Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Russia defeats Slovakia


The Slovaks will face Finland on New Year’s Eve, which will determine the last Group B team to advance to the Playoff Round.

Captain Nikita Filatov led the way for Russia with a hat trick and an assist, while Sergei Andronov had a goal and three assists. Maxim Goncharov scored two goals, and Igor Golovkov and Sergei Korostin had singles. Maxim Chudinov also racked up three assists.

"We've been playing better and better, and now the team is ready for Sweden," said Filatov.

Adam Bezak scored for Slovakia.

Russia’s Vadim Zhelobnyuk got his first start in goal of the tournament. Overall, Russia outshot Slovakia 31-27.

There was plenty of skating and puck movement but very little hitting in front of the crowd of 9,149, and that suited the Russians just fine.

Filatov was visibly Russia’s most dangerous forward. To kickstart the offence, the Russian captain rang a backhand off the crossbar and, seconds later, raced in and put another backhand through Slovakian goalie Zdenko Kotvan’s legs for a 1-0 lead at 2:12. Filatov had two more exciting solo rushes in the period, including one that knocked the goalie’s mask off as he crashed the net.

The Slovaks had a fine opportunity on a 2-on-1 rush in the eighth minute, but Russian defenceman Mikhail Pashnin played it perfectly, toppling Ondrej Rusnak before he could shoot.

Slovakia tied the game at 13:12 when Bezak’s wrister from the sideboards floated over Zhelobnyuk’s left shoulder.

With 1:26 left in the first, Russia went up 2-1 on the power play when Goncharov’s blueline drive through traffic went through Kotvan’s legs.

The Russians blew the game open with four goals in the second period. Yet another Goncharov shot from the blueline made it 3-1 just over a minute in. Next, working another man advantage, Andronov sent a beautiful feed from behind the goal line to Filatov, who one-timed it from the slot past Kotvan’s right skate at 4:29.

Igor Golovkov’s rising slapper beat Kotvan on the stick side at 8:32 of the second to give Russia a 5-1 lead. That was it for the Slovak goalie, who was replaced by Jaroslav Janus.

Swapping netminders didn’t prove to be a momentum-changer. Filatov completed the hat trick halfway through the game on a great lateral feed from Andronov. The power play goal was reviewed due to potential interference on Janus, but it stood.

When Filatov was asked afterwards whether he realized that his three goals temporarily tied him with Canada's John Tavares for the tournament goal-scoring lead (five), he replied: "No, I don't care about scoring."

The teams skated out an uneventful third period, with Andronov and Korostin adding late goals to round out the scoring.

"This has been a good group for us," said Filatov. "We've had relatively easy games."

In the previous World Junior meeting between these two countries, Russia won 6-2 in Kelowna, British Columbia on December 28, 2006

(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at fourniern@students.nescom.edu)

No comments: