Canada and Russia always play entertaining games no matter what division, and a 3-2 Russian win was no exception on Wednesday at the Summer Showcase U20 exhibition tournament in Calgary.
The first few minutes had a tremendous pace to start off the game. As per usual, Canada wasn’t the stronger team right off the bat, allowing the Russians to find the back of the net first. An untimely faceoff for Canada proved to be deflating, as Konstantin Kuznetsov won the little duel to the right of the Canadian net, sending the puck to Alexander Mikulovich at the point. The sixth defender for Russia wouldn’t waste his chance, taking a hard wrist shot that had Florida Panthers prospect Samuel Montembeault checking his angles afterwards following the 1-0 goal at the 5:08 mark.
A minute later, Canada would find a way to get a goal of their own to answer back quickly. The goal would require a lot of prior work by Josh Ho-Sang, who made every single defender look silly by skating around the offensive zone with tremendous skill. Eventually, he’d send it off to former 209th overall draft pick Spencer Watson, who knock in the pass past Alexander Georgiev and in to tie it up at one apiece.
Some poor positioning by goalie hopeful Montembeault hurt Canada with nine minutes to go in the opening frame. Semen Afonasyevskiy showed some patience behind the Canadian net, standing almost unattended to for the entire time, but would still find an open Alexander Protapovich in front of the net. With Montembeault struggling to find his place in the net, Protapovich would fire the puck past his blocker and in for the 2-1 lead heading into the first break in action.
Ho-Sang needed to have a good camp this year after being outspoken about his exclusion a year ago. Known to have an attitude, the New York Islanders prospect has shown in the past that despite his skill, there are some downsides to his game. That wasn’t evident at all on Wednesday. After his beautiful play on the first goal, Ho-Sang could be found cycling the puck all over the offensive zone once again, this time setting up Travis Dermott for the 2-2 goal. Ho-Sang looked to be making everyone better, and that was evident with his teamwork with Arizona Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome throughout the game.
The third period was a solid back and forth effort, with Canada eventually finishing with an 8-6 shot count at the end of the frame. No goals were scored, however, but the Canadians were very close to finding the back of the net in the dying minutes. After escaping the penalty box following his roughing penalty, Watson used his tremendous speed to break past a few Russian defenders, only to get stopped by Georgiev’s glove with a minute to go.
With no decision in sight, the game required overtime to find out who the best team on Wednesday night would be. A small defensive lapse with about two minutes to go would give the Russians the best chance of the extra frame, sending Denis Guryanov on a breakaway to win the game. Fortunately enough for the home crowd, Montembeault was square to the shooter and make a big save on the one-on-one opportunity, helping send the game to the shootout.
In the shootout, only one player would find the back of the net. The game wouldn’t end in favour of the Canadians, as a goal by Marat Khayrullin meant that Russia would win the game 3-2 without ever falling behind on the scoreboard. Following the game, both teams got into a small scuffle in the handshake line, something that drew the ire of the Canadian fans in attendance.
Canada still has one game left to play in the tournament, using a roster of players that didn’t participate on Wednesday. Canada will take on the Czech Republic for the second time on Thursday, heading out for a rematch of their 7-1 game on Tuesday that went Canada’s way.
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