The Ontario Hockey League select team did not have a third-period letdown this time around, but Russia certainly made it interesting.
The OHL entered the final period with a 1-0 lead for a second straight game in the Subway Super Series in Sarnia, Ontario on Monday night, but instead of allowing Russia to score twice to steal a win like in Game 3, the home team built on its lead to secure a 2-1 win in Game 4.
The OHL's victory tied the Canadian Hockey League Subway Super Series at 2-2, with the final two games against the Western Hockey League slated for Vancouver on Wednesday and Victoria, British Columbia, on Thursday.
New York Islanders prospect Ryan Strome of the Niagara Ice Dogs scored a first-period goal and Vancouver Canucks draft pick Frank Corrado of the Sudbury Wolves provided what turned out to be the winner in the third as the OHL bounced back after losing the league's first Subway Super Series game to Russia on Thursday night in Guelph, Ontario.
The game marked a homecoming of sorts for Russian captain and 2012 top pick Nail Yakupov, who played his two years of major junior hockey with the Sarnia Sting and received a warm welcome from the crowd when he was introduced prior to the game. The Edmonton Oilers prospect risked being on the wrong end of his biggest highlight when he was the victim of a massive, third-period hit by Plymouth Whalers forward Tom Wilson.
But then a blind pass by Chicago Blackhawks prospect Maxim Shalunov, who has had a tremendous series, found a wide open Yakupov for a goal at 19:24 of the third period to bring the Russians to within a goal. And with the final seconds ticking away, Yakupov led a rush into the OHL zone before centering to Boston Bruins prospect Alexander Khokhlachev for a chance that never quite materialized before the final buzzer sounded.
The goaltending tandem of Jordan Binnington (St. Louis Blues) of the Owen Sound Attack and the Saginaw Spirit's Jake Paterson (Detroit Red Wings) combined for 15 saves for the OHL, while Tampa Bay 2012 first round draft pick Andrey Vasilevskiy made 26 saves for Russia with Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman among the spectators.
Were it not for the goaltending of Vasilevskiy, the score in this game could have been more lopsided.
In addition to his big hit on Yakupov, Wilson was a physical force throughout the game, laying a number of similarly big hits on anyone wearing a red jersey who had the misfortune of finding himself in the vicinity of the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Washington Capitals first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft.
The Russians were also engaging in some physical play, led by 2013 NHL Draft eligible defenseman Mikhail Naumenkov, who played a strong game.
Strome, the OHL's top scorer with 37 points in 21 games, opened the scoring at 9:50 of the first period on a play he started with a sharp stretch pass out of his own end to the Russian blue line. Strome then skated hard to the offensive zone to take a feed in the slot from Ottawa Senators prospect Matt Puempel for a one-time slap shot that trickled through Vasilevskiy's legs.
Corrado made it 2-0 just as a sixth straight OHL power play expired without a goal, converting a rebound of a Dougie Hamilton point shot at 9:16 of the third period to provide the insurance goal that proved to be the game-winner.
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