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CRIMMITSCHAU – Thursday afternoon in Crimmitschau saw the puck drop in the first quarterfinal game between Team Russia and Team Finland. In a matchup of two offensively skilled teams, it was the Russians who came through with a 5-2 victory, thanks to three power play goals and a pair of scores from Andrei Slepyshev. The Russians will now face Sweden in the first semi-final game on Saturday.
The first period appeared to play itself close to a stalemate, with neither team getting any great scoring chances. But just when it seemed like the Russians would go into the dressing room tied 0-0, defender Andrei Pedan got the puck out of a scrum in the Finnish zone, skated to the far side and dropped the puck to Anton Ivanyuzhenkov. The Russian forward fired the puck under Finland goalie Samu Perhonen’s glove with just five seconds left in the period for the 1-0 lead.
The Russians again threatened the Finnish net early in the second period, but were denied a goal with two great saves from Perhonen. Then some confusion from the Russian bench allowed the Finns to get a power play, when Nikita Kucherov jumped on the ice after a faceoff without any teammate going to the bench. On the ensuing too many men penalty, the Finns appeared at first unable to get any good scoring chances, with a number of their passes ending up on player’s skates and not the stick.
However soon after killing the penalty the Russians obliged Finland with another power play, this time on a tripping call on Bogdan Yakimov.
With Finland again managing little offence, forward Miro Aaltonen took matters into his own hands, skating into the Russian zone, splitting the defence and firing a low shot between the legs of Russian goalie Andrei Vasilevski for the tying goal.
But the Russians, who boast the tournament’s top three goalscorers, did not sit back following the goal. With Finland on a penalty kill this time, Pedan made a pass from the point to an open Andrei Slepyshev. Slepyshev blasted the puck from the left faceoff circle, beating Perhonen and getting his team back on top less than two minutes after Finland’s goal.
Going into the third period separated by just one score and tied at 21 shots apiece, it looked as if the game would come down to which team could avoid staying out of the penalty box. Russia gave up the first power play of the period, a roughing call on Roman Konkov, and the Finns capitalized almost immediately. Finland’s top scorer Joel Armia took the puck into the Russian zone, managing to outwork two Russian defenders and skate to the back of the net. Armia fired a pass in front to teammate Miikka Salomaki, who took a shot and banged away at his own rebound for the tying score.
The goal prompted Russian head coach Yuri Rumyantsev to take out Vasilevski for a few minutes to calm down his goaltender. With Vasilevski back in, the Russians managed to draw a holding call on the Finns. With Finland on the penalty kill against the tournament’s top power play team, Nikita Kucherov posted up in front of the crease in the Finnish zone and had a rebound come right to his stick. Kucherov buried his shot and the Russians jumped back in front.
This one goal lead Russia would not relinquish. A neutral zone giveaway by Finland with just under five minutes remaining sent the Russians away on a two-on-one. Russia’s Dmitri Mikhailov calmly sent a pass through the Finnish defender to Slepyshev, who sent a forehand shot up past Perhonen’s for his second goal of the game. Team Russia later added an empty netter to seal the 5-2 victory.