Helsinki, FIN – USA Hockey hasn’t enjoyed too much success in the IIHF World Championships, but they certainly are enjoying some now. USA played the defending World Champion Russians in the quarterfinals and a Russian team enjoying a roster that was expected to be much of their 2014 Winter Olympic roster. However, that might not be the case, after USA took it to them in an 8-3 schlacking.
Russia got off to a hot start in the first minute and had a glorious 2-on-1 chance when Alex Ovechkin one timed a pass that could not beat John Gibson. This stop by Gibson kind of set the mood for the entire game, which became extremely frustrating for the Russians. Shortly after, Craig Smith fed Paul Stastny in front who chipped it by Ilya Bryzgalov for an early 1-0 lead. USA added to that lead later in the 1st when Tim Stapleton would make a nice backhand pass ahead to T.J. Oshie would would wrist one inbetween the arm and body of Bryzgalov for a 2-0 lead. Certainly not a good goal to give up. However, Russia would not end the period empty as Sergei Soin made a nice rush up ice and a nice spinning backhand to Alexander Svitov who beat Gibson. Russia had some very good chances in the 1st and Gibson denied all but one of them.
A penalty called on USA late in the 1st gave Russia some PP time to start the 2nd period and they would get some solid scoring chances. However, Alexander Radulov would make a bad turnover and lead to a Stephen Gionta rush, but he would ring one off the crossbar. After a big hit by youngster Jacob Trouba on Artem Anisimov and yet another Russian turnover, Gionta would make a beautiful saucer pass to Nate Thompson skating towards the net and Thompson would redirect through the five=hole of Bryzgalov for a 3-1 USA lead. On the following shift, the line of Stastny-Smith-David Moss would continue the pressure with Bryzgalov making a key stop. It was right the time that USA took a 3-1 lead that the frustration for Russia started to become evident. About six minutes left in the period, Jacob Trouba took a run at Ovechkin who was trying to cut to the net from the wing and got just enough of him to separate Ovie from the puck. Later, Ilya Kovalchuk drove to the net from the wing and Gibson made a nice poke check to mitigate Kovy’s threat. Late in the second period, Russia got another PP and this PP would pretty much sum up the game for the Russians. Radulov drove to the net, but forgot the puck. Kovalchuk made just a lazy turnover. Ovechkin had an empty net to swat home a goal but the puck was bouncing and went over his stick. Finally, to cap off a terrible period for Russia, youngster Yevgeni Kuznetsov would get caught in a bad position and lead to yet another terrible turnover, which led to a beautiful passing play from Stastny to Smith to Alex Galchenyuk who deked Bryzgalov out of his shorts for a 4-1 lead. That would be the end of Bryz as he would get pulled for Semyon Varlamov. Luckily for Russia, that would also mark the end of the period.
Russia needed an absolute huge third to have a chance to reach the semifinals and it started off pretty well with an Ovechkin goal in the 2nd minute. He beat Gibson short side and shot back off the bar in the back of the net into play. Nobody even realized that it crossed the line until a stoppage of play and seeing a replay. Pretty typical Ovechkin wrist shot goal. Momentum seemed to switch to Russia after the Ovie goal and Russia would get PP opportunity shortly after. Gionta (5’7″-185 lbs) would level Ilya Nikulin (6’3″-218 lbs) but get called for roughing. Terrible call in my opinion. Nikulin’s head was down and Gionta hit him in the chest. Russia would look discombobulated early in the PP and a miscommunication between Kovalchuk and Radulov would lead to ANOTHER Russian turnover. Ryan Carter would carry the puck up the ice and beat Varlamov through the five-hole to give USA the three goal lead again. However, that three goal lead would be short lived as Russia tallied on that PP with a nifty little passing play and Alexander Perezhogin would finish the play off by beating Gibson. So, 5-3 USA lead with 16 minutes left.
A few minutes later, Denis Kokarev would send a cross ice pass to Soin alone in front, but Soin put it just wide of the cage. Fedor Tyutin would get called for high-sticking later and USA would cash in in the form of Trouba beating Varlamov through the five hole, again. Moss was forming a screen in front. Halfway through the period, Kovalchuk would get some room in the offensive zone and set up Radulov for a nice shot, but Gibson would kick it away. USA would come right back after that save and Moss would just throw on net from just inside the blue line with traffic in front and it found it’s way between Varlamov’s legs for a 7-3 USA lead. 11 seconds later, USA would score again when Smith would make a nice no-look backhand pass to Stastny cutting to the net who beat Varlamov short side. I know Bryzgalov didn’t play well, but Varlamov was just awful. Radulov and Kuznetsov would get a couple more solid chances for Russia, but they never could really rally for anything late. In fact, the best chance in the last few minutes of the game came when Erik Johnson was 1-on-1 against his Colorado Avalanche teammate Varlamov and Varlamov robbed him with a very good glove save. 8-3, final.
The USA’s game plan was executed perfectly in this game denying Russia prolonged offensive zone time and frustrating to the point where they get off their game. John Gibson was phenomenal yet again for USA, this time stopping 31 shots. The Russian goaltending situation is certainly going to be interesting for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics after this poor showing by both Bryzgalov and Varlamov. USA looked like a championship contender in this game, giving Russia/Soviet Union their worst loss in World Championship history. USA will take on Switzerland in the Semi-Final on Saturday. Switzerland reached the Semi-Final after defeating the Czech Republic 2-1 behind the strength of former Duck, Martin Gerber, in net. This will be USA’s first trip to the Semi-Finals since 2009.
Tags: 2013 IIHF World Championship 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Alex Galchenyuk Alex Ovechkin Alexander Perezhogin Alexander Radulov Alexander Svitov Artem Anisimov Craig Smith Erik Johnson Fedor Tyutin IIHF Ilya Bryzgalov Ilya Kovalchuk Ilya Nikulin Jacob Trouba John Gibson Martin Gerber Nate Thompson Paul Stastny Ryan Carter Semyon Varlamov Sergei Soin Stephen Gionta T.J. Oshie Team Czech Republic Team Russia Team Switzerland Team USA Tim Stapleton Yevgeni Kuznetsov