Defending Champs Russia 3-0 After Beating Belarus 5-1
The Russians improved to 3-0 with a 5-1 win over Belarus in Group A action on Sunday night in Sydney. With the loss, Belarus drops to 0-3 and will face the U.S. in the team’s last game of the preliminary round tomorrow.
Scoring for the Russians were Alexei Kaigorodov, Alexander Perezhogin, Igor Grigorenko, Andrei Taratukhin, and Alexander Polushin. Andrei Kastsitsyn replied for Belarus.
"We were prepared for the game tonight. We wanted to be ready after playing two days in a row," stated Perezhogin, who took home player of the game honours for Russia. "We feel good so far and it’s only the beginning of the tournament."
Smooth-skating Russian forward Alexei Kaigorodov opened the scoring 2:04 into the game after taking a pass at his own blueline from highly-ranked prospect for this year’s NHL Entry Draft, Nikolai Zherdev, skated up the ice and beat two Belarus defencemen. He had Belarus goalie Dzmitry Kamovich moving from left to right before firing a wrist shot past Kamovich’s glove and into the net.
Russia padded their lead to 2-0 at 7:52 when Alexander Perezhogin was left all alone in front of the net. Andrei Taratukhin slid the puck over to the Montreal Canadiens draft choice, who beat Kamovich with a one-timer to the five hole.
Belarus were not without its chances during the first period as Russian goalie Konstantin Barulin was forced to make some big saves to keep his team in the game. He made an important glove save while lying on the ice, and then made a nice sliding pad save off a deflection in front while Belarus was enjoying a man advantage late in the period. Belarus also had a golden opportunity when Pavel Kutsevich picked off a pass at the Russian blueline and skated in all alone on Barulin. Kutsevich deked to the backhand and had Barulin beat, but he put his backhander over the net.
The second period opened up quickly as Belarus cut the lead in half just 13 seconds into the period on a goal by crafty forward Andrei Kastsitsyn. Kastsitsyn received the player of the game for Belarus. "One of our best games was today. We played very hard. Our coach (Uladimir Melenchuk) told us to play more defense tonight and play hard," stated Kastsitsyn afterward.
However, the Russians’ two-goal lead was restored just 1:17 later on a goal by Grigorenko. Taratukhin increased the lead to three at 12:46 off a beautiful feed from Kirill Koltsov. Koltsov made Kamovich commit to him and slid the puck across to Taratukhin who put the puck into the open cage.
Kamovich kept his team in the game with some huge saves in the second period stopping 21 shots in the period and 40 overall. Some of the highlight saves included a nice glove save off a Koltsov one-timer while Russia was enjoying a man advantage. He then made another big glove save when two Russian players were left alone in front on another power play.
Alexander Polushin rounded out the Russian scoring at 5:50 of the third.
Kamovich made some more big saves in the third to keep it close for his team. One save was on Grigorenko who was looking for his second of the game when left all alone at the side of the net. Grigorenko waited for Kamovich to go down and tried to lift the puck over the fallen netminder who stuck his glove up to stop the puck.
Belarus will face the U.S. in a 2pm AT start in Sydney on Monday. Russia has the day off tomorrow before facing Switzerland on Tuesday when it will look to secure first place in Group A.
Russia looking to improve to 3-0
The defending champions of the World Junior Championship will take on Belarus in action at Centre 200 in Sydney in the only Group A game on Sunday.
The Russians enter the game leading the standings in their group with a perfect 2-0 record after defeating Slovakia 4-0 on Saturday and the USA 5-1 on Thursday. Meanwhile, Belarus will be looking for its first win of the tournament after being pounded 11-1 by Slovakia on Friday night and losing 4-2 to Switzerland on Thursday. Belarus did not play yesterday so the team should be well rested for the tough contest against a very strong Russian squad.
The neighbouring countries were both formerly of the USSR but became independent upon the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, Belarus has played in only four World Junior Championships, but the tiny nation is steadily improving its hockey program.
The Belarus team will have to be aware of Russia’s top line of Alexander Ovechkin, Yuri Trubachev, and Alexander Polushin. The trio have combined for 11 points in the team’s first two games. Trubachev is tied for the overall scoring lead with Canadian defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo of Canada with five points. Ovechkin, who is not eligible for the NHL entry draft until 2004, scored a hat trick in the team’s first game against Team USA.
Alexander Perezhogin, who has a goal and an assist for Russia, said, “It doesn’t matter who we are going to play. We are always going to be prepared for the game because it’s a tournament and we are going to do our best.”
Russia should handle the Belarus team fairly easily and if it wins would move one step closer to getting a bye in the first game of the elimination round. The top three teams from each group make it to the elimination round with the first place team in each group receiving a game off.
“It’s a goal of ours to get in the top three,” stated Perezhogin, a Montreal Canadiens first round draft choice in 2001. “We’re just going to do our best and try hard.”
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André Brin Director, Communications | Directeur, communications