Russia and Switzerland took to the ice in Whitby to settle the final game of the preliminary round of the World Junior A Challenge, with the Russians taking the 2-0 victory to move on to the semi-finals.
It only took the Russians just a minute and a half to find the back of the net first. With the Swiss sitting down a man, defensive Nikita Gromov moved in and fired a shot past Matteo Ritz, giving the Russians the 1-0 lead.
With the Swiss losing to Canada East 8-3 on Sunday and with the Russians tackling Canada 6-1 last night, it looked like the Russians would come in and easily defeat the Swiss. Despite scoring the first goal of the game, that didn’t look like the case for most of the opening frame. The Swiss actually tied Russia with seven shots and if it wasn’t for trying to make a little too many pretty plays, the team probably could have scored, too.
But just like on Monday, Russia’s best player was their goaltender. Last night, Vladislav Sukhachev put on a clinic in what Hockey Canada dubbed the best performance of the night. On Tuesday, Mikhail Berdin used his quick legs to keep pucks away while his defensemen in front did their best to clog up scoring lanes with poke checks and shot blocks.
Easily the highlight of the third period was the goaltending of Matteo Ritz for Switzerland. After a six save period to start the game, the Lausanne U20 star upped his game by making 13 saves against the high flying Russians, who were doing a good job of taking control of a slow-moving Switzerland defense for almost the entire period. His best save was a cross crease glove save on Ilya Avramenko, who had a few chances of his own in the second period of the contest.
Not a lot happened at either end until the 12-minute mark of the third period. With Russia trying their best to find a way to crack Ritz, the team finally got their second goal of the game when Mikhail Maltsev beat Ritz with a wrist shot, only to get injured just as he scored the goal. Russia’s best skater against Canada East, Maltsev would miss a bit of time while recovering in the changeroom after getting speared by a Swiss defender on the play. Maltsev would return to the game to help his team hold on to the 2-0 lead, good enough to give Russia the victory and finish the preliminary round with a perfect record.
With the victory, the Russians will have the day off on Wednesday to prepare for the semi-finals on Thursday night at 7:00 pm. The Swiss will get right back into action tomorrow with a game against the Americans on Tuesday, with the puck drop set for 7:00 pm as well.
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