Team Russia rode a solid goaltending performance mixed with some opportunistic scoring to win the first of their two Subway Super Series games against Team OHL, 4-0. The win was also the Russians third in three games in this year’s series, with the first two coming at the expense of Team WHL.
Much of the Russian squad that hit the ice in Peterborough, ON was playing their third game in four days, and it showed in the first period of this contest. Team OHL dominated much of the play throughout the first stanza, not just on the shot clock but also in offensive zone possession. The OHL fired 13 shots on goal to Russia’s four, but Russian goaltender Igor Shesterkin held the fort until his teammates started to get their legs going late in the first.
Russia managed to draw a hooking call from OHL defenseman Roland McKeown at 18:46 of the first. But, while the OHL managed to kill off the penalty early in the second, Russia managed to tilt the ice more in Team OHL’s direction, which led to Russia’s first goal of the game.
Forward Sergei Tolchinsky skated into the OHL zone and fed a perfect backdoor pass to Konstantin Okulov at the right corner of the OHL goal, with Okulov making no mistake in directing the puck past OHL goaltender Spencer Martin to give Russia the 1-0 lead.
The teams traded scoring chances through the midpoint of the second period, with the the OHL’s Martin making a pair of notable saves, one off of a one-timer by right winger Vladimir Bryukvin, the other on a shot through traffic by right winger Nikita Shatsky.
Near the 8 minute mark of the second, Team OHL still led on the shot clock with a 21-8 advantage, but the score remained 1-0 in favor of Team Russia. But Russia would take over the game from that point, outshooting the OHL 18-14 over the remainder of the game while also taking control on the scoreboard.
Team OHL was whistled for having too many men on the ice at 11:42, with Team Russia making them pay for the mistake shortly thereafter. Defenseman Rushan Rafikov took a pass from defenseman Dmitry Yudin and blasted a shot from the point that beat Martin, making the score 2-0.
The OHL continued to put shots on the net, but the Russians did a good job of keeping the OHL players to the outside while allowing Shesterkin to see the shots. For his part, Shesterkin gobbled up the rebounds and denied the OHL forwards any second chances.
Russia opened up a 3-0 lead at the 14:28 mark when Shatsky skated into the OHL zone and fired a wrister on net that Martin would probably like to have back. Tolchinsky and defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov earned the assists.
As the second period wound down, the frustration began to show for the OHL with some undisciplined play that ultimately led to another power play opportunity for Russia. A passing play started by Yudin and Rafikov was completed by Bryukvin as he put the puck past Martin for the 4-0 lead.
Once again, the OHL led on the shot clock after two periods with a 26-16 advantage, but Russia had assumed control on the scoreboard.
The third period featured few good scoring chances for Team OHL, and when they did create one, Shesterkin was there to thwart them. The game ended with the 4-0 win for Team Russia, while the OHL finsihed the night with a 35-26 shot advantage. Shesterkin was named the Player of the Game for Russia, while defenseman and captain Darnell Nurse earned that honor for the OHL.
Following the game, OHL right wing Travis Konecny indicated that opportunism more than goaltending was the reason that Russia came out on top.
“I think it was just, when we broke down, they capitalized and we didn’t capitalize on some of our chances,” said Konecny. “Sometimes the bounces go like that. But I thought everyone played hard and you can see we gave an effort out there, but we ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard tonight.”
For his part, Konecny didn’t believe that the more familiar Russian lineup had an advantage over an OHL squad that had barely practiced together before taking the ice in Peterborough.
“Other than the three games (in this series), I’m not sure how much they’ve played together,” stated Konecny. ” I think it’s kind of equal ground coming in. Sure, they played together for three games before, but it’s really no excuse for us coming in and not gelling together real quick the day before and in our practice this morning.”