BONNYVILLE, Alta. – The line of Alexey Lipanov, Andrei Svechnikov and Ivan Chekhovich combined for 10 points, leading Russia to a come-from-behind 5-3 win over Canada West in one of the marquee match-ups of the preliminary round Monday at the 2016 World Junior A Challenge.
It was the first time the teams had met since the Canadians won their fourth gold medal with a thrilling 2-1 victory over Russia in the final of the 2015 tournament in Cobourg, Ont.
There would be much more offence in this one, led by the big three – Lipanov had two goals and two assists, while Svechnikov and Chekhovich chipped in with a goal and two helpers apiece.
The trio has been on fire in its first two games together in northeastern Alberta; it had eight points in a 5-2 pre-tournament win over Canada East on Friday night in St. Paul.
Canada West had the early chances Monday, with two power plays in the first nine minutes, but Russian goaltender Dimitrii Raiko kept the Canadians at bay and Mikhail Bitsadze scored against the flow of play at 9:39 to put Russia up 1-0.
Chekhovich doubled the lead less than seven minutes later, outmuscling a Canadian defender and redirecting a feed from Lipanov behind West netminder Matthew Galajda (Aurora, Ont./Victoria, BCHL).
The Canadian comeback started early in the second when Carter Turnbull (Nanaimo, B.C./Powell River, BCHL) raced away on a shorthanded breakaway to make it 2-1 at 1:12, and Will Koop (Winnipeg, Man./Steinbach, MJHL) redirected a Regan Seiferling (Moose Jaw, Sask./Yorkton, SJHL) point shot through Raiko to tie the game at 4:40.
Turnbull struck again with just over six minutes to go in the middle frame, showing off quick hands in the slot for his second of the period and the first Canadian lead at 3-2.
But Svechnikov blasted a one-timer past Galadja on a Russian power play late in the period, bringing the Russians even headed to the third, with the momentum.
Lipanov needed just 28 seconds of the third period to give Russia the lead for good, finishing off a pretty passing play, and Chekhovich gathered in a bounce off the end-boards and beat Galajda for a little insurance at 2:33.
Canada West swarmed in the later stages of the final stanza, including a penalty-shot opportunity for Koop with 7:35 left and an 80-second six-on-three advantage in the dying minutes, but it would get no closer.
With their preliminary round done, the Canadians will wait for the results from Tuesday to find out when and who they play next, while the Russians close out their prelim schedule against Switzerland on Tuesday afternoon (3:30 p.m. MT).
Carter Turnbull, Team Canada West forward, on not being able to hold the 3-2 lead:
“We tried to keep the pressure up, and obviously there were a couple tough bounces for us, but we did everything we could in the third to try and get a couple goals. We just couldn’t get the bounces to go our way.”
Barry Wolff, Team Canada West head coach, on the momentum swing late in the second period:
“A couple breaks here and there went their way, we didn’t get some bounces, and they scored on their opportunities and maybe got some lucky ones on us. We didn’t score. We missed the penalty shot [by Will Koop], we missed some that normally these guys would score on, and we just didn’t get those bounces tonight.”