GOLDEN AGAIN: RUSSIA DOWNS U.S. TO DEFEND U17 TITLE
JASON LA ROSE
MEDICINE HAT, Alta. – Valerii Brinkman shut down the vaunted American offence in a 32-save performance, and Russia got goals from six different players to down the United States 6-2 on Saturday night and make it back-to-back gold medals at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
The Russians won their fifth gold – equaling the Americans for second-most all-time – and became the first team since Ontario in 2008 and 2009 to lift the Quebec Cup in consecutive years.
The U.S. came in averaging seven goals per game (35 in five games) and had scored 15 in their two medal-round contests. But Brinkman was up to the task, keeping the Americans scoreless for more than 56 minutes.
Fedor Svechkov had a goal and two assists, and Nikita Chibrikov and Vsevolod Gaidamak finished with a goal and an assist apiece for Russia, which also became the first team since Sweden in 2016, and just the second ever, to lose its first two games and still win gold.
Rather unexpectedly, the first period was a scoreless affair, with the teams managing just 13 shots on goal. It marked just the fifth period in the entire tournament that didn’t feature a goal, and the first at the Canalta Centre.
Svechkov finally broke through for the Russians just before the eight-minute mark of the second; Gaidamak fended off a U.S. defender before throwing the puck to the net where Svechkov knocked it past netminder Kaidan Mbereko.
Poltapov doubled the advantage with just 11.1 seconds left in the frame, taking a stretch pass from Daniil Lazutin and going to the backhand with a pretty move to beat Mbereko.
The two highest-scoring teams in the tournament finally found their offensive legs in the third period, combining for six goals – five of them in the final six minutes.
Ivan Ivantsov scored the eventual game-winner six minutes into the final stanza, throwing a harmless looking shot towards the net that deflected off the glove of Mbereko and in for the 3-0 goal.
Chibrikov converted another breakaway at 14:49 and Svechkov set up Gaidamak 53 seconds later to extend the lead to 5-0 and start the party on the Russian bench.
The Americans finally solved Brinkman when Aidan Hreschuk snapped a shot glove side with 3:44 to go, and Colby Saganiuk converted on a U.S. power play that became a six-on-four with Mbereko on the bench, but they would get no closer.
Danila Iurov hit the empty net with 21.5 seconds left, rounding out the scoring.
It is the eighth silver medal for the Americans, who have now won 16 medals at the tournament (five gold, eight silver, three bronze).
Following the game, Svechkov and Lazutin were named to the tournament all-star team, joining Chaz Lucius and Sean Behrens of the U.S., Canada White defenceman Carson Lambos (Winnipeg, Man./Winnipeg, WHL) and Czech Republic goaltender Tomas Suchanek.
The 2020 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge will be held Oct. 31-Nov. 7 in Charlottetown and Summerside, P.E.I.