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Russia rides power-play goals to WJC semifinals

by Mike G. Morreale

Russia defenseman Nikita Zadorov scored two second-period power-play goals to help rally his team to a 5-3 victory against the United States in the quarterfinals of the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship at Malmo Isstadion in Malmo, Sweden on Thursday.

The triumph enables Russia to advance to the semifinals on Saturday against Sweden (9 a.m. ET, NHLN-US). Sweden beat Slovakia 6-0 in the final quarterfinal game Thursday.

The Russians lost 3-2 to Sweden in the final game of the preliminary round in the Group B pool Tuesday.

"We want to play Sweden," Zadorov told the IIHF website. "It was a close game last time and we're going to watch some video and play better."

After earning medals in two of the past three World Junior tournaments, including the gold at the 2013 WJC in Ufa, Russia, the Americans will go home this year without a medal.

Stefan Matteau had a goal and an assist, and Ryan Hartman and Nicolas Kerdiles also scored for the U.S. Goalie Jon Gillies made 20 saves.

"It's definitely disappointing," Hartman told "We came in with a goal to win gold and obviously fell short. It's a learning experience for the guys coming back next year; it's a good learning tool for them. Hopefully they'll be able to do a better job than we did this year."

Playing a huge part in the triumph for Russia was goalie Andrey Vasilevskiy who finished with 30 saves, including 16 during the final two periods. Vasilevskiy, a 2012 first-round pick (No. 19) of the Tampa Bay Lightning, rebounded well after allowing three goals on 17 shots in the opening 20 minutes.

His best save in the third came at 11:09 when he denied Hartman, a 2013 first-round draft choice (No. 30) of the Chicago Blackhawks, off a strong move to the slot on a play that resulted in a Russian penalty. He also stopped American defenseman Matthew Grzelcyk with less than one minute remaining on a blast from the left faceoff dot and Gillies pulled for an extra attacker.

New York Rangers prospect Pavel Buchnevich scored two goals for Russia, including an empty-net goal with 28 seconds left, and Edmonton Oilers prospect Anton Slepyshev had three assists. Slepyshev, the Russian captain, was named his team's best player of the game.

Zadorov, chosen by the Buffalo Sabres with the 16th pick of the 2013 draft, scored a pair of power-play goals in a span of 1:01 in the second to give his country a 4-3 lead. Both goals were scored with Russia on a 5-on-3 advantage after the Americans were assessed three minor penalties in a 57-second span.

"The power plays were the game changer," Russian forward Mikhail Grigorenko said. "We scored two goals. We took the lead and we kept it. Those two 5-on-3s in a row were the key."

U.S. coach Don Lucia agreed.

"Other than two five-minute segments of penalties [against Canada on Tuesday and Russia on Thursday], I thought we played well," Lucia said. "The players with 1995 birth years must learn that discipline is key, and going into next year's tournament realize how critical it is to have that discipline for certain minutes. [The officials] called the little trips and those penalties that maybe aren't going to be called in North America but that's on us. You have to adapt to that."

The first extra-man goal by Zadorov came with Matteau (tripping) and Thomas Di Pauli (hooking) in the penalty box midway through the period. Zadorov teed up a feed from Slepyshev in the right circle and blasted a shot past Gillies to pull his team into a 3-3 tie at 13:15.

Zadorov's second came with Di Pauli still in the box and Steven Santini (delay of game) off the ice. That's when Zadorov took a pass from Slepyshev and unleashed another bomb from the center of the blue line that beat Gillies over his glove to give Russia a 4-3 lead at 14:16.

Vasilevskiy was tremendous in the second with a few big stops to keep his team within 3-2. After a shaky first period, the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder turned away all seven shots he faced in the middle period. His finest came six minutes into the period when he denied Hartman off an odd-man rush with Grzelcyk when he threw out his right pad at the last second. He later stopped Di Pauli while hugging the right post at 7:43.

"I think he made a heck of a save there," Hartman said. "I just needed to elevate that a little more but those types of saves happen. It was a turning point in the game."

Lucia, whose team finished 0-for-5 on the power-play, called it the save of the game.

"I think he made a couple of critical saves when it was 3-2," Lucia said. "That one against Hartman was big. I thought once we adjusted to how good they were down low and how quick and strong they were in our own zone, we started clicking. I give the boys credit for taking a 3-2 lead, and then for the first segment of the second period I thought we were playing exactly the way we wanted to play … until the penalties."

In a bit of a shakeup, Lucia opted to make a shift on left wing on his second and third lines. He promoted Matteau to the second unit alongside Hartman and center Jack Eichel. Adam Erne, who had played the entirety of the tournament in that spot, was shifted to Matteau's spot on a line with Hudson Fasching and center Andrew Copp.

The move seemed to reinvigorate Matteau, who had a goal and an assist in the opening 20 minutes when the teams combined for five goals.

The U.S. took its first lead late in the first when Kerdiles collected a waist-high pass from Riley Barber at the Russian blue line and whipped a shot past a surprised Vasilevskiy high to the short side at 16:51 for a 3-2 edge. The goal came minutes after the U.S. had pulled into a 2-2 tie when Hartman took a pass from Matteau while skating hard down the slot and beat Vasilevskiy with a backhand shot at 11:23.

"I thought our discipline and our penalty kill were the reasons we were eliminated," Hartman said. "Last year we allowed just three goals [in 28 times shorthanded] for the whole tournament. I think we allowed three power-play goals in the first three or four games this year. That was another thing we stressed from the beginning."

The Americans, who went 4-for-6 on the penalty kill against Russia, allowed six power-play goals in 21 times shorthanded at the tournament.

Grigorenko, a first-round pick (No. 12) of the Buffalo Sabres in 2012, gave Russia a 1-0 lead 6:17 into the first when he took a feed from Slepyshev and scored his team-leading fourth goal. The U.S. squared the contest when Matteau cleaned up a rebound at 8:50. Eichel made the play happen when he skated hard down right wing, curled behind the Russian net and got a shot on Vasilevskiy that the Russian goalie stopped, but Matteau scored on the rebound.

Russia took a 2-1 lead when Buchnevich jammed a shot home off the right post while Gillies was sprawled on the ice at 9:11.

Finland 5, Czech Republic 3 -- Saku Maenalanen scored two goals to help rally Finland to a victory against Czech Republic on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship at Malmo Arena, in Malmo, Sweden.

Finland will play Canada in the semifinals Saturday (3 p.m. ET, NHLN-US). Canada beat Switzerland 4-1 in its quarterfinal game Thursday.

Advancing to the final four is a big change for the Finns from the 2013 WJC, when they failed to make the medal round and had to survive the relegation round. It's also the second time in eight years Finland will have a chance to play for a medal.

"That's something we talked about before the tournament, that Finland hasn't won in a while," Ikonen told the IIHF website. "That's something we're trying to change with our own game. We're going toward it one game at a time."

The Finns spotted the Czech Republic a 3-1 lead before scoring four unanswered goals.

Nashville Predators prospect Juuse Saros made 20 saves to earn the victory and captain Teuvo Teravainen, a first-round pick (No. 18) of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2012, had two assists.

The Finns received a boost to their lineup with the return of defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (flu) and forward Artturi Lehkonen (lower body), and will play for a medal for just the second time in the past eight years. The country won a bronze in 2006.

Czech goalie Marek Langhamer made 29 saves. The Czechs haven't celebrated a medal since 2005, when it won bronze.

"You have to play for 60 minutes, not 40," Langhamer, a Phoenix Coyotes prospect, told the IIHF website. "It's a tough loss but it's just the way it is."

Henri Ikonen, a 2013 sixth-round pick (No. 154) of the Tampa Bay Lightning, scored an even-strength goal 5:56 into the third to pull the Finns into a 3-3 tie.

Saku Kinnunen, who received a C rating from NHL Central Scouting in its December list of players to watch for the 2014 NHL Draft, scored the game-winner at 11:39 of the third, giving Finland a 4-3 lead. Juuso Ikonen, a fellow C-rated prospect for the 2014 draft, made the play happen when he skated down right wing and curled behind the net before passing the puck through the crease. The puck deflected off the stick of Ramus Kumala to Kinnunen, who scored into the open side of the net despite the tough angle.

Maenalanen, a fifth-round pick (No. 125) of the Nashville Predators in 2013, scored his sixth of the tournament into an empty net with 15.3 seconds remaining.

Maenalanen gave Finland a 1-0 lead 2:54 into the first period but the Czech Republic scored the next three goals. Dominik Simon started the run with a goal 3:39 into the first.

Martin Prochazka's goal at 1:07 gave the Czechs the lead, and Radek Faksa scored at 4:23 to open a 3-1 advantage.

Juuso Ikonen scored his first of the game 18:05 into the second to pull the Finns within 3-2 before Finland erupted in the third period, when it outshot its opponent 12-5.

Norway 3, Germany 0 -- Joachim Svendsen made 29 saves to lead Norway to its first victory of the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, taking Game 1 of the relegation round against Germany at Malmo Arena in Malmo, Sweden on Thursday.

The best-of-3 series, which resumes Friday with Game 2, will determine which country will avoid relegation to Division I. The winner will remain in the top division for the 2015 WJC.

Norway got goals from Andreas Klavestad, Martin Ronnild and Didrik Svendsen, and Jorgen Karterud chipped in with two assists.

Ronnild, a C-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's December players to watch list of prospects for the 2014 NHL Draft, scored a power-play goal 5:06 into the second to give Norway a 1-0 lead. Didrik Svendsen extended the lead just 1:13 later with an even-strength goal.

"We have had negative things that we've dealt with in this tournament," Norway captain Erlend Lesund told the IIHF website. "We've got to take the good power play we had [against Germany] and bring it [Friday] too."

Klavestad's goal at 13:42 of the second that gave Norway a 3-0 advantage also was scored on the power play.

The Norwegians entered the game having scored three goals in preliminary-round losses to Sweden, Finland, Russia and Switzerland. The team had allowed 29 total goals in those defeats.

German captain Leon Draisaitl, who is an A-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's players to watch list, received 27 penalty minutes in the game. His slashing call 5:06 into the second led to Ronnild's goal, and a game misconduct for high sticking at 12:03 gave Klavestad his opportunity.

Draisaitl, who is in his second season with the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League this season, has two assists, a minus-4 rating and a tournament-leading 52 penalty minutes. He also was suspended one game after receiving a match penalty for hitting from behind in an 8-0 loss against the United States on Monday.


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