WJC final game recap

By Robert Neuhauser
The championship title. The goal of every team involved in some sport. And the final battle
is often the most exciting event when the top two teams clash. At this year’s WJC the Russian
and Canadian teams were those two gladiators ready to enter the arena. The Russians thrashed
the USA team and defeated the Finns in an overtime battle on their way to the gold medal
game while the Canadians had to face Swedes and Swiss. Stan Butler’s guys have beaten both
of those teams to establish a final game between the two mighty warriors – Russia and Canada.

The Canadians have had a marvellous start into the game. Andrei Medvedev’s second contact
with the puck came as he had to put it out of his net. The first Canadian raid was a
succesfull one. Jarret Stoll raced with it into the Russian zone, fired a shot at Medvedev
who made the save, but he deflected it in front of him. He couldn’t reach it with his glove
and the defense couldn’t clear Brian Sutherby from the crease. Sutherby didn’t have a problem
to pop the puck into the Russian net with only 22 seconds played.
A cold shower for the Russians, now they faced the fact that they have to cut the Canadian
lead from the very beginning of the game instead of building their own lead. And the
Canadians didn’t look as they would be willing to let their lead cut. During the first
minutes they forechecked hard, played well aggresively and handled the pace of the game
with poise. Pascal Leclaire wasn’t under a huge pressure and the Canadians looked better.
They looked even better when Chuck Kobasew increased the lead at 7:12. Garth Murray
got the puck while standing next to the right goalpost and passed it across the crease to
the open Kobasew who chipped it in. Medvedev didn’t have any chance, a crease-clearer was
the missing item on the Russian team at this moment.
The first important thing in this game came after the next 32 seconds. Instead of allowing
any bad mood come into their heads, the Russians have cut the margin the next shift after
they gave up the second goal and were soon back in the game. Alexander Polushin fed
Alexander Frolov with a pass, Frolov went with it behind the net and then suddenly appeared
in front of Leclaire. The Canadian goalie had to go down and that was a moment Frolov was
waiting for. He fired his wrister over Leclaire’s shoulder right under the crossbar. 1:2.
The goal boosted the Russian confidence immediately. They could cope with the Canadian
aggresivity and determination and both opponents seemed equal now.
Jason Spezza could bring the Russian confidence down again, but lost in a battle of Ottawa
Senators’ first-round prospects. Spezza broke on to a breakaway but Anton Volchenkov was
chasing him and dived to the ice to clear the puck. He succeeded and Medvedev could breathe
in relief.

37 seconds after the beginning of the second period Medvedev had to breathe from desperation.
The Russians screwed the beginning of the period up again and allowed a goal. It was
nearly the same situation. Jason Spezza unleashed a shot at Medvedev, who didn’t manage
to deflect it into the corner. He deflected it on Scottie Upshall’s stick instead. The
Kamloops Blazers star didn’t hesitate to light the lamp and the Russians were once again
trailing by two goals.
They were lucky that it wasn’t by three seconds after that. Brad Boyes had a puck on his stick
right in front of Medvedev who laid on the ice, but Boyes couldn’t lift the puck over him
and it hit only the pad of the Calgary Flames prospect.
But his quite shaky play during the first period and some confidence problems forced Russian
coach Plyushchev to replace him with Sergei Mylnikov. How good this decision was was seen
in the rest of the game.
Three minutes after Mylnikov went into the Russian net the Sbornaya found a key to the
the Canadian fort. Stanislav Chistov, one of the best players in the game, received a long
outlet pass from Anton Volchenkov at the Canadian blue line and has found a hole in
Leclaire’s five-hole to score his goal.
At this time the Russians outplayed the Canadians. They skated better and their top-notch
stickhandling skills brought some quality chances to them and the Canadians began to have
a little trouble. They increased the intensity, but the Russians were still flying on the ice.
At 11:32 Alexander Polushin showed a great individual play when he scored his unassisted
marker. He made two beautiful fakes with his stick to fool the Canadians and sent the puck
behind Leclaire’s back. The game was tied at both teams could start again.
It didn’t stay that long. Only one and a half minute. Igor Grigorenko won the puck behind
the Canadian net and passed it to Yuri Trubachev who was positioned at the left faceoff
circle. Trubachev fired a hard one-timer and Leclaire, who had his vision limited due to
the bunch of players in front of him, saw the puck only when it was already behind him.
That was a tough situation for the Canadians. Now it was up to their strong individualities to
lead the team. Jason Spezza needed only more luck to score on his chance. He went with the
puck from his own zone avoided two hits, but his shot hit only the crossbar. Going
into the third period it were the Canadians who had to cut the margin.

Sergei Mylnikov didn’t allow a goal in the first minute of the period, which was a good sign
for the Russians. Passing wasn’t very common at this time, when the players got the puck,
they fired it immediately at the goalie. But both Mylnikov and Leclaire were like a rock
between the pipes.
The Canadians finally tied the game at 4:31 of the third. They were at a powerplay, Dan
Hamhuis passed the puck to Nick Schultz who fired a shot which was quite easy to deflect
for Chuck Kobasew. The game was tied and one mistake could decide now.
The Canadians were the team to give up the goal. Ivan Nepriaev won the faceoff in the offensive
zone, Anton Volchenkov got the puck and fired a slap shot from the blue line, which found
the way behind Leclaire’s back. The Russians were in lead once again, it was important
that they scored soon after they gave up the goal.
For the rest of the period the play was more nervous, the Canadians were pressed by time
and the Russians knew it. But they didn’t play only defensively, once on the puck they
tried to be creative and spend the most time in the offensive zone.
At 18:31 Stan Butler had a chance to call a time out or pull Leclaire, but didn’t do so
and was waiting for another moment. The Canadians were on powerplay now, but still the
Russians had a two-on-one break. With nearly thirty seconds to go Leclaire was finally
pulled and the Canadian 6 on 4 powerplay started. The Russians could block the shots and
not allow the Canadians to allow a mess in front of Mylnikov. The result was then a
5:4 win. And the win was a very tough one, in this game of two great teams the more lucky
won, and also won the WJC championship title!

Stan Butler’s comment: The Russians were a really talented team, they played a very good
game and the only thing I can do is to congratulate them to their WJC victory. I told
my guys that they played well, that is hockey, you either win or lose.

Vladimir Plyushchev’s comment: I agree with Stan Butler, I’m very satisfied with the result.
Today met two excellent teams, we had more luck and the Canadians will want a revenge
soon. I’m looking forward to the game at the 2003 WJC in Canada.

Top players of this game
Canada – Chuck Kobasew
Russia – Maxim Kondratiev

Boxscore

1st Period

00:22 CAN Brian Sutherby (Jarret Stoll) 0:1
07:12 CAN Chuck Kobasew (Garth Murray) 0:2
07:44 RUS Alexander Frolov (Alexander Polushin) 1:2

2nd Period

20:37 CAN Scottie Upshall (Jason Spezza) 1:3
25:15 RUS Stanislav Chistov (Anton Volchenkov) 2:3
31:32 RUS Alexander Polushin (unassisted) 3:3
33:15 RUS Yuri Trubachev (Igor Grigorenko) 4:3

3rd Period

44:31 CAN Chuck Kobasew (Dan Hamhuis, Nick Schultz) 4:4
46:51 RUS Anton Volchenkov (Ivan Nepriaev) 5:4