IMATRA – Russia pushed it to a shootout and won 3-2, but Canada will get the No. 1 seed in Group A at the 2014 IIHF U18 World Championship.
Needing a regulation win to get the top seed, Russia tied the game early in the third period thanks to a great individual scoring effort by forward Ivan Nikolishin.
But on a breakout by the Canadians Jared McCann sent Matt Barzal flying down the middle to the Russian net, giving the lead back to Canada with 12 minutes remaining.
Russia couldn't have asked for a better opportunity to tie the game when Canada captain Roland McKeown was sent off for hooking with exactly two minutes left. And with 35 seconds left the Russians converted as Vladislav Komenev scored off the rebound after a point shot from Kirill Pilipenko.
Pilipenko scored the game winning goal in the shootout and no Canadians were able to score, giving Russia the win.
“It was hard, they are a really good team and we had to play our best to get the win,” said Nikolishin. “It’s a game that you may only get to play once in your life, a rivalry that goes back years between two of the best national team programs in the world, so it’s pretty nice to get a win against them.”
The extra point Russia earned gives it seven and for now the second seed overall in Group A. Canada gets the top seed in Group A and will face Switzerland or the United States on Thursday after going undefeated in the preliminary round.
“I thought we played well today, it was a good game for us, obviously it didn’t end the way we wanted to but we showed that we can do what they do,” said Canada forward Travis Konecny.
“It’s pretty easy, the guys were stoked going into the game” said Konecny when asked how easy it is to get up for a game against Russia. “It’s fun and it’s a good rivalry.”
Russia went down a man early on when Danil Vovchenko drove Brayden Point hard into the boards head-first at 7:23. Vovchenko was sent off with a 20-minute game misconduct, but Russia managed to kill off the major and the teams went into the first intermission scoreless.
The biggest question mark for the Russians going into the game had to be in net, as neither Alexander Trushkov or Maxim Tretiak has been able to cement his claim on the starting job so far in the tournament.
Tretiak got the nod for this game, but after a good first period the grandson of Vladislav Tretiak let in a soft goal early in the second as forward Travis Konecny scored with a wristshot from the left circle to Tretiak’s short side.
Curiously enough, Russian head coach Pavel Byulin went with Trushkov for the shootout, a move that ended up looking smart as no Canadians were able to find the back of the net.
“We’re just playing for each other,” said Nikolishin. “We know that if someone’s playing bad the other guys will help him, we’re just a good team in that even if we might not have many stars we are always battling and competing, and I don’t think any team will want to face us in the playoffs.”
Czech Republic – Switzerland 4-2 (0-0, 1-0, 3-2)
LAPPEENRANTA – The Czech Republic finished the preliminary round with a 4-2 victory over Switzerland. Pavel Zacha scored two goals in the third period including the game winner.
Zacha’s first goal put the Czechs up 2-0 early in the third period. Swiss forward Noah Rod gave his team a chance to equalize by cutting the lead back down to a goal a few minutes later, but Zacha replied soon after with his second goal of the game and third of the tournament.
Kevin Fiala made things interesting once more for the Swiss, scoring with just under eight minutes left in the game. But with the extra attacker out for the final two minutes Jiri Smejkal scored the empty net goal to seal the game for the Czech Republic.
Jakub Vrana continued his hot streak, scoring his fifth goal of the tournament in the second period to put the Czechs up 1-0.
The win means the Czechs have eight points in four games of the preliminary round, and will finish in either second or third place depending on the result of the USA-Finland game. With six points Switzerland holds the fourth seed but could move up if USA loses in regulation.