BostonBruins.com – Center Alexander Khokhlachev was the only Bruins prospect in action at the World Junior Championship on Wednesday, helping Russia snag a 4-3 shootout win over Switzerland in the quarterfinals. Russia is now one step closer to reclaiming gold, and will face Sweden in the semifinals on Thursday, January 3 at 7:00 p.m. in Ufa (8:00 a.m. EST). After Russia had to settle for silver last year, tensions will be high in this 2012 gold-medal rematch.
Russia Advances to Semifinals
The Russians earned a nail-biting 4-3 SO win over the Swiss to head to the semis.
The “shootout” in international play is actually referred to by the International Ice Hockey Federation as the “game-winning shots” procedure, featuring three different shooters each taking alternate shots until a decisive goal is scored. As the IIHF states, “If the game is still tied after three shots by each team, the GWS will continue with a tie-break shoot out by one player of each team, with a reversed shooting order. The same or new players can take the tie-break shots.”
While ‘Koko’ was not a featured shooter (Nikita Kucherov notched the game-winner), the forward jump-started Russia’s offense 6:07 into the first period, when he scored a power-play goal from the right faceoff circle to give the host country a 1-0 lead. The Russians have relied on him as a key center on the top line and he went 67-percent in the faceoff circle.
The ping-pong match ensued for the next three periods, and Russia forced OT with just 1:39 remaining in the third. The Swiss had an impressive showing and finished the tournament without a regulation loss, but lost three in the shootout and one in overtime.
The other semifinal on Thursday will feature a battle between Canada and the United States, with the two North American rivals facing off at 4:00 a.m. EST (3:00 p.m. in Ufa). The game should also showcase another goaltending dual between Bruins prospect Malcolm Subban (4 GP, 2.00 GAA, .930 SV%) and Team USA’s John Gibson (5GP, 1.51 GAA, .950 SV%), who were both stellar in Canada’s 2-1 preliminary-round win on December 30.
“I’ve been known as a guy who gets up for big games,” Subban told The Canadian Press.
“He’s getting his swagger back and that’s important,” added Canada Head Coach Steve Spott. “Anyone that knows Malcolm, he needs that. I’m really pleased to see he’s got that air of confidence back.”
Team Canada had a bye to the semifinals and has played one less game than the U.S., but both squads remain the top two teams in scoring efficiency. The Canadians have notched 21 tallies on 156 shots and the Americans have scored 26 goals on 202 shots. Though Thursday’s game will most likely be more of a defensive display, highlighted by the netminders’ performances between the pipes.
Both semifinal games can be viewed live on NHL Network, with a live stream of the Canada-USA game also available via BostonBruins.com.