ZHUKOV SHUTS DOOR, RUSSIA BEATS SWEDEN IN U17 OPENER
JASON LA ROSE
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Maxim Zhukov was the difference, finishing with 33 saves as Russia opened the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with a 5-2 win over Sweden on Sunday afternoon.
The Russians earned the first three points despite being outshot in all three periods, and 35-28 overall.
Mark Rubinchik, Kirill Slepets and Ivan Chekhovich did the offensive damage for Russia, scoring once and adding an assist each. Igor Zenchikov and Aleksander Osin did the rest of the scoring.
Erik Brännström and Timothy Liljegren were the goal-scorers for Sweden.
It was the Swedes who jumped out to an early lead – Brännström’s point shot on the power play found its way through traffic and past Zhukov at 5:08 – but Zenchikov replied on a Russian man advantage just over two minutes later, knocking a rebound past Swedish netminder Olle Erikkson Ek.
Russia’s first lead came 10 minutes after Zenchikov’s goal; Slepets did the hard work, driving to the Swedish net, and Osin trailed behind to tap-in the go-ahead goal after an Eriksson Ek poke check.
The Swedes came out firing in the second period, leading to the tying goal at 4:02 when Liljegren took the puck end-to-end before snapping a shot to the far side past the blocker of Zhukov.
But that would be the last puck to beat the Russian goaltender.
Rubinchik gave Russia the lead for good on the power play at 12:19, picking the top corner over Eriksson Ek’s blocker, and Slepets parked himself at the top of the Swedish crease to bang in a rebound four minutes after that, giving the defending gold medallists some breathing room.
Despite holding a 12-9 advantage in shots in the third period, the Swedes could get no closer than two goals, and Chekhovich found the empty net with 57 seconds left to round out the scoring.
Both teams are back on the ice Monday at North Peace Arena; the Russians are up first, taking on Finland (2:30 p.m. MT), while the Swedes go up against Canada Red in the night-cap (7 p.m. MT).