(photo courtesy of Mark Blinch/Reuters)
After avoiding an embarrassing elimination at the hands of the Swiss yesterday, Russia came just shy of completing another comeback for the right to play for gold. In what was a rematch of last years final, Russia managed to overcome a two-goal deficit against Sweden only to fail at the skills competition they so heavily relied on to get there. All three Russian shooters, two of whom scored yesterday (Mikhail Grigorenko & Nikita Kucherov), couldn’t solve the big frame of Swedish netminder Niklas Lundström and Sebastian Collberg’s nifty backhander proved to be the difference.
For the second straight year, Russia has been undone by the pesky Swedes and their tricky backhanders. In 2012 it was Andrei Makarov who couldn’t stop Mika Zibanejad’s shot in OT and this year it was Andrei Vasilevski who could do nothing to stop Collberg. Vasilevski was big for the Russians after letting in two unanswered goals in the first period, he would finish with 38 saves.
Andrei Mironov stared Russia’s comeback when his shot deflected off Viktor Arvidsson’s stick at 12:28 of the second period. Grigorenko would notch things up when he pounced on a loose rebound at the goal-mouth midway through the third. Vladimir Tkachev almost capped the comeback in the dying minutes of the game but his wrist shot rang off the crossbar.
With the loss, Russia goes a second straight year without claiming the gold medal and thanks to the USA’s improbable win over Canada earlier in the day, the two powerhouses will meet for the right to claim bronze on Saturday. Thursday’s OT marked the fourth straight time the two country’s battled each other in an extra frame in World Junior competition.
Russia’s failure to claim gold as the hosts marks the fifth consecutive year the home team has to settle for second place or worse.