Magazine Musings: U.S. 2, Russia 1 (SF)

Five Takeaways From The U.S. Semifinal Win Over Russia

The U.S. National Junior Team jumped out to a 2-0 lead and then held on to outlast Russia, 2-1, on Friday in the semifinals of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. 

 

The victory keeps the U.S. gold-medal hopes alive when it faces Finlandtonight at 8 p.m. (Eastern time)at Rogers Arenain Vancouver. You can catch all the action live on the NHL Network. 

 

Regardless of the outcome, the U.S. will pick up its fourth straight medal, an American record after winning gold in 2017 and bronze in 2016 and 2018.

 

Dodging An Early Bullet 

Russia got out to a good start, holding an 8-2 shot advantage early in the first period. They looked to have scored the first goal at the 7:47 mark as Dmitri Samorukov threaded a slap pass to Nikita Shashkov, with the puck careening off his skate and behind U.S. goaltender Cayden Primeau. The play was reviewed by the IIHF video goal judge who ruled that Shashkov directed the puck into the net with his skate, which is not allowed in IIHF rules.

 

With the tally erased, the U.S. began to turn the tide as Oliver Wahlstrom got the Americans on the board with 5:31 left in the first period.

 

Penalty Kills Take A Break

The U.S. took three penalties against a dangerousRussian power-play unit. Each penalty was called in the final minute of their respective frame, with Jason Robertson whistled off in the final 26 seconds of the opening period, and Mikey Anderson called for a tripping infraction with five seconds left in the second stanza.

 

This presented challenges for Primeau and the U.S. penalty-killing unit coming out of the intermission.

 

An early goal in either period would’ve tied the contest and shifted the game. Particularly the third period chance, when Vitali Kravtsov peppered Primeau with three shots, including one that was swept away from the goal line by U.S. defenseman  Phil Kemp.

 

Picking Up Where He Left Off

Primeau made his third straight start and once again looked solid from the outset. 

 

He looked calm and in control throughout the game, especially in the third period when he faced a barrage of Russian shots. The Northeastern University product made 15 of his 34 saves in the final frame as Russia desperately pressed for the equalizer. 

 

After splitting the four preliminary round games with Kyle Keyser, the Voorhees, N.J., native looks to own the U.S. heading into the gold-medal game.

 

Hold On

U.S. fans were certainly on the edge of their seats, especially in the suspenseful final minutes of the game. The Russians threw everything but the kitchen sink at the net, but Primeau stood tall. 

 

The U.S. forecheck in the final minutes frustrated the Russians, who were unable to pull their goalie until there was less than a minute left.

 

Even afterPyotr Kochetkov was pulledfor an extra attacker the U.S. managed to bury the puck in the corner on two separate occasions before a Phil Kemp clearing attempt in the final seconds sealed the deal.

 

Golden Opportunity

Several hours after the dramatic victory, the Americans learned that their dance partner in the last waltz will be Finland, who ran over the Swiss, 6-1, in the other semifinal contest.

 

The two teams met in the preliminary round with the Americans putting the clampdown on the Finns, 4-1, as Tyler Madden scored twice while Jason Robertson and Ryan Poehling also tallying for the U.S.

 

The Americans are guaranteed to medal, pushing their streak to four straight tournaments ending up with a medal around their necks. It’s the longest such streak in U.S. National Junior Team history.

 

The U.S. have played in five gold-medal games in World Junior Championship history, winning their four most recent appearances. Their last gold was in 2017, while also winning in 2013, 2010 and 2004.

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