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Zhuravlyov, Kovalenko to play for bronze

Zhuravlyov, Kovalenko to play for bronzeAvalanche prospects Danila Zhuravlyov and Nikolai Kovalenko will play for bronze following Russia's 2-1 loss to the US in the semifinals.

The 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship is drawing to a close, with the semifinals and the last game of the relegation round being played yesterday. Avalanche prospects Danila Zhuravlyov and Nikolai Kovalenko were looking for a berth in the final, but will only play for bronze following Russia’s 2-1 defeat against the United States.

The Russians got off to a great start in their semifinals tilt, dictating the tempo early on in the first period. They even managed to score almost 8 minutes in, but Nikita Shashkov’s goal was disallowed under a new IIHF rule, as he redirected Dmitri Samorukov’s pass past Cayden Primeau with his skate, which was later ruled as being intentionally directed into the net and the game remained scoreless. The US gained the momentum and opened the scoring at 14:29, with Oliver Wahlstrom firing home the game’s first goal following a nice cross-ice pass from Logan Cockerill. The Americans also had the upper hand early in the second period, doubling their lead less than 5 minutes in on the man-advantage. Sasha Chmelevski’s redirection hit the underside of Pyotr Kochetkov’s right pad and trickled past the goal line to make it a two-goal game. It was all Russia from then on, as Valeri Bragin’s team was desperate to get back into the game. Grigori Denisenko got the Russians back within one with a beautiful short-side snipe from a tough angle midway through the period.

Denisenko got the Russians back within one goal (Source: Minas Panagiotakis/HHOF-IIHF Images)

The Russians kept hammering Primeau with shot after shot, coming incredibly close on several occasions – a block in front of a wide-open net denied Vitali Kravtsov, who almost smashed his stick in disbelief, while a goal line save from defenseman Phil Kemp denied Russian captain Klim Kostin to keep the Americans in the lead early in the final frame. The Russians kept coming at the US with everything they had, shuffling lines and playing like they had a power-play at times. Namely Kravtsov, who failed to connect on Kostin’s cross-ice pass earlier, had a mind-boggling 8 shots on goal overall. Russia’s efforts to tie the game were ultimately doomed by Bragin’s poor player management, as he effectively reduced his team to two reshuffled lines midway through the third period, alternating between tired players on each shift. He also wasted the last drips of energy the Kostin line had with two minutes left in regulation, sending out Kovalenko’s line in the dying minutes of the game, finally pulling Kochetkov with under a minute to no avail. The Russians appeared heartbroken after the final whistle, with several players breaking down in tears, including Kovalenko and team captain Kostin, whose antics during the post-game ceremony raised eyebrows.

Russia came within inches of tying the game early in the third period (Source: Minas Panagiotakis/HHOF-IIHF Images)

Kovalenko had a solid game, as his line with Pavel Shen and Stepan Starkov had several good chances, remaining in Bragin’s rotation in the latter part of the game. Kovalenko also saw some time on the man-advantage early on, but was later benched in favor of Kostin’s power-play unit. The Avs’ sixth-round pick had a TOI of 14:20, recorded four shots on goal, the second-highest SOG total on the team, but finished -1 as he was on the ice for the game’s opening goal. Zhuravlyov once again had a quiet game, only playing 13 minutes and 38 seconds, the lowest TOI among Russia’s defenseman. Despite being penciled in on the team’s top blueline pair, Bragin used Zhuravlyov very sparsely, keeping him off special teams and effectively benching him for the majority of the third period.

Kovalenko had a solid game, recording 4 shots on goal, the second-most SOG total among all Russian players (Source: Minas Panagiotakis/HHOF-IIHF Images)

The Russians will look to capture bronze against Switzerland, which lost 6-1 to Finland in the tournament’s other semifinal. In other news, newcomer Kazakhstan defeated Denmark 4-0, winning the relegation round in two games and sending the Danes to Division B.

Yesterday’s results:

Denmark – Kazakhstan 0:4 (0:2, 0:0, 0:2)

Russia – USA 1:2 (0:1, 1:1, 0:0) [Danila Zhuravlyov and Nikolai Kovalenko both without points]

Finland – Switzerland 6:1 (4:1, 2:0, 0:0)

Today's schedule:

Russia  Switzerland

USA – Finland 

Michal Hezely, Slovakia,
05/01/2019 - 11:00


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