Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
ELEMENT SCORES SHORTHANDED WINNER TO GIVE RED WIN OVER RUSSIA
JASON LA ROSE
SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – Shawn Element (Victoriaville, Que./Baie-Comeau, QMJHL) scored the only goal of the game shorthanded early in the third period, helping Canada Red to a 1-0 win over Russia in the final preliminary-round game for both Tuesday at the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
The win jumps the Canadians over Russia and Finland into first place in Group B, with only the Sweden-Finland match-up on Tuesday night remaining in the round robin.
If the Swedes win, Canada Red will win the group, while a Finnish victory (in regulation time only) will drop Red to second. If the game reaches overtime, the Canadians take top spot.
With Red killing the final seconds of a kneeing major given to Serron Noel (Nepean, Ont./Oshawa, OHL) in the dying moments of the second period, the Canadians capitalized on a turnover in the Russian zone.
Jumping on the loose puck after the defender fell, Josh Tarzwell (Red Deer, Alta./Lethbridge, WHL) found Element cruising into the slot, and he blasted a one-timer past goaltender Amir Miftakhov at 4:17 of the third period.
That would be more than enough offence for Canadian netminder Kevin Mandolese (Blainville, Que./Cape Breton, QMJHL), who turned away all 23 shots he faced to record his first win of the tournament.
After an evenly-match first period – Canada Red outshot Russia 11-9 in the opening 20 minutes – the Canadians ran into serious penalty trouble in the second.
Red had to fend off parts of six power plays in the middle stanza, including a 91-second two-man advantage midway through the period, and the 90-second five-on-three that spanned the second and third.
But Mandolese and the penalty-killing unit were up to the task, and the Element winner seemed like a gift from the hockey gods for the work done while a man down.
The Russians pulled Miftakhov in the dying minutes, but the best chance, arguably, went to Mandolese, who had his attempt at goal knocked down by a Russian high stick at centre ice, with the puck seemingly tracking towards the empty goal.
Both teams will anxiously await the results of the final two preliminary-round games find out when, and against whom, they’ll play in the quarter-finals on Thursday.