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Russia wins in final minutes in front of home crowd
Vladimir Tkachyov scored the game winner to beat the four-time defending U18 champions.
Tied 2-2 going into the third period, Russia got its first lead of the game just over a minute and a half into the frame. Pavel Buchnevich got the puck at the bottom of the circle in the U.S. zone, finding Ilya Ivanov open in the slot. Ivanov calmly roofed it past goaltender Thatcher Demko, giving Russia the 3-2 lead.
"The opponent started game better than us," said Russian national team forward Nikita Setdikov. "We know well the U.S. team. We understood that who make least mistakes will win. Fans supported us, and the game went much better. The excitement is always there, but it's normal when you're playing at full stands, you cannot be dishonored."
A penalty at 9:28 on the United States would have seemed to give Russia the chance it needed to close out its rival. But instead Team USA’s Tyler Motte stole the puck at the top of the U.S. blue line and took off with captain JT Compher on a two-on-one. Compher got the pass from Motte near center ice, and after skating into the Russian zone beat goaltender Igor Shestyorkin with a shot under his arm for the short-handed tying goal.
But the Russians, playing in the future site of their country’s Olympic Games, would not be denied. With just under two minutes to go, Ivan Barbashev passed the puck to Vladimir Tkachyov in the middle of the U.S. zone. Making a magnificent toe drag to get past the last defender, Tkachyov scored what would be the game winner, as Russia held off a late USA charge to seal the 4-3 win.
"It was a tough loss, but we know we played our hearts out," said Compher. "We're not too worried because we know we'll see them again later in the tournament."
The game began with the opening ceremony for the tournament, featuring a trio of speeches from IIHF President René Fasel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Russian Ice Hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretiak. President Putin held a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston Marathon explosion that occurred just days earlier, as well as the explosion in Texas that occurred only hours earlier.
The power play was working well early on for the Americans. Team USA’s Jack Eichel broke the ice 2:34 into the game, scoring on the power play with an assist from JT Compher. Five minutes later, with Nikolai Glukhov in the box on a tripping call, Will Butcher added another on the man advantage to put USA up 3-2.
The second goal sparked the Russians, playing in front of not only a capacity crowd at Bolshoy Arena but also in front of their president. Only nine seconds after Butcher’s goal, Nikita Setdikov scored to cut the lead to one. Then on an early power play in the second period, Glukhov redeemed his earlier penalty, finding his teammate Pavel Buchnevich with a pass. Buchnevich took care of the rest, firing a perfect shot top corner to tie the game and send the home crowd wild.
"It was an outstanding game, and I have to give Team USA credit," said Russian head coach Igo Kravchuk. "They gave us a big test and we were able to respond but we still need to work on some thigns moving forward."
The United States and Russia will both get a break Friday before resuming action on the weekend. Saturday afternoon will see the States taking on the Czech Republic, while Russia will face Finland at the Bolshoy in the evening game.
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