RUSSIANS EDGE U.S., CLAIM TOP SPOT IN WJAC PRELIMS
JASON LA ROSE
BONNYVILLE, Alta. – Ivan Rogov scored the game-winning goal into an empty net with 55 seconds remaining, helping Russia finish a perfect preliminary round at the 2018 World Junior A Challenge with a 4-3 victory over the United States on Friday afternoon.
With the U.S. needing a win in regulation time to overtake the Russians for first place, goaltender Blake Pietila went to the bench with just over two minutes left.
But Rogov hammered a slap shot from his blue-line that found the middle of the empty net, giving Russia its 10th-consecutive prelim win at the tournament.
The Russians refused to go away, erasing three one-goal deficits, two of them in the third period.
Ryan O’Reilly opened the scoring at the 12:30 mark of the first, throwing a harmless-looking shot on goal that found its way underneath Russian netminder Vsevolod Skotnikov for a 1-0 lead.
Artemii Kniazev equalized for Russia early in the second period, sneaking a shot through traffic and past Pietila for a power-play goal, but Luke Johnson jumped into the rush and tucked a backhand around Skotnikov to restore the American advantage before the end of the middle frame.
Dmitri Sheshin made it a 2-2 game in the first minute of the third period, knocking in a centering pass from Vasily Podkolzin, before both teams counted on the power play less than two minutes apart.
Parker Ford was first at 5:11, finding room on the short-side past Skotnikov to put the U.S. ahead again, but Mikhail Abramov cruised into the slot and beat Pietila past the glove just 1:45 after that to even things up once more.
Skotnikov was terrific in the third period, making 20 of his 46 saves in the final 20 minutes.
As the first-place team, the Russians will decide which Saturday semifinal they will play in against the winner of the Canada East-Czech Republic game later Friday. The U.S., which finished second, will take on Canada West in its semi.