BRATISLAVA, Slovakia – Matthew Strome (Mississauga, Ont./Hamilton, OHL) and Isaac Ratcliffe (London, Ont./Guelph, OHL) had a goal and an assist apiece, but Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team dropped a 5-4 decision to Russia on Sunday in its first of two pre-tournament games ahead of the 2017 IIHF U18 World Championship.
Canada battled back twice against the Russians, erasing 3-1 and 4-3 deficits to tie the game, but ultimately fell a goal short in its exhibition opener.
The Russians struck for a pair of quick goals and an early 2-0 lead when Maxim Marushev and Mikhail Bitsadze scored 42 seconds apart just past the midway mark of the first period, but Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Calgary, Alta./Spokane, WHL) cut the advantage in half with a goal at 14:17.
Kirill Maximov answered back for Russia with less than two minutes to go in the opening frame, sending the Canadians to the dressing room in a two-goal hole.
That disappeared quickly once the puck dropped on the second period; Ratcliffe finished off a feed from Nate Schnarr (Waterloo, Ont./Guelph, OHL) just 67 seconds in to make it 3-2, then set up Ty Dellandrea (Port Perry, Ont./Flint, OHL) for the tying goal at 6:15.
Maximov added his second of the game only 78 seconds into the third period to restore the Russian lead, but Strome got that back less than a minute later to tie the game again.
With both teams looking for the winner as the minutes ticked away, it was Kirill Slepets who netted the deciding goal, scoring unassisted with 8:18 remaining to put the Russians ahead to stay.
Canada had its chances late, including 52 seconds of 6-on-4 in the final minute, but couldn’t find the equalizer.
Ian Scott (Calgary, Alta./Prince Albert, WHL) went the distance in the Canadian goal, turning aside 20 of the 25 shots he faced, while Kirill Ustimenko and Maxim Zhukov shared the netminding duties for Russia.
Canada travels to Piestany to finish its pre-tournament schedule Monday, facing off against Switzerland (11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT). It opens the world championship on Thursday, taking on Latvia (9:30 a.m. ET/6:30 a.m. PT).
“Like we told the team, we’ve come a long way in a short period of time. We’ve still got a big mountain to climb, but I thought there was a whole pile of positives to build on for next game. I liked a lot of things [that I saw in this game.] We’ll continue to get better every day.”
– Darren Rumble (Barrie, Ont./Moncton, QMJHL) on his assessment of the Canadian squad after their first pre-tournament game