Penalty trouble and some terrible puck luck resulted in Russia shocking Team USA 3-2 in WJC quarterfinal action. Russia will now play either Sweden or Finland in the semifinal.
Five penalties and two goals against in the first period added up to one major disappoint for Team USA at the 2015 World Junior Championship.
One of the strongest teams in the tournament, few could have expected the American team to flame out in the quarterfinal round. The loss 3-2 to Russia, USA’s second straight defeat after dropping their final game of the group stage to Canada 5-3, will send the American team home earlier than many would have guessed.
It wasn’t for lack of trying by the Americans, however, as throughout the game they peppered Russian netminder Igor Shestyorkin. Shestyorkin, however, stood equal to the task, stopping 39 of 41 shots the Americans fired his way.
The scoring was opened just two minutes into the game when, with an early two-man advantage, Russia’s Ivan Barbashev was able to put one past US goaltender Thatcher Demko. Demko would stand fast through two more big penalty kills, but, just seconds after killing their fourth penalty of the first period, USA surrendered their second goal of the period.
On a scramble play in front of the net, Alexander Sharov batted a puck into the US net, and Russia took a 2-0 lead into the intermission.
In a second period that was, once again, filled with penalties, Russia surrendered the only goal when an Anthony DeAngelo shot from the blueline found its way past Shestyorkin on the power play.
An early penalty in the third to USA’s Sonny Milano would turn out to be the nail in the coffin, however. With Milano in the box for tripping, Sergey Tolchinsky, who would get player of the game honors for Russia, buried the game-winning goal as his shot went off the stick of USA’s Dylan Larkin and found its way past Demko.
With Russia leading 3-1, the American team would mount somewhat of a comeback, scoring with 11 minutes left in the third. After an absolutely dominant shift by Auston Matthews’ line, Matthews found defenseman Zach Werenski, who floated a shot past Shestyorkin to bring the US within one. It would turn out to be too little, too late for USA, though, as they would fail to pot another before time expired.
Russia will now await the winner of the second quarterfinal game, which pits the favored Swedes against the Finnish squad which won the gold medal in 2014’s tournament.