RUSSIA BEATS RED, FINISHES PERFECT PRELIMS AT U17 CHALLENGE
JASON LA ROSE
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Egor Spiridonov got the game-winner midway through the second period, and Russia scored the last four goals of the game to beat Canada Red 5-3 and finish a perfect preliminary round Tuesday at the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
The Russians were the lone team to earn all nine points in the round robin, and will face the Czech Republic in a quarter-final Thursday at North Peace Arena (2:30 p.m. MT).
Red finished 1-2 in the prelims and will face Canada Black in its quarter-final in Dawson Creek (7 p.m. MT).
The game started with an offensive flurry, with four goals before the nine-minute mark.
Matvey Guskov got the scoring started just 92 seconds in, knocking in a centering pass from Egor Afanasyev, but Ryan Suzuki (London, Ont./Barrie, OHL) cleaned up a loose puck in front 42 seconds later to tie the game.
Xavier Simoneau (Saint-André-Avellin, Que./Drummondville, QMJHL) gave the Canadians the lead at 7:32 when he finished a set-up from Bowen Byram (Cranbrook, B.C./Vancouver, WHL), and Mitchell Russell (Barrie, Ont./Owen Sound, OHL) walked out of the corner and beat goaltender Vsevolod Skotnikov for the 3-1 goal at 8:19.
Ilya Nikolaev got one back for Russia late in the opening frame, roofing a rebound past Red netminder Tommy Da Silva (La Prairie, Que./Collège Charles-Lemoyne, LHMAAAQ) to cut the deficit to one after a busy 20 minutes that included 30 shots on goal.
Momentum shifted towards the Russians in the second period, and a pair of goals put them ahead for good.
Ilia Mironov tied the game at 9:14 when he hammered a point shot past Da Silva on a Russia power play, and Spiridonov wired in the go-ahead goal 1:15 after that to quiet the pro-Canadian crowd.
Russia held a one-sided 17-8 advantage in shots on goal in the third period, but Da Silva kept it a one goal game as the minutes ticked away.
A late power play and Da Silva on the bench meant a six-on-four advantage for the Canadians, but the puck luck wasn’t on their side; Red hit a pair of posts on the power play, and a broken stick led to the empty-net insurance goal by Oleg Zaitsev in the final minute.