International Ice Hockey Federation

Defending champs fall to Russia

Defending champs fall to Russia

Samsonov the star in net with 50-save effort

Published 16.04.2015 22:10 GMT+2 | Author Adam Steiss
Defending champs fall to Russia
Ilya Samsonov opened his U18 World campaign with a sublime performance against the States. Photo: Matthew Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Russia opened its 2015 U18 World Championship campaign with a 3-1 win over the United States, courtesy of a great goaltending performance from Ilya Samsonov.

Down 2-1 going into the third period, the U18 powerhouse United States were facing down a fast-skating Russian team with a strong goaltending presence of Samsonov one of the most highly-regarded Russian goaltending prospects in recent memory.

"We played very well as a team tonight," said Samsonov. "The defence did well to keep the other team from getting close to the net, and we played with great spirit."

Samsonov had to stand on his head many times in the first two periods, but in the third frame his defencemen rallied around him, and limited the number of quality scoring chances for the Americans. Still, the United States dominated the shots on goal to the tune of 50-16, and Samsonov proved to be the difference for the Russians.

"It was a disciplined team effort, especially at then end when we needed to support the goalie," said Russian head coach Yuri Rumyantsev. 

With five minutes left to play, the USA offence ran out of gas and couldn’t threaten the net as Team Russia collapsed around their netminder to preserve the lead. An empty netter from Dmitri Sokolov sealed the win with 21 seconds left.

"It''s not easy to score, you gotta be ready to score some dirty goals instead of trying to get the pretty goal sometimes, it was a good lesson for us today," said USA head coach Don Granato. "The defensive gourp for Russia was great in front of the goalie, they did a great job clearing those pucks out. Credit to them we olayed a very good team and it was a great hockey game."

Despite American dominance in the U18 gold medal standings, Russia has had success playing against the U.S. at this level, winning nine out of the 14 matchups between the two teams. The two perennial hockey rivals played out probably the best game of the opening day, with plenty of momentum swings and end-to-end action.

The Americans struck first several minutes into the game, off a shot near the top of the right circle by Troy Terry. The Americans kept up the pressure on goaltender Ilya Samsonov but the Russian goalie refused to relent for the rest of the period, making a few big saves to keep his team in the game.

Russia looked to go down 2-0 after taking its second straight penalty, but a miscue at the back end on the U.S. power play allowed Mikhail Vorobyov to intercept the puck and send Denis Guryanov on a breakaway. Guryanov beat goaltender Luke Opilka with a deke through the five hole, tying the game up 1-1 early with the short-handed goal in the second period.

Soon after Kirill Kaprizov got the puck into the American zone and dished it off to Dmitri Sokolov at the top of the left circle. Sokolov made a great cross ice pass down low to Dmitri Zhukenov, waiting on the side of the net to chip the puck in and give Russia the 2-1 lead at 12:23 of the period.

"I think that with the first game of the tournament there are always extra nerves, and I thought that was a negative factor for us," said Granato. "But I think those will settle in and we will settle in too and the nerves won't be there as we proceed. Time will tell." 

The States take on Slovakia tomorrow, winners of their opening game against Sweden, while Russia faces Germany. 

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