LILLEHAMMER – In a rematch of a hard-fought preliminary-round game between the two hockey rivals, the United States shut down Russia 3-0 in the Youth Olympic men's tournament semi-final, setting up an all-North American gold medal game with Canada.
USA goalie Drew DeRidder made 19 saves in the shutout to improve to 3-0 on the tournament. The Americans were leading 1-0 throughout most of the game and had to battle hard in the last minutes before two empty-net markers sealed the win.
“These last few minutes were an amazing effort from Russia and I’m happy I was able to keep up,” DeRidder said and is looking forward to Sunday’s gold medal game with Canada.
“It should be fun. I feel we fell hard as a team in that game [in the preliminary round against Canada]. It will be a team effort. It’s an amazing tournament here. I love meeting all the people and play the games with the great atmosphere here.”
The game took place just over 24 hours after the preliminary-round finale between the two teams: a 4-2 win for the United States that saw Russia’s Andrei Svechnikov receive a match penalty for a hit to the head on Oliver Wahlstrom, which caused the U.S. forward to leave the game and be unavailable for the semi-final.
As for Svechnikov, Russia’s top scorer missed the semi-final as a result of the match penalty and would in fact miss the rest of the tournament, following a decision by the ad hoc Disciplinary Panel to add an additional one-game suspension to the Russian forward.
The absence meant that Russia was deprived of the tournament’s leading scorer, who up until then had put up 10 points (6G+4A) in four games.
“It was very difficult for us to play three days in a row. Of course we did our best to be prepared for the game but unfortunately it wasn’t enough,” Russian head coach Yevgeni Filinov said. “Tomorrow it will be very important for us to win the bronze medal. We will fight until the end.”
Following a scoreless first period the States got on the board in the second on a nice play from their second line. Defenceman Ryan Savage got the puck into the zone and passed it down low to Eric Middendorf, who took it just past the net to draw in the defence before making a pretty backhand pass to Jacob Pivonka in front of the net for what would be the game winner.
“It was definitely a high-energy game. Following the last game we came out ready to play. I thought we got the best of them there. I’m proud of our team performance,” said Jacob Pivonka, who scored the game-winning goal in the middle frame.
“I knew it’s going to be a close game. They’re a great team but in the end we just came out on top and on to the gold medal game.”
Down 1-0 going into the third, the Russians had a late power play with 2:44 left on the clock but couldn’t convert, and on a neutral zone turnover Jake Wise scored the empty netter, followed by a goal from TJ Walsh as the Americans celebrated their first-ever trip to the Youth Olympic gold medal game.
Team USA will play Canada for gold on Sunday at 15:00. The bronze medal game between Finland and Russia happens tomorrow at 20:00.