Russia 4, Belarus 1
New York (The Draft Analyst) — Alexander Polunin scored two goals to help Russia remain undefeated at the world junior championship with Tuesday’s 4-1 win over winless Belarus.
Russia (3-0) was dominant for long stretches, outshooting Belarus in each period and 32-18 for the game. The Belorussians have lost all four games against Russia since making their tournament debut.
Maxim Lazarev, an underrated prospect who plays in the Quebec league, opened the scoring at 10:00 of the first period with a power play goal. He took a behind-the-net feed from Vladislav Kamenev — a Nashville Predators draftee — and one-timed a shot past goalie Vladislav Verbitski. The Russians scored a similar goal less than five minutes later when center Pavel Kravskovski, stationed to Verbitski’s rear, threw a puck to the slot for an unchecked Polunin to hammer into the net and increase Russia’s lead to 2-0.
Kamenev closed out the scoring in the first when he tipped home a wrist shot from defenseman Ivan Provorov with under two minutes left in the frame. After a scoreless second period, Belarus (0-3) solved Russian goalie Ilya Samsonov at the 6:14 mark of the third when his own defenseman Damir Sharipzyanov inadvertently poked in a wraparound attempt from Alexei Patsenkin. Polunin responded just 97 seconds later, as he and Kravskovski executed a rush up ice which Polunin finished with a wrist shot over a helpless Verbitski for a 4-1 lead.
Kamenev, who scored the game winner in Tuesday’s 6-4 win over Finland, and Lazarev each finished with a goal and an assist. Yegor Korchkov assisted on a pair of goals, and has five assists in his last two games. Samsonov, a first round pick of the Washington Capitals in 2015, stopped 17 shots to win his tournament debut.
Russia completes its preliminary round schedule against Slovakia on December 31. Belarus meets the Czech Republic on Wednesday before beginning the relegation round.
LHD IVAN PROVOROV (Philadelphia 1st/2015): Tremendous start-to-finish performance by Russia’s on-ice general, who at this rate will be promoted to Secretary (Minister?) of Defense. Provorov was dominant in all three zones; stealing, sealing, angling, hitting and protecting in the same manner we see him execute for Brandon of the WHL. He made a beautiful rush up the length of the ice after stealing the puck clean off an opponent’s one-on-one entry, and spearheaded the Russians’ third goal when his deliberate dump in was collected by a teammate, then fed to Provorov, who faked his way into a clear shooting lane for a shot tipped home by Kamenev. One play which stood out was subtle, yet underlines his defensive prowess — Provorov lost a foot race back behind his own goal and lost sight of the puck. Rather than panic or look up towards the rafters in bewilderment, he went right for his man and pinned him off the puck. He had a goal waved off when his pinch and wraparound happened as Svetlakov was pushed into the crease, and he nearly scored a shorthanded goal at the end of the second period when he jumped into the play and had a backhander stopped.
LW EVGENY SVECHNIKOV (Detroit 1st/2015): The line of Svechnikov-Kamenev-Lazarev put on an expected clinic against Belarus, which had no answer for the aforementioned trio’s chemistry and puck movement. He may not have registered a point, but Svechnikov had his best game of the tournament, firing a game-high six shots and appearing far more engaged than in previous matches. It seemed as if his hard work was the critical factor in their extended shifts, one of which he prolonged by playing the puck away from a defenseman by banking it off the back of the Belorussian net. His best chance came in the second period, when he fired a snap shot through a screen, then outworked his opponent for positioning as he collected his own rebound for a backhander which Verbitski stopped.
G ILYA SAMSONOV (Washington 1st/2015): Playing the younger netminder against Belarus was the correct move by coach Valeri Bragin, as Samsonov had yet to play and will likely be called upon at least one more time. It wasn’t a particularly strong game for Samsonov, who seemed to be fighting every attempt from the beginning. Belarus did not pepper him with quality chances, but Samsonov was sure doing a lot of flopping on what looked like average scoring chances or perimeter shots. He also made a habit of turning his back to the slot during puck battles behind his net — on one occasion it looked like he did a military-style about face. On three occasions, the Belorussians tried wraparounds, and on each one, he was slow to react with his post-to-post movement, even getting bailed out by the post in the opening period. Call it rust or nerves…whatever. He got the win, but he’s got some work to do.
LHD YEGOR RYKOV (2016 Draft Eligible/1997): Rykov was due for a strong game after struggling during November’s CHL Super Series. Today against Belarus, Rykov was as decisive as we’ve seen him, taking the puck down low a few times and providing puck support during a handful of cycles. What’s important is that his help was needed, when in previous viewings he seemed to jump into plays where assistance wasn’t required. He was always looking up ice, and caught the Belorussians in a few line changes with well-placed stretch passes. His zone entries were planned and deliberate, which was partly due to the time and space his teammates helped create.
G VLADISLAV VERBITSKI (2016 Draft eligible/1997): Two one-timers and a deflection is what it took for Belarus to find itself down early, and it could have been far worse had Verbitski not stood tall in goal. The Russian goals were absolute snipes, but Verbitski was otherwise able to track the puck through Russia’s Harlem Globetrotter-style weaving. The puck wound up in front of his on several occasions, and not once did he go down early or tip his hand. It sounds cliche to credit the goalie of an inferior team during a David-and-Goliath matchup, but Verbitski was easily the best Belarus had to offer against Russia.
RW DANILA KARABAN (2016 Draft eligible/1996): A speedy and diminutive forward who had an excellent chance to put Belarus in front during a power play in the first period. Carbon found himself alone on the side of a wide open net, but couldn’t line up his shot past Samson. He didn’t have the disc on his stick often, but he looks like a pretty good stickhandler while heading up ice with speed.