Ovechkin Leads Russia To Crushing Win Over USATeam Russia skated to a decisive 5-1 win over Team USA tonight in World Junior action in Sydney in a penalty-filled contest.
The 17-year-old Alexander Ovechkin lived up to his high expectations by scoring three goals in his first World Junior Championship contest and earned player of the game honors for the Russian team.
"I didn’t think about scoring three goals--I thought about winning the game," said Ovechkin in a post-game press conference. "I wanted to help our team play well and win the hockey game."
With Russia leading 2-0 heading into the second period on Ovechkin’s first two goals, the Americans cut the lead in half with a goal by Patrick O’Sullivan. Kirill Koltsov then scored a short-handed marker at 7:17 to give the Russians a two-goal cushion again. Ovechkin then finished his hat-trick and put the Russians up by three at 9:14 of the period.
Yuri Trubachev rounded out the Russians’ scoring at 7:06 of the third. Russian netminder Andrei Medvedev turned aside 15 of the just 16 shots he faced while his counterpart James Howard was pulled midway through the second after the Russians’ fourth goal. He was replaced by Robert Goepfert.
When asked about his team’s performance, O’Sullivan said, "We were beaten tonight by a better team. It was their night tonight. It was just one game though and it was our first game so it’s really not a big deal. We just have to win these next few games to make it to the crossover round where it really counts."
Each team took its share of penalties, the U.S. finishing with 32 minutes while Russia had 20. But it was the Russians who took advantage of their odd-man situations by scoring one power-play goal and one short-handed marker.
When asked about his team’s penalty trouble, O’Sullivan said, "As a team we’ve got to play smarter, myself included. The coaching staff tried to get it across to us that taking a penalty is okay as long as it’s a good one. Obviously, if we want to win games, we’ve got to stay out of the box."
Team USA coach Lou Vairo did not take the loss too harshly realizing the team has three round-robin games ahead of them. "I think we are a much better team than we showed tonight. I don’t think we played like we are capable of playing. But it is understandable because the other team made us play poorly. It was a good test for us and we realize that it’s a long championship, not just one game."
When asked about his team’s play, Russian coach Rafail Ishmatov said, "I think we played very well and very physical. It was a good game tonight. We came prepared to play."
One of Team USA’s top defensemen, Tim Gleason, will be out with a broken bone in his foot he sustained after blocking a Russian shot for the remainder of the tournament.
Ryan Joe MacKenzie
Defending Champs Hoping To Repeat Last Year’s Performance
Russia takes on USA on opening day of the 2003 World Junior Championship
After winning 21 medals since 1977, 11 of them gold, it is no surprise that Russia is again favored to contend for the gold in this year’s World Junior Championship. Although the team will be without such stars as Ilya Kovalchuk, who is excelling at the NHL level with the Atlanta Thrashers, and Stanislav Chistov, who is playing with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Russia has put together a team that is strong nonetheless.
With strong defense and speedy young forwards, Russia is going to make its presence known in Sydney at the 2003 IIHF World U20 Championship. Seveteen-year-old Alexander Ovechkin, who won’t be eligible for the NHL draft until 2004, is a power forward for the Russians and will keep opposing players’ heads up with his intense physical play and hard bodychecks. At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Ovechkin is Russia’s youngest player and will be a key in the team’s run at gold this year.
NHL Draft prospect Nikolai Zherdov, with dazzling individual skills, is expected to produce plenty of offence for the defending champs. Andrei Medvedev, manning the net for team Russia, will be no slouch after winning last year’s tournament.
Although Russia is highly favored, the United States may be its most difficult game in round robin play. The United States’ top scorer of the 2002 World Junior Championship, Chris Higgins, will be returning this year and hopes to better his performance. Team USA will also have high expectations from draft hopefuls Dustin Brown, possibly the best prospect in the CHL, and Patrick O’Sullivan, who led the OHL in points for a rookie last season.
One other key to the U.S. team is right winger Eric Nystrom, son of former NHLer Bobby Nystrom, who is known to do very well under pressure.
If the Americans can get good goaltending from Dwight Labrosse and James Howard they could provide Russia with more of a game than the gold medallists had counted on.
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André Brin Director, Communications | Directeur, communications