Russia: 2 USA: 1
The Russians triumphed over the USA in the second semifinal in Helsinki and will face Finland for the gold on Tuesday. The USA will face Sweden in the bronze medal game.
Russia, who have been playing Finnish Liiga goaltender Alexander Georgiyev for most of the tournament, came out today with Washington Capitals prospect and KHL netminder Ilya Samsonov. This isn't the first time a Russian team has made a surprise goalie choice in a big game, and the plan worked well for them. Samsonov stopped 26 shots and withstood the American score effects fuelled pressure that ended the game.
The US team, led by star Auston Matthews, who was pointless in the game and had only 1 shot on goal (SOG), had an even better netminder in Alex Nedeljkovic (Carolina Hurricanes prospect), but he wasn't able to stop everything the Russians threw at him. He made 31 saves and was beaten on two goals late in the second period by Yegor Korshkov (undrafted 19-year-old) and his Lokomotiv teammate Pavel Kraskovski (Winnipeg Jets prospect, two of Russia's best players in this year's tournament.
Yegor Korshkov's goal:
Nice look at Russia’s second goal pic.twitter.com/L2baA7TeIt— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 4, 2016
The Russians played a tough defensive third period, while the US shot rate soared closer to their usual level, but they were up for the challenge. The Russian team has looked, throughout this tournament, like they are always all on the same page. They are a diverse group. The boys from Lokomotiv have never played in North America, but their teammates come from the CHL and the AHL as well as other KHL and MHL teams.
Flyers prospect Radel Fazleyev stood out as a very effective defensive forward in the third period, while undrafted Maxim Lazerev seemed to have a reserved seat at the US goalie's right hand. He was held off the scoreboard, but he was always in with a chance.
The US looked most dangerous with the Matthews line on the ice, although Christian Dvorak (Arizona Coyotes) had their only goal, but Zach Werenski, a Columbus prospect playing in the NCAA looked outstanding all game and led the team in SOG. The best player on the ice for the US was again Nedeljkovic.
The gold medal will be decided when the Russian team meets Kasperi Kapanen and the rest of the Finnish offensive power tomorrow. The Finns, fresh off beating one neighbour, will take on another and it's shaping up to be a great gold medal game.