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“You have to beat the best to be the best”: Ryan Poehling shares his thoughts on USA’s win over Russia

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EOTP spoke with Poehling and Kieffer Bellows after the United States’ 4-2 win in the quarter-finals.

Russia vs United States: Quarterfinal - 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Nicholas T. LoVerde/Getty Images

Team USA was able to defeat Russia on Thursday night to earn a berth in the semifinals. After the game, we spoke with Habs prospect Ryan Poehling as well as Kieffer Bellows, who scored the late go-ahead goal.

Ryan Poehling

EOTP: Big game tonight. Tough as always against Russia. What is going through your head as you’re out there in key sitautions?

Poehling: I mean, at the end of the game we had the lead and the only thing you want to do is keep it. It was a big draw at the end there and it was good that Brady [Tkachuk] got the clear there. I think we’ve got a good system and that’s kind of what we do. We just have to fight to live now, and we’re fighting another day longer.

You had the chance for an empty-net goal. Was passing off to Joey Anderson part of being a good teammate?

(Laughs) Actually, the guy right in front of me took the shot away and we had a three-on-one anyways. I didn’t want to risk anything. I mean, if there’s 40 seconds left and I clip his shinpad they’re going down the ice the opposite way. That’s why I passed it off.

Coming off a big game like this, how do you prepare for Sweden next?

This rest day will be huge for us. I mean, we had a lot of guys playing banged up and we’re short guys, with a lot of guys playing heavy minutes. This rest day will be big for our team heading into the Sweden game in the semis.

What has this team learned from itself since the Slovakia loss?

I think we realized that we have to play as a team, and I think that’s the biggest part that we’ve done. Heading into that outdoor game especially, you’re not going to make pretty plays, it’s tough in that outdoor weather, and we just kept the game simple. That’s kind of what we do: we feed off each other and beat the teams low.

You’re on the tougher side of the bracket. What challenges lay ahead?

At the end of the day, you have to beat the best to be the best. So, for us that’s what we’ve got. We’ve got Sweden next then hopefully one more after that.

Kieffer Bellows

EOTP: What went through your mind on your goal, to set that up?

Bellows: I knew the boards were lively so I thought I could just forecheck and put the puck on net, and luckily enough it went in.

When Russia tied the game in the third was the mentality the same as it’s always been?

Yeah, most definitely. We had to stay positive. We had guys like Joey [Anderson, [Ryan] Lindgren and Foxy [Adam Fox] keeping the bench lively and going. Couple of big saves by Joe Woll kept us going there. Big game by him.

What’s it feel like to get ahold of a shot like you did on your two goals?

It feels good, when you put everything into it and it goes in, it’s obviously a nice feeling. Credit to their goalie, he played a fantastic game and stood on his head. I’ve played him in the U-18s before and he’s always been fantastic for them.

After the first goal, did you notice the jersey on the glass behind you?

I noticed it after I saw the replay, and I noticed it was a North Stars Bellows jersey, and that’s a pretty funny coincidence there.

What is it about you that allows you to come up big in these clutch situations?

I mean, for everyone it’s not hard to get up for big games, especially against Russia; a team that we played last year in the semifinals and had a tough game against. We keep our game simple like we did today, then good things will come. And put pucks on net, sooner or later they’ll go in.

You and Casey Mittelstadt have both played fantastically. Is there some competition there?

Casey is a top-notch player, on and off the ice. He’s my roommate, but he’s going to come out to play every single day and you’re happy to see that. No one is trying to one-up each other. If anything we’re trying to get each other going and pump everyone up.