The first day of the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship had been an entertaining one, with three good games (despite some lopsided scores) leading up to a marquee matchup between age-old rivals Canada and Russia.
The final game on Boxing Day was no exception, and the two teams came out ready to play, trading chances back and forth in the opening few minutes.
Russia was the first team to have their level of play taper off slightly, and that allowed Canada to take control of the match. The home side got rewarded right away, when a poor read by Russian centre Kirill Belyayev allowed Tyson Jost to get into open space right in the slot. After shielding the puck for several seconds waiting for a play to develop, Philippe Myers sent a perfect pass to Jost, and he deked around goaltender Ilya Samsonov, lifting a backhand shot to the top of the net to open the scoring just over three minutes in.
Jost makes it 1-0 Canada after a great feed by Myers. pic.twitter.com/vsMMsZYg90— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 27, 2016
Team Canada enjoyed some momentum from the goal, seeing extended time in the Russian end over the next few minutes, with Jost’s line leading the way. The team missed some good chances, while other were stopped by Samsonov, and Russia slowly ramped its play back up to where it had been when the first puck was dropped.
Like Canada earlier, it didn’t take Russia long to capitalize on the turn in play. Montreal Canadiens prospect Mikhail Sergachev took a pass and walked right into the slot, firing a shot through two Canadian defenders and past netminder Carter Hart to tie the game at one.
The shift in momentum resulted in a power play for the Russian side soon after their goal, and had them threatening to take the lead, but a solid effort from Canada’s penalty-killing units kept them at bay, and an entertaining first period ended with the game in a draw.
An evenly played second period looked to be turning in the Russians’ favour as they found themselves on a power play facing a forward without a stick, but Blake Speers proved that he had other options to block Russia’s attempts with, throwing himself in the way of a few shots from the point and allowing Canada to escape without allowing a goal.
Russia’s defence wasn’t quite so tight when they went down a man later in the frame, leaving Dylan Strome all alone near the right faceoff dot. Mathew Barzal found him with a pass through the broken coverage, and Strome made no mistake on the one-timer, giving Canada the lead again.
Strome takes a great feed by Barzal and turns it into a 2-1 lead for Canada. pic.twitter.com/bWoTYHm6JL— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 27, 2016
Nicolas Roy extended the lead to two with a strong shift as the period wound down, finally settling the puck down in the slot after some good work along the boards and wristing it behind Samsonov to make it 3-1.
Great effort by Roy gives Canada a 3-1 lead. Also worth noting the celebrations so far in this WJC are top notch. pic.twitter.com/5ZISyraGxX— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 27, 2016
Canada received another man advantage shortly after the third began, and they used it create themselves a three-goal edge. A tenacious cycle behind the Russian net forced the defensive coverage to adjust, and that opened up some space right in front of the net. Barzal slipped into the vacated area and knocked the puck into the goal front point-blank range.
The Russians didn’t quit with the game getting away from them, and were able to claw one goal back just moments later. With Jost in the penalty box for an offensive-zone trip, Kirill Kaprizov showed off his skill, putting an accurate shot behind Samsonov to reduce it to a more easily surmountable two-goal deficit.
Kaprizov cuts Canada's lead to 2. pic.twitter.com/ZVYGw9qrgB— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 27, 2016
The special-teams scoring wasn’t done there. After Strome was stymied on a breakaway right after the 4-2 goal, the follow-up chance resulted in a penalty to Russia, sending Canada back on the power play. Strome made up for his miss right away, scoring his second of the game from a sharp angle.
Dylan Strome with his second goal of the game after Barzal rings the bar. Epic celly. pic.twitter.com/zd0ecrOrcz— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) December 27, 2016
If you’ve watched this tournament in previous years, you’ll know that late deficits versus Canada don’t faze the Russians, and this game was no exception. This time it was defenceman Yegor Rykov who brought the game back within striking distance.
That was as close as Russia was able to get, however, and emerged from their opening game having lost the special-teams battle, giving up three power-play goals in a 5-3 loss.
Both teams will be right back at it tomorrow. Russia will play a Latvian team that looked quite good versus Team USA on Monday, but couldn’t take advantage of a multitude of power-play opportunities. Canada gets the late game once again, taking on Slovakia in that country’s first game of the tournament.