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Russia shuts out Swiss in WJC opener

Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 12:16 AM / 2012 World Junior Championship

By Aaron Vickers - NHL.com Correspondent

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Russia shuts out Swiss in WJC opener
If you're Andrei Vasilevski, it was the perfect performance to start your World Junior Championship career.
CALGARY -- If you're Andrei Vasilevski, it was the perfect performance to start your World Junior Championship career.

If you're anyone else on Team Russia, there is room for improvement.

Vasilevski was stellar in his first World Juniors contest, kicking out 40 shots en route to a 3-0 shutout victory against Switzerland at the Scotiabank Saddledome in the opening game of the World Junior Championships for both teams.

"Our goalkeeper played fantastic, but you saw the number of shots and the 2-on-1s and the two breakaways," Russian coach Valeri Bragin said through a translator. "(Vasilevski) played pretty solid. The game wasn't the best one. It could've been better than that, but in general it's a good result."

Alexander Khocklachev, who opened the scoring for Russia, wasn't satisfied with his club's performance, either.

"I don't think we played a really good game today, but we won today so it doesn't matter," Khocklachev said. "We need to keep going and play better."
 
Vasilevski's domination of the Swiss came immediately after the drop of the puck to start the game. His first stop came off Calgary Flames prospect Sven Bartschi nearly a minute into the opening period. Bartschi intercepted a pass in the Russian zone and broke in on Vasilevski, but couldn't beat the Russian goalie. Samuel Walser scooped up the rebound, but was also denied.

Minutes later, Vasilevski extended in full splits to rob Gaetan Haas with a dazzling glove save. Not to be outdone, Switzerland goaltender Tim Wolf stopped Danil Apalkov on the doorstep after he took a pass from Yevgeni Kuznetsov in the corner at 12:45.

But the Russians were able to get the better of Wolf just under a minute later. After picking off an ill-timed Bartschi drop-pass in the neutral zone, Khocklachev slipped by a Swiss defender and beat Wolf to the blocker to give Russia a 1-0 lead.

"It was just Swiss team had a turnover in the neutral zone and I had speed with a breakaway and scored," Khokhlachev said.

Switzerland pressed hard to tie the game before the period was out. Defenseman Dario Trutmann fired a hard shot over Vasilevski's shoulder, but couldn't beat the crossbar with just over four minutes remaining in the third.

With 1:44 left on the clock, Christoph Bertschy worked his way out of the corner, through the high slot and in alone with Vasilevski, who stopped the Swiss forward's backhand attempt. The stop marked Vasilevski's 13th save of the period.

"The first period was the most difficult," Vasilevski said. "They peppered me with shots. After that I adjusted through the game and played steady."

Vasilevski continued his magic in the second period.

Thirty-one seconds into the second period, Trutmann jumped out of the penalty box and in on a partial breakaway. Vasilevski trumped him with his shoulder, one of his 15-second period saves.
 
The save allowed Russia to jump out to a 2-0 lead at 6:37. After some sustained pressure, Nikita Gusev deflected a Yaroslav Kosov shot from the point behind Wolf.

The Swiss continued to push to bring the game to within one, but Vasilevski was up to the task again with 6:31 remaining in the period. Streaking into the zone on his off-wing, Bartschi fired a low shot that Vasilevski kicked out onto the stick of Walser. The Russian goalie turned aside the second attempt as well.

Russia gave more breathing room to Vasilevski with just 4:56 remaining in the middle period. Mikhail Grigorenko, who is eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft, was on the receiving end of a three-way passing play on an odd-man rush that allowed him to slide it into a virtually empty net.

Protecting a 3-0 lead in the third period, Vasilevski didn't let up. He stopped Dario Simion in the slot at 13:34, dropping into the butterfly to take away the five-hole opportunity. He got the better of Haas again after he broke in, then calmly turned aside the attempted rebound off the stick of Sven Andrighetto.

After watching Wolf stop Kucherov with his pad after being sprung on a clear-cut breakaway by Gusev, Vasilevski returned the favor, gloving down a spinning slap shot from Simion with 6:48 remaining.

It would be as close as Switzerland would come to scoring on Vasilevski on the night.

"If we keep going the same way, I think we are in the right direction," Bartschi said. "If you look at the shots, we had 40 and they had 30. It was a good sign. Lots of shots from the slot so that's good, too."

In other words, said Bartschi, Vasilevski was the difference between winning and losing. Khokhlachev agreed.

"He played huge for us," Khocklachev said. "He's a young guy and he played real good. He made a lot of good saves. He's the first star for us today."

For his efforts, Vasilevski was named Russia's player of the game.

"I didn't expect to get player of the game," Sasilevski said through a translator. "I was pretty nervous before the game. I tried to play as best as I could, but I didn't expect a shutout. A shutout is always great."
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