LILLEHAMMER – Team USA beat Russia 4-2 and moved up to second place before tomorrow’s semi-finals in which the two teams will meet again at 20:00 at Kristins Hall. The bad news for the Americans was losing Oliver Wahlstrom due to injury.
The U.S. built up a 2-0 first-period lead and didn’t allow an offensively skilled Russian team to come back.
“Against Canada the players tried to do too much on their own. Now we played as a team. The goals were tremendous plays,” Team USA head coach Scott Paluch said.
Tyler Weiss found the way to the net at 4:16 and beat Russian goalie Amir Miftakhov with a low shot, the second of the game for the Americans.
Jack Deboer doubled the gap at 12:25 scoring on the right side after a horizontal pass from Jake Wise.
“The first two goals let us down and made the difference,” Russian forward Kirill Nizhnikov said.
“I think we were better but now we have to get ready for tomorrow. Everybody has to be at the same page and play as a team.”
The second period started with a shock for everybody in the crowded, small Youth Hall. After 15 seconds of play Russia’s first-line forward Andrei Svechnikov hit U.S. forward Oliver Wahlstrom to the head and neck area.
The American was lying on the ice for several minutes. He had his head stabilized by the medical staff before he could be moved off the ice to hospital. The good news was that he was able to move his arms and legs.
Svechnikov was assessed a match penalty and will be automatically suspended for tomorrow’s semi-final game. However, the seemingly shocked Americans created little offence during the five-minute power play.
“It may have influenced us in the beginning, we were under shock but later we fought for him,” said Wahlstrom’s linemate Jacob Pivonka. “It was a great game. We battled hard and showed how to play together.”
The Russians managed to put more pressure on their opponent’s defence for the rest of the period and at 7:38 Alexander Zhabreyev scored the 2-1 goal on a rebound.
Apart from that goal the Americans survived the Russian pressure and started the third period with a goal after 85 seconds of play when Jacob Pivonka beat goaltender Miftakhov with fine stickhandling in front of the net.
The Russians tried to come back but with the 4-1 goal from Jonathan Gruden with 5:54 left the Americans seemed to seal the win.
Russian coach Yevgeni Filinov took his time-out and with 2:14 left Kirill Nizhnikov scored the 4-2 goal to bring the game within reach for the last two minutes of the game but the 4-2 score in the Americans’ favour stayed.
“The game makes us confident but we can’t be too confident going into the semi-final,” said U.S. captain Mattias Samuelsson.