While Team Russia put up a good fight in their bid to get themselves back into the 2015 CHL Canada Russia Series, Team OHL nevertheless dashed those hopes by defeating Russia, 2-1, to give the CHL clubs the needed points to crown themselves as series champions with the two QMJHL games yet to be played.
The game was the second of two involving players from the OHL, with this game taking place at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, ON. Team OHL took the first game by a 3-0 score.
It looked as if the OHL might put this one away early, with most of the early first period action taking place in the Russian end of the ice. But there was more heat than light for the OHL, not to mention some strong goaltending from Russian netminder Alexander Trushkov, with Team OHL eventually taking two consecutive penalties to give Russia a two-man advantage.
Russia capitalized quickly on their power play opportunity on a play that developed near the OHL goal crease. Forward Kirill Pilipenko finished off a goalmouth pass from Daniil Vovchenko to give Russia the 1-0 lead at the 7:27 mark.
Play evened out a bit more after Russia opened the scoring, but the OHL still led on the shot clock, 10-3, with six minutes remaining in the opening period.
OHL forward Brandan Perlini (ARI) was active around the Russian net for much of the first period, including a late sequence that put Perlini in the slot for an excellent scoring chance, but he wasn’t able to beat Trushkov.
The first period ended with Russia holding the 1-0 lead, while the OHL led on the shot clock with a 12-6 advantage.
Windsor Spitfires head coach Rocky Thompson served as the head coach for Team OHL in this game. He talked about his team’s strong start despite not having the standard preparation that the players are normally used to.
“We didn’t even have a whistle for almost the first seven minutes,” said Thompson. “Our guys were playing really well – it was good, we didn’t have to make any adjustments or anything, just small, little details – maybe off the faceoff, for example.
“But, the guys played well from the start of the game to the end of the game, goalies included. It was a great effort, I thought.”
Aside from giving up the one goal in the opening frame, Team OHL starting goaltender Michael McNiven (MTL) was not heavily tested during that period. But that wasn’t the case through the first six minutes of the second period as the Russians made perhaps their strongest push of the night.
But that Russian surge came to an end in much the same way that the OHL’s opening burst was halted, with a parade to the penalty box.
Although those penalties didn’t play a direct part in the OHL’s first goal, they did serve the purpose of swinging the momentum back to the OHL.
The OHL finally cashed in at the 9:12 mark, with Jordan Kyrou knocking the puck past Trushkov to make the score 1-1. Kyle Capobianco (ARI) picked up the lone assist after firing the shot that rebounded to Kyrou.
The OHL was presented with another man advantage not long after the first goal, and they took full advantage of that opportunity. Spencer Watson (LAK), who netted two goals in the first game against the Russians, buried a pass from Mitch Marner (TOR) from the edge of the left faceoff circle to make the score 2-1 in favor of the OHL. The goal came at 11:02 of the second period, with Roland McKeown (CAR) picking up the second assist.
Watson talked about the goal following the game.
“Marner – again – fed me a great pass, and I had a lot more time than I usually would because of that pass,” Watson said of his game-winning goal. “So, I had time to look and pick the corner, and I just saw the top right, and I just said “I’m going to shoot it there”, and it went in.”
The OHL continued to pressure the Russians after the goal by Watson, but Trushkov was equal to the task, helping the Russians to regain their footing. Russia had the better chances later in the second, including point-blank chances by Pilipenko and Semyon Afonasevsky that were turned aside by Dylan Wells, who came in to play the second half of the game for the OHL.
The second period ended with the OHL holding the 2-1 lead in goals, and a 29-15 edge in shots.
While Russia matched the effort of the OHL in the third period, they were not able to exceed it. Instead, Team OHL had most of the better scoring chances through the first half of the third period, including a great opportunity for Lawson Crouse (FLA) off a 2-on-1 break that was denied by Trsuhkov during a penalty kill.
“I was on the PK, I just tried to get up the ice as quick as I could,” Crouse explained. “It was a nice pass by [Michael] Amadio, and I just tried to get it on net as quick as I could. Unfortunately the goalie made a great save. Obviously, it’s nice to get chances like that, but I would have liked to put it in the back of the net.”
The line of Michael Dal Colle (NYI), Marner and Watson, who were dangerous for much of the game, also were buzzing around Trushkov during the third period, but they were not able to create any insurance offense for Team OHL.
The success that the trio had over the course of the game was not surprising to Marner.
“It’s a pretty special line – playing with those two, I know what they’re all about,” said Marner follwing the win. “I know Spencer’s a shooter, and so is Mike, so my goal is to try to give them as much space as possible, try to get them in that open space to shoot it. I fed Spence a couple times, and finally we got one in.”
But it came down to Russia having to produce two goals in the final period, with a combination of some tight checking by the OHL’s forwards and defensemen, along with some timely stops by Wells being enough to run out the clock and provide the CHL with a series win after Russia narrowly won last year’s series.
In addition to taking the 2-1 victory, the OHL also led on the shot clock by a 38-22 count after outshooting Russia in the third period by a 9-7 margin.
Unsurprisingly, Alexander Trushkov was named Russia’s Star of the Game, while Mitch Marner earned that honor for Team OHL.
Head Coach Thompson talked about Marner following the game.
“Mitch, you could see, he’s a special player,” said Thompson. “He makes everybody around him better – I think I was better, on the bench, around him. But he’s that type of player…it was fun to see it up close.”
Two of the offensive stars for the OHL in this game, Mitch Marner and Jordan Kyrou, spoke about the win following the game.
Hockey Canada Director of Scouting Ryan Jankowski has been following the proceedings, and provided his thoughts on the OHL portion of this series.
Below are highlights from Team OHL’s second victory.
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