RUSSIANS USE BIG SECOND PERIOD TO ADVANCE TO U17 FINAL
JASON LA ROSE
SAINT JOHN, N.B. – Vasili Ponomaryov had two goals and two assists, Daniil Gushchin added two goals and a helper and Russia moved into the gold medal game at the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with a 6-4 win over Sweden on Friday afternoon.
The Russians, in search of their fourth U17 gold, will face either Canada Red or Finland in the final Saturday night (7:30 p.m. AT, TSN).
The game was a polar opposite of the teams’ preliminary-round meeting on Tuesday, a 3-0 win for Russia that was much more of a defensive struggle than the goal-fest at Harbour Station.
Russia opened the scoring just shy of the six-minute mark on a pinballing shot from the point that was first redirected by Marat Khusnutdinov before hitting a Swedish skate and eluding goaltender Jesper Wallstedt.
The Swedes got even in the dying seconds of the opening period thanks to Erik Hedlund, who took advantage of a fortuitous bounce and snuck a shot under the arm of Russian netminder Yaroslav Askarov from a sharp angle.
The goal ended Askarov’s shutout streak at 153 minutes and 32 seconds, a run that included blanking the Swedes in the prelims.
It was all Russia early in the second period, with three goals in less than four minutes putting it in control.
Alexandr Pashin restored the advantage with a power-play goal at the four-minute mark, tucking a wraparound past Walllstedt, Gushchin went bar-down off a juicy rebound into the slot at 5:48 and Ponomaryov got his first 56 seconds after that on another second chance.
Alexander Holtz quickly got one back for the Swedes, tapping in a loose puck after Lucas Raymond hit the post, but Gushchin danced around Wallstedt at 11:38 to send Russia to the intermission up 5-2.
The Swedes pushed in the third period, directing 12 shots at Askarov, but got no closer than two.
Anton Johannesson made it a 5-3 game with just under four minutes left, but Gushchin set up Ponomaryov for an empty-net goal with 1:04 to secure the win.
Axel Kumlin finished the scoring for the Swedes with 15 seconds left, snapping a quick shot past Askarov off the face-off.
The Swedes will play for bronze against the loser of the Red-Finland semifinal on Saturday afternoon (2:30 p.m. AT, TSN).