Russia ran with the United States until it took the lead, then clamped down on the Americans and never looked back in a 5-3 quarterfinal win. Here's a recap and scouting report on some of the prospects involved.
MALMO, SWEDEN - There's only one way to put it: The Americans got straight-up outfoxed by the Russians in the quarterfinal, allowing their Cold War rivals to march off to the next round with a 5-3 victory. While the game began as a run-and-gun contest with five goals scored in the first period, Russia locked down the dangerous Americans after taking a 4-3 lead on consecutive 5-on-3 power play goals by Buffalo first-rounder Nikita Zadorov. The second 5-on-3 came on an unfortunate puck-over-the-glass call on New Jersey selection Steven Santini, who cleared the puck from his own end all the way over goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy's head and out. With shorter glass here, it would not have been a penalty in North America.
But those are the breaks and Russia snuffed out the U.S. afterwards, killing the usually lethal American power play and gumming up the defensive zone.
"We had a good tactic," Zadorov said. "Coach said not to rush, just play defense first and if you can, play offense. When we get a lead, we play simple."
It was particularly frustrating for the Americans, who always bring great athletes to the world juniors and looked much more comfortable in the first half's track meet.
"When they took the lead they were able to sit back more," said 2015 prospect Jack Eichel. "They clogged the neutral zone more and took fewer chances, so we got fewer chances. It was tough for us to get the puck in and you have to give them credit."
Russia now goes on to play the winner of Sweden and Slovakia. Here's a scouting report on some of the NHL prospects and draft hopefuls from the game.
Nikita Zadorov, Buffalo (16th overall in 2013) – A big part of Russia's success, along with fellow Sabres pick Mikhail Grigorenko. Early on, Zadorov was a physical force, knocking Hudson Fasching off-stride to neutralize a scoring chance - and it's not easy to contain Fasching. Zadorov's two power play blasts obviously turned the tide. He plays for London in the Ontario League.
Bogdan Yakimov, Edmonton (83rd overall in 2013) – Quite the pleasant surprise. Played a defensive role on his line, but also displayed some nice playmaking skills. Drew a penalty on Matteau thanks to that backchecking acumen. The big center kills penalties too and currently plays for Neftekhimik in the KHL.
Pavel Buchnevich, New York Rangers (75th overall in 2013) – Set up Grigorenko goal with nice feed in front to Slepyshev, then scored on nice second effort right after US tied it up. Nice hands in tight on that goal. Has a mean streak to him. Scored the empty-netter, then raised the ire of the Americans with his jubilation, netting him a stick to the face from the bench and an unsportsmanlike penalty. Currently plays for Severstal in the KHL.
Ivan Barbashev, 2014 draft – Plays physical on the forecheck and got some power play time too. As the youngest player on the team, he was not put in a position to have a big impact, but still looked solid and almost scored late on a nice rush. Currently plays for the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec League.
Connor Carrick, Washington (137th overall in 2012) – The blueliner is really dangerous on the rush and had a nice wrister early, then another chance six minutes in. Excellent puck control and confidence, Carrick is playing in the American League with Hershey.
Ryan Hartman, Chicago (30th overall in 2013) – Nobody agitates like Hartman, but he also backs it up with skill, making him an enticing prospect. Had a nice backhand to tie game 2-2; caused chaos to set up first goal. Bang-and-crash ways led to a late power play. Plays for Plymouth in the OHL.
Adam Erne, Tampa Bay (33rd overall in 2013) – Lost his spot on the second line to Stefan Matteau, though still had great linemates in Fasching and Andrew Copp (the move was more a commentary on Matteau playing well than Erne doing anything wrong). Having said that, I don't recall seeing him once in the game. Perhaps it was because of special teams, maybe it was where I was sitting, but I couldn't find him. Plays for Quebec in the QMJHL.
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