Story & Photos by Alex Rodgerson/ISN
The 2018 Canada Russia series is now tied at a game a piece as Team Russia responded with a 3-1 victory in game two on Tuesday night at the Langley Events Centre. After opening the series with a victory just a night prior in Kamloops, Team WHL would be unable to make it two in a row against a motivated Russian team that would look to avoid losing two in a row to the WHL for the first time since 2014. Vancouver Giants goalie David Tendeck would get the start between the pipes for Team WHL while Pyotr Kochetkov would get the nod for Russia.
The games’ opening minutes would see Team Russia take an early edge in offensive zone time, with Vancouver Giants’ goaltender and North Vancouver native David Tendeck able to get a good feel for the puck early. However it would be Team WHL that would strike first, with Spokane Chiefs’ defenceman Ty Smith sending a hard point shot through traffic to beat Russia goalie Kochetkov. Smith, a New Jersey Devils prospect, currently has twenty-two points in just fourteen games for the Chiefs this season and would show why the Devils selected him seventeenth overall in the 2018 NHL draft. With the goal it would also mark the fifth straight time that Team WHL has opened the scoring against Team Russia.
The Russians would have two strong opportunities in the games’ opening ten minutes to get on the board, but a couple tough bounces would prevent any immediate danger for Team WHL. The WHL would get the games’ first powerplay after Russia defenceman Artom Volkov would head to the box for hooking. On the ensuing powerplay Portland Winterhawk and Vegas Golden Knights’ draft pick Cody Glass would get a couple good looks on Kochetkov, but the Russian netminder would deny him on two separate bids.
Team WHL’s fourth line featuring Connor Dewar, Stelio Mattheos and Parker Kelly would have a great first period, hemming the Russians in their own zone several times and not allowing Russia to break up the ice. Russia goalie Kochetkov would show some frustration towards the referee late in the frame, as on several occasions Team WHL forwards would crash the Russian goalie looking for rebounds.
Team Russia would then find the equalizer with under a minute to go in the frame, as Los Angeles Kings prospect Bulat Shafigullin would get a stick on a point shot and deflect the puck passed David Tendeck. Despite being outshot 18-8 in the first period, Shafigullin, currently a member of Nizhnekamsk of the KHL, would put the two teams square at a goal a piece as Team WHL and Team Russia would head to their respective dressing rooms.
Inserted into the starting line-up after an injury to Moose Jaw Warriors’ Justin Almeida, Seattle Thunderbird Dillion Hamaliuk would make his presence felt in the second period, laying a huge hit in the offensive zone and looking to turn the momentum for his team. Team WHL would officially register double the amount of Russian shots in the second period, leading on the shot clock 24-12 but still tied on the scoreboard. Jordy Bellerive, who tallied a goal in last nights win over Team Russia in Kamloops, would head to the box for hooking at the period’s mid-way point allowing the Russians an opportunity to get the go ahead goal.
Team WHL would get the best chance on the ensuing Russian powerplay however, with Washington Capitals’ prospect Riley Sutter tapping a cross ice pass just wide of the goal. Canucks’ 2018 second-round pick Jett Woo would also get involved physically in the second, crushing Russian forward Nikita Shashkov in the corner. After a fairly uneventful twenty minutes, the second period would come to an end with Team WHL and Team Russia still tied 1-1. The WHL would head to the final frame having gone 0-1 on their only powerplay chance of the game so far, while Russia would go 0-2 through the first fourty minutes of play.
Team WHL would start the third period by heading to their second powerplay of the game, but would be unable to generate the go ahead goal. Instead, Team Russia would have the best chance of the man advantage, and David Tendeck would be forced to make his best save of the night on a short-handed breakaway against. Approaching just ten minutes left in the contest with the two teams still tied, tempers would flair when Calen Addison would make contact with Russia goalie Kochetkov, leading to some shoving and face washes in the corner. However, the gloves would stay on and the two teams would continue to press for the game-winner with Team WHL still leading in shots 31 to 24.
With under five minutes left in the game the WHL would head to their third powerplay, with one last chance to break the deadlock in regulation time. However, despite some extended attacking zone time with one of the Russian defenders without a stick, Team WHL would fail to take advantage and fall to 0 for 3 on the powerplay. This would come back to haunt Team WHL just minutes later, as Team Russia would head to their fourth powerplay of the night.
On the late-game man advantage the Russians would work it around the high point, before Alexander Yaremchuk would snap a shot that David Tendeck would awkwardly deflect to the side. Waiting at the side of the goal would be Saveliy Olshansky, who would centre for line-mate Stepan Starkov. Starkov would work free from coverage and get a shot off that would beat Tendeck, who struggle to get back into position after the giving up the rebound. Team Russia would add an empty netter and go on to even the Canada Russia series at a game a piece.
Tuesday night’s game was a display of very contrasting styles. Team WHL, featuring the very best Canadian players from the Western Hockey League, plays an up tempo quick-transitioning style of game that enables their speed to quickly move up and down the ice. Team Russia on the other hand, plays a more meticulous possession game.
Many times during Tuesday night’s action the Russians would slow the pace of play almost to a halt, wait for something to open up, and then proceed to make a clean breakout. Russia would be outshot by Team WHL, but it wouldn’t hurt them in terms of scoring chances.
Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram would finish the game a -1 with three shots on goal, while goalie David Tendeck made twenty-five saves and gave up one he’d probably like back in the game-winner. For Team Russia, Red Deer Rebels’ defenceman Alexander Alexeyev was impressive on the blue line and showed great puck moving ability. Alexeyev was selected by the Washington Capitals thirty-first overall in 2018. Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov also was strong between the pipes, turning away thirty-three shots in the victory.
Next up on Thursday the OHL will take their first crack at Team Russia, looking to put Canada ahead two games to one in the 2018 Canada Russia Series.