OTTAWA – The Russians are looking to spoil the party at the world junior championships.
Russia poured in four goals in the final period to defeat the Czech Republic 5-1 in the quarter-finals on Friday night to advance to a semifinal meeting against unbeaten Canada on Saturday night (TSN, 7:30 p.m. ET).
Slovakia used 44 saves from Jaroslav Janus to beat the United States 5-3 in the first big upset of the tournament. The Slovaks will face Sweden in the other semifinal.
But most of the attention will be on the Canada-Russia game, a classic match-up of the world’s two top hockey powers.
“Juniors in Canada is like the NHL playoffs,” said Russian forward Evgeni Grachev of the Brampton Battalion. “People are crazy about it here, so it will be a great place to play.”
Sergei Andronov, Nikita Filatov, Evgeni Dadonov and Pavel Chernov also scored for Russia, but it was Grachev’s goal for a 3-0 lead at 7:26 of the third period with his team shorthanded by two men that was the backbreaker. He stole the puck at centre, went in alone and beat goalie Dominik Furch between the pads.
The Russians have not beaten Canada at the world juniors since a 3-2 victory in the gold medal game in 2003. Canada has won three in a row over Russia since then and will be favoured again playing at home at the Scotiabank Place.
Grachev only recalls losing 8-0 to Canada at last year’s world under-18 tournament.
“The last game was 8-0 – not for us – so we really want revenge. It will be a great battle,” he said.
The Russians didn’t show much until the third period against the Czechs, whom Canada beat 8-1 in round robin play, and will go into the semifinal as underdogs based on their play thus far.
“Like always, it will depend on how the game starts, who will score first,” said Filatov, a Columbus Blue Jackets prospect. “But for us it will be very important not to make a lot of mistakes.”
Russia also beat the Czechs 4-1 in last year’s quarter-finals in the Czech Republic.
Russia got an early goal and pumped in four more in the third to win a game lacking in action for long stretches for the announced crowd of 18,753.
“We finally started to skate again in the third and we scored some goals,” said Russian coach Sergei Nemchinov. “It’s a great rivalry, Czech-Russia. They’re always good games.”
Andronov snapped a rebound past Dominik Furch on a power play 11:53 into the game.
Vadim Zhelobnyuk made a handful of smart saves in the second frame and Filatov broke it open when he converted Grachev’s pass 1:25 into the third.
Russia was two men short when Grachev caused a turnover at centre ice and went in alone to score at 7:26 before the Czechs got on the board with Radko Gudas’ power play goal at 8:01. Dadonov added another at 14:02 on a shot from the slot and Chernov had a power play goal with 30 seconds left to play.
In the night’s relegation round game, Latvia trounced Germany 7-1.
After going winless in the preliminary round, Latvia stayed alive with a critical win over Germany.
Latvia scored five goals in the second period, four of them coming in a span of 4:05. Roberts Bukarts provided most of the firepower, netting a hat trick.
Latvian backup goalie Raimonds Ermics tossed his baseball cap onto the ice in celebration of Bukarts’ third goal, but was assessed a two-minute penalty and a game misconduct.