|Czech defenseman Tomas Kundratek, a Rangers draft pick, has six points through five World Junior matches. He'll face Team USA next in the fifth-place game. |
A few years from now, Rangers prospects Evgeny Grachev and Tomas Kundratek might be high-fiving one another in a Blueshirts goal celebration, but on Friday night in Ottawa, the two 2008 third-round picks found themselves on opposite sides of the ice.
Grachev's Russian team faced Kundratek's Czech squad in the World Junior Championship quarterfinals. By the end of the night, there was no doubt which prospect had the smile on his face, as the Russians trounced the Czechs 5-1 behind a four-goal third-period.
Grachev, a 6-foot-3 center considered one of the top talents coming out of Russia in last year's draft, had a goal and an assist in the game. His primary assist on Nikita Filatov's goal at 1:25 of the third gave the Russians a 2-0 lead with what proved to be the game-winner.
Just under six minutes later, Grachev put the Russians up 3-1 with a shorthanded goal -- his first tally of the tournament. Most impressive, the goal came with the Russians down two men and the Czechs pressuring on a 5-on-3.
Through five World Junior games, Grachev has a goal, two assists and a plus-3 rating for the Russians, who are 4-0-0 in the tournament to date.
Russia will move on to face defending champion Canada in the semifinals on Saturday night. Should the Russians pull off the upset they would play for gold on Monday. Even if they fall to the Canadians, Grachev's Russian team would play for the bronze medal on Monday.
The Czechs' loss did not spell the end of the tournament for Kundratek, a defenseman who will compete in the fifth-place game against Team USA on Sunday night. The Americans were upset 5-3 by Slovakia in another quarterfinal round game on Friday.
Kundratek had two shots on goal on Friday night and has a remarkable six assists through five tournament games, despite failing to pick up a point on Friday.