(Courtesy of JC Pinheiro/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Last time Russia met Canada at the Junior World stage it took a five goal rally by the Russians to clinch their first gold medal since 2003. Last night, the Russians avoided a similar rally at the hands of the Canadians when their 5-1 lead entering the third period quickly vanished.
Nikita Kucherov continued the Russian onslaught early in the 3rd after his team got a hat trick and an assist from Evgeny Kuznetsov in the early going. His goal proved to be pivotal as Canada began to score at will with goals by Dougie Hamilton, Jaden Schwartz, Brendan Gallagher, Brandon Gormley in the span of 11 minutes.
In what looked like a Canadian team that was left for dead, the boys in red came out flying and capitalizing on two Russian penalties, a first for Russia this tournament, and chasing 17-year-old netminder Andrei Vasilevski in the final six minutes in favor of Andrei Makarov.
Bringing on a new goalie in favor of the one who had stopped 44 of 49 shots was a gamble that paid off for head coach Valeri Bragin as he made seven crucial saves to hang onto a pivotal victory. The victory marked the first time Canada will miss the gold medal game since 2002 and gives Russia their first chance to claim back-to-back golds since 2002-2003.
With the four points, Kuznetsov has become the leading scorer (13 points) in the tournament as Russia heads into tomorrow’s showdown with Sweden for the right to claim the gold medal. Sweden has yet to lose all tournament. Nail Yakupov of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting recorded four assists to give him a total of nine points (all assists) in the tournament.