WJC 2013 – Canada vs. Russia @ Ufa, Russia – December 31, 2012

On the final day of 2012, Canada and long time for Russia face off for first place in Group B at the 2013 World Junior Championships.  Canada must want some revenge after the 2012 loss in the semi-finals and 2011 loss in the gold medal game both to Russia.  Knowing the Russians better than any other team in the tournament, Canada would try to contain the speedy and skilled Russian forwards.  The winner of the game would have a bye to the semis whereas the loser would play Switzerland in the quarter finals.

Team Canada coach Steve Spott had his entire team for the first time in the tournament.  With Boone Jenner back in after his 3 game suspension and JC Lipon back after a 1 game suspension.  Spott decided to change up his lines.  Jonathan Huberdeau was moved off the 1st line and onto a line with Ty Rattie and Ryan Strome.  Jonathan Drouin was now on the top line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Mark Scheifele.  Jenner centered a line with Phillip Danault and Brett Ritchie.

Returning player Boone Jenner is an important member of the team. He brings plenty of physical play, is great in the faceoff circle and is strong defensively.  His inclusion into the line-up brought a spark to Canada.  The Jenner-Danault-Ritchie line was used as a checking line against Mikhail Grigorenko’s.

There was an electric atmosphere in the building during the game.  Russia, the home team so they had the last change, was in red and Canada was in white.  In the early part of the game Canada demonstrated some excellent jump.  It was free-flowing with very few whistles.  An important whistle came at 11:43 when Russia’s Valeri Nichushkin was assessed a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for his hit from behind on defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon.  Wotherspoon, who already had a cut on his face from where he had been struck by a Russian player’s skate, had to retreat to the dressing room for some stitches on a cut on his right cheek.

Canada was afforded a huge opportunity with the 5 minute power play.  Their power play was not reliable against the United States going 0-for-4 and only 4-for-14 overall.  They needed to do better and they did.  Defenseman Ryan Murphy, 1st round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, made the team to be on the power play as he possesses a heavy shot from the point.  Canada made a special effort on this power play to simplify things and get shots on net from their defensemen.  This change in strategy led to the game’s first goal.

At 14:03 Dougie Hamilton launched a howitzer on net that went in just under the crossbar.  It was Hamilton’s 1st goal of the tournament.  Canada wasn’t done yet as they scored their 2nd goal on the power play not quite 2 minutes later.  This time is was Scheifele assisted by Nugent-Hopkins and Huberdeau.  Canada could not have hoped for a better start to the game with a 2-0 lead and dangerous Russian forward Nichushkin out for the rest of the game.  Nichushkin is a potential 1st round draft choice and a big body.  In the end he was suspended for 1 game for the hit and Russia would have to play the quarterfinals without him in the line-up.

These two teams are so evenly matched that neither side could relax at all.  Canada learned that the hard way.  They had barely finished stunning the Russian supporters with their 2 goals when Russia struck for one of their own.  At 17:36 Nikita Kucherov stripped Canada’s 2nd goal scorer Mark Scheifele of the puck in Canada’s end and wristed a shot over Malcolm Subban’s shoulder.

Just after killing off a Nate MacKinnon minor penalty, Canada made the lead 2 goals once again.  This time it was Jonathan Drouin at the 6:31 mark of the middle frame.  Nugent-Hopkins once again set up the goal.  Drouin has impressed especially for a 17-year-old in a tournament dominated by 19-year-olds.  He has great hands, speed and now has 2 goals in 4 games.  Nugent-Hopkins has a point on each of Canada’s goals; he sees the ice so well.

With a 3-1 lead in the 3rd period Canada concerned itself with shutting down the Russians.  They cycled the puck and melted time off the clock.  The Jenner-Danault-Ritchie line was especially efficient at this.  Dominant physically, the line kept the puck hemmed in the Russian end for long stretches.  Canada also plugged up the middle of the ice in their own end.  Russia still tried to stickhandle through and was not successful.  Over the first 12 minutes of the 3rd Russia was only able to direct 2 shots at the Canadian net.  Russia had not chances from in front of the Canadian net.

With 1:50 left in the game the Russians called a time out then with 1:05 left they pulled Makarov.  This only led to a Canada empty net goal notched by Huberdeau with 0:28 seconds left on the clock.  Even a penalty shot awarded to the Russians at 19:41 after Murphy hooked down Russian player, Vladimir Tkachyov, was not really a problem for Subban, who had a PK Subban-like celebration after the stop.

The shuffling of the lines by Spott worked terrifically. A smothering defense by Canada allowed very few quality chances for Russia.  Up next on Thursday (Canada has 2 days off) for Canada will be the semis where they will face the winner of the U.S. – Czech Republic quarterfinal game.

Game Stats:

-On-Ice Officials:  Referees:  Harry Dumas (United States) and Mikael Sjoqvist (Sweden)

Linesmen:  Tommy George (United States) and Peter Stano (/Slovakia)

-Goals:  1st Period:

14:04:  Canada – (pp) Dougie Hamilton assisted by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

15:58:  Canada – (pp) Mark Scheifele assisted by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jonathan Huberdeau

17:36:  Russia – Nikita Kucherov unassisted

2nd Period:

6:31:  Canada – Jonathan Drouin assisted by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

3rd Period:

19:32:  Canada – (en) Jonathan Huberdeau unassisted

-Shots on Goal:  Canada:  48

Russia:  22

-Players of the Game:  Canada:  Jonathan Drouin

Russia:  Nikita Nesterov

-Final Score:  Canada:  4

Russia:  1

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