POWER PLAY LEADS U.S. PAST RUSSIA, INTO WJAC GOLD MEDAL GAME
JASON LA ROSE
BONNYVILLE, Alta. – Zach Solow, Chris Berger and Brannon McManus all scored power-play goals, helping the United States to a 4-2 semifinal win over Russia on Thursday and a spot in the gold medal game at the 2016 World Junior A Challenge.
The U.S. is into the final for the seventh time in its 10 appearances at the tournament; it has never lost when playing for gold, claiming titles in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
The Americans will face either the Czech Republic or Canada East on Saturday night (5 p.m. MT).
After a pair of early Russian power plays failed to produce a goal, the U.S. struck on its first chance; Solow picked up the puck on the half-boards, walked to the face-off dot and hammered a slap shot short-side on Russian goaltender Dimitrii Raiko.
Berger doubled the lead with 22 seconds left in the opening frame, parking himself at the top of the crease and cleaning up the rebound of a shot from Collin Adams.
The American defence went to work in the second, holding Russia without a shot on goal for more than half the period. In all, the U.S. held a 35-25 advantage in shots on goal, including 26-15 through 40 minutes.
McManus made it 3-0 on another U.S. power play at the 16-minute mark of the middle stanza, finishing off a tic-tac-toe passing play between himself, Nick Swaney and Blake Lizotte, sending the Americans to the intermission in control.
Jake Ryczek added a fourth U.S. goal early in the third period, beating Raiko from the blue-line.
That would be the last shot the Russian goaltender faced; he was replaced by Daniil Iakovlev after allowing four goals on 32 shots through just under 47 minutes of work.
The Russians scored a pair of goals in the final 10 minutes, both off the stick of Andrei Svechnikov – giving the 16-year-old the tournament lead in goals (five) and points (eight) – but that would be it for scoring.
Russia will play for the bronze medal for the fifth time, facing the loser of the Czech Republic-Canada East semifinal on Friday night (7:30 p.m. MT) in the third-place game.