Russia 5 - United States 1
RUSSIA HAMMERS USA, ADVANCES TO FINAL VERSUS CANADA
By John Kurucz | Box Score
It’s time to revive a classic rivalry. Russia earned a date with Canada in the gold medal final with a decisive 5-1 victory over the Americans at GM Place January 3.
Led by two goals from Nikolai Kulemin and two assists from Evgeni Malkin, the Russians dominated the pace of play throughout the game. Kulemin’s second goal of the game 1:42 into the second period proved to be the winner.
Now the focus shifts to Russia versus Canada in a winner-takes-all scenario. This will be the fifth time since 1999 that the two hockey superpowers have met in the finals.
“What can I say?” said Malkin. “They’re a good team, they’ll be playing in front of a home crowd and they have the same goal as we do, so it will be an interesting game and hopefully it won’t be the same result as last year.”
Sergei Shirokov and Nikolai Lemtyugov also had a goal and an assist for Russia. Jack Skille had the lone marker for the USA.
Goalie Anton Khudobin stopped 33 of 34 shots for Russia, while Cory Schneider made 24 saves on 29 shots for the Americans.
“We were very successful tonight,” said Malkin. “The important thing in our game today was that our penalty killing was good. We were shorthanded for a long time and we capitalized on our power play.”
“I was certainly disappointed in the result of the game,” said USA Head Coach Walt Kyle. “I give the Russians a lot of credit. They’re an excellent group of athletes. They’re well-coached and certainly a difficult opponent to play.”
“I would tell [Canadian fans] that if there’s any tickets left, buy them,” Kyle added about the gold medal game. “It’s two very good teams, and my tickets are for sale. The Russian team is very dynamic and the Canadian team is very physical.”
The USA will now play the Finns for bronze on January 5.
In this game, the two teams looked apprehensive at the start, but once the Russians found their legs, they dictated the majority of play.
Russia’s top line of Malkin, Kulemin and Ilia Zubov made good on a 3-on-2 opportunity at 12:32. Zubov’s initial shot from the top of the circle was stopped by Schneider, but the American goalie couldn’t contain the rebound, and Kulemin batted in the loose puck to give the Russians a 1-0 lead.
Kiril Lyamin checked in with the game’s first solid open-ice hit, as the Russian defender rocked Nathan Davis as he took a clearing pass at the USA blueline.
The Russians came out with even more jump in the second, pinning the Americans in their zone with sustained pressure that lasted until the period was three minutes old.
It wasn’t until the eight-minute mark that the Americans responded with any dangerous pressure of their own, as a delayed penalty call to Andrei Zubarev saw Team USA with six players on the ice for nearly 30 seconds.
Once on the power play, Team USA’s best chance came when Robbie Schremp fed a beautiful cross-ice pass to Erik Johnson, but the defender’s slapshot from the point sailed wide to the left side of the net.
The Russians ran into penalty problems, receiving two consecutive infractions with just under four minutes to play.
At 15:52 Sergei Ogorodnikov was sent off for holding, and Malkin followed suit with a four-minute double minor for high sticking Jack Johnson at 17:13.
But again, the Americans failed to generate significant scoring chances on the power play. A Phil Kessel wrist shot from the left face-off dot was Team USA’s best chance on the extended power play, but Khudobin turned it away with ease.
Thirty seconds later the Russians countered on a dangerous looking 2-on-1 rush, but Alexander Radulov’s nifty backhand-forehand move was broken up nicely by Erik Johnson.
The third period started off at a torrid pace, as the two teams exchanged three goals before the four-minute mark.
Kulemin’s second goal of the contest opened up the third period scoring at 1:42. His gorgeous end-to-end rush saw him drive wide to the right side of the American defence, before cutting back in at the top of the crease to roof a quick wrist shot over Schneider’s glove.
The Americans answered right back at 2:34 with a deft display of hand-eye coordination from Jack Skille. Jack Johnson started the play off with a quick shot that Khudobin appeared to contain, but Skille followed the play and batted the rebound out of mid-air to make the score 2-1.
But at 3:13 Malkin struck again. After crossing the American blueline, the Russian centre found himself flanked by two American players near the left boards. Malkin feathered a perfect pass to a wide open Alexei Emelin, who slid a quick wrister through Schneider’s legs to make it 3-1 Russia.
Team Russia padded its lead at 13:01, a goal that seemed to deflate the spirits of their American counterparts.
After taking a Nikolai Lemtyugov feed at the top of the left faceoff circle, Sergei Shirokov buried a high slapshot over Schneider’s left shoulder to make the score 4-1.
Just over two minutes later, the tandem of Shirokov and Lemtyugov teamed up for Russia’s fifth goal at 15:15. Shirokov broke down left wing and threaded a nifty centering pass to Lemtyugov, who buried his quick shot through the five-hole.
From there, the play quickly degenerated, with players from both teams taking runs at one another.
As a result, Russian Head Coach Sergei Mikhalev called a time-out with 1:50 remaining, as if to caution his players to not engage in any extracurricular nonsense.
But it didn’t help. Seven seconds later, a pile up on Khudobin saw every player on the ice pair up, but no gloves were dropped.
It took the referees about 10 minutes to sort out the penalties that resulted from the late period mix-up, but the Americans couldn’t capitalize on the 4-on-3 advantage.
The sold-out crowd vocally favoured the Russians, and Jack Johnson was booed every time he touched the puck due to his New Year’s Eve elbow on Canada’s Steve Downie.
“I want to say thank you to the Canadian crowd,” said Alexander Radulov. “It’s incredible to have 18,000 people cheering Russian goals.”
Not surprisingly, there was still some lingering bad blood after the game.
“Well, they’ve never really been good sportsmen,” said USA sniper Robbie Schremp of the Russians. “We saw that last year in North Dakota, and you know, it’s not a big surprise, whatever, that’s just the way they act, that’s the way they are. We didn’t expect any different.”
Nathan Davis was awarded the Player of the Game for Team USA, while Nikolai Kulemin took home the honours for the Russians.
PREVIEW: RUSSIA - USA
By Jenny Wiedeke
Russia: The Russians always seem to carry a certain aura of mystery in international hockey. Among the semi-finalists in the 2006 IIHF World Junior Championship, three of the teams came from Group A, while the Russians were based in Kamloops and Kelowna in Group B. So while they’ve obviously been scouted, they still have the potential to catch their opponents off guard. But there are a few things you can count on from Russia. First, keep in mind that this is a highly experienced team. Russia features no less than eight returnees from last year’s silver medal team, and their stars are living up to their pre-tournament hype. Forward Evgeni Malkin, who was also named to Russia’s 2006 Olympic team, leads the team with four goals and four assists. Other strong performers thus far include QMJHL sniper Alexander Radulov with four points and defenceman Alexei Emelin with five assists and a goal. In fact, the Russian blueliners are quite the offensive group, having generated 15 assists in total. Goalie Anton Khudobin of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades has started three out of Russia’s four games and has surrendered only five goals. Emotionally, this Russian team will be on a mission to avenge its defeat in last year’s finals. Russia had a young team in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and many players still feel the sting of just falling short there. Last year, Russia hammered the States 7-2 in the semi-finals, and while the margin of victory will likely be narrower for this year’s victor, the Americans simply can’t afford to let their explosive opponents get off to a fast start.
USA: The pre-tournament favourites are starting to live up to their billing. After a bumpy ride through the Round Robin, the Americans looked like real contenders in yesterday’s 2-1 win against the Czech Republic. Packing the biggest punch for the Americans were the two goal-scorers, Chris Bourque and Phil Kessel. Bourque has seven tallies thus far, although to keep things in perspective, five of those came against the hopelessly outmatched Norwegians. It was a big relief for the USA to finally see Phil Kessel score a goal. It wasn’t that the University of Minnesota centre wasn’t producing points: in fact, he leads the tournament scoring derby with one goal and nine assists entering tonight’s action. But getting his first goal could really open up the Kessel scoring floodgates, so to speak. Cory Schneider was named the USA’s Player of the Game versus the Czechs, and helped silence the lingering questions about the shaky American goaltending in the early stages. But now there’s another question: will the Americans have enough energy left after that tough quarter-final to give the well-rested Russians a run for their money? Of course, when Russia and the U.S. meet, pure adrenaline generally prevails, but two days’ rest is still an enormous advantage for the Russians. Yet keep in mind that, much like the Russians who have the bitterness of last year’s silver medal in their heads, many American players will also have revenge on their minds. Two years ago at the U18 World Championship, most of these guys clashed in the gold medal game, and the Russians came away with the gold medal. The Russians will likely (and somewhat oddly) also enjoy some form of home-ice advantage in this matchup, as the Canadian fans have taken great joy in booing the Americans at every opportunity. But here, the Canadian hostility could backfire on the fans and the Russians. Against the Czechs, for instance, defenceman Jack Johnson (villain du jour for his elbow on Canada’s Steve Downie) seemed to thrive and gain motivation from the negative atmosphere. This could turn out to be the fastest-paced game of the tournament.
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André Brin Director, Communications | Directeur, communications