THN at the World Junior Championship: Canada’s road to gold runs through Russia

OTTAWA – Sweden’s path to the gold medal game at the World Championship got a lot easier when Slovakia beat USA, but Canada will have some very heavy lifting to do against Russia.

The Russians come into Saturday’s semifinal against Canada on a very high note after beating the Czech Republic 5-1 in the quarterfinal. Included in that game was a goal by the Brampton Battalion’s Evgeny Grachev while the Russians were in a 5-on-3 shorthanded situation.

It was an impressive display to be sure, one that has given the Russian team a good amount of confidence going into the semifinal game.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact three of Canada’s past gold medals have come at the expense of the Russians in the final game.

“I think we can surprise them,” Grachev said. “We have to win the battles and compete hard against these guys and we have to stick together the way we did (against the Czech Republic).

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“The last game against Canada was 8-0 (at the under-18 World Championship last spring), so we want to get some revenge for that.”

The Russians always seem to be the biggest mystery of the tournament coming in and their goaltending is often in question, but Vadim Zhelobnyuk was very solid in the game, stopping 28 of 29 shots, including 14 in the second period.

“We have to play our best game (to beat Canada),” said Russian coach Sergei Nemchinov. “We’re going to have to move the puck and score some goals.”

The Canada-Russia semifinal gets underway at 7:30 p.m. EST.