Grubbe (Red Deer; WHL) drove the net and lifted a backhand shot past Brinkman.
Nadvorniy added his second at 10:59, converting a two-on-one break, then Grubbe counted his second when a shot glanced in off his skate at 14:23. With 3:41, Lazutin fired his second into an empty net to make it 8-4.
Russia (1-0-1-1) in the preliminary round, had traveled the two-and-half-hour stretch along the TransCanada Highway from Swift Current to Medicine Hat for the quarter-final contest. The team is on its way back to Speedy Creek for a semi-final tilt against the upstart Czech Republic.
Team Canada Black, 0-3-0-0 coming into the quarter final, had set up shop in Medicine Hat from the outset and went undefeated in its three games at Canalta Centre, until the untimely loss Thursday night.
“Oh, it sucks, there’s not really anything else to describe it,” said team captain Shane Wright. “It’s not how any of us individually saw this tournament going. I mean, it’s horrible., it’s the worst feeling.
“We came back in every single game, so we knew we had a chance. It just didn’t turn out for us. Credit to them. They just beat us. We weren’t good enough.”
1. RUS Berezovskiy (Svechkov, Gaidamak) 4:45 (PP). 2. RUS Poltapov (Chibrikov) 12:41 (ES)
Penalties: BLACK McCue (slashing) 3:21; RUS Nadvorniy (tripping) 16:03
3. RUS Nadvorniy (Ivantsov, Mekhovov) 3:11 (ES). 4. RUS Lazutin (Poltapov, Chibrikov) 8:21 (PP). 5. RUS Poltapov (Mintyukov, Lazutin) 11:48 (PP). 6. BLACK Tschigerl (Clarke) 15:33 (ES). 7. BLACK Othmann (L’Heureux, Wright) 18:09 (PP)
Penalties: BLACK Whynot (boarding; misconduct) 3:20; BLACK Malatesta (boarding) 7:06; BLACK McCue (roughing) 11:38; RUS Ivantsov (interference) 17:53
8. RUS Chibrikov (Mintyukov) 1:33 (ES). 9. BLACK Grubbe (L’Heureux) 8:11 (PP). 10. RUS Nadvorniy (Mekhovov) 10:59 (ES). 11. BLACK Grubbe (L’Heureux, Boutin) 14:23 (ES). 12. RUS Lazutin (Poltapov, Brinkman) 16:19 (EN)
Penalties: BLACK L’Heureux (kneeing) 5:09; RUS Ivantsov (tripping) 6:47 ; BLACK Whynot (cross checking) 17:09
Shots on Goal:
Russia: 9/16/6: 31
BLACK: 9/9/7: 25
Russia: Brinkman (60:00) 21/25.
BLACK: Gaudreau (23:11) 7/10; Blackburn (36:49) 16/20.
Russia – Poltapov
BLACK – Tschigerl
Quarter Final Results – Thursday, Nov. 7
USA 8, Finland 4
The Finns were thoroughly outclassed in the final preliminary round game and the trend continued against USA in Medicine Hat. The Americans blew the game open in the final frame, outscoring Finland 5-2 in a game that wasn’t as close as the scoreboard suggested after 40 minutes.
Chaz Lucius scored the hat trick for USA, while Sasha Pastujov tallied once and added two assists. Jack Hughes and Sean Behrens each added two points. Viljami Marjala and Samu Tuomaala picked up a goal and two assist each in a losing cause.
Czech Republic 5, Sweden 1
The Czechs picked a great time to win their first game of the tournament, eliminating Sweden from medal contention with a 5-1 drubbing in Swift Current. The Czechs opened the scoring and took a 3-1 lead to the dressing room after 20 minutes. The Swedes never recovered and have now lost two straight games after opening the tournament with two straight wins.
Ivo Sedlachek led the way with two goals for the Czechs and Martin Rysavy chipped in with two points. Fabian Lysell replied for Sweden with his fifth goal of the tournament.
Canada WHITE 3, Canada RED 2 (OT)
Chase Stillman scored the winner with 28 seconds to play in overtime as Team Canada White prevailed in Swift Current. Team Canada White remains the last hope for a Canadian medalist at the tournament.
Dylan Guenther (White) and Connor Lockhart (Red) exchanged first period goals, then Riley Kidney (White) and Dovar Tinling (Red) did the same in the third period. Richard Guillaume chipped in with two points for White, while Kyle Masters had two assists for Red.
Semi Final Games – Friday November 8
Russia vs Czech Republic at Swift Current (6:00pm)
Canada White vs USA at Medicine Hat (7:00pm)