Russia 2, Slovakia 1
New York (The Draft Analyst) — Artur Lauta and Yegor Rykov each scored a goal, and Alex Georgiev stopped 20 shots to lead Russia to a 2-1 win over Slovakia on Thursday in the world junior hockey championship from Helsinki.
Lauta gave the Russians a 1-0 lead with 4:31 remaining in the first period, beating Slovakian goalie Adam Huska with a rebound under the crossbar after a shot from the point was stopped in front. Lauta was named Russia’s Player of the Game afterwards.
Rykov, a defenseman, made it 2-0 when he sneaked in from the point and fired a shot over a sliding Huska at 9:12 of the second period.
Slovakia (1-3) had several chances on the power play throughout the game, and defenseman Christian Jaros, an Ottawa Senators draft pick, cut the deficit to 2-1 when his shot from the left point beat Georgiev with 4:10 left in the second. That was as close as Slovakia would get however, and its attempt to pull Huska for an extra attacker was hampered by a tripping penalty on Adrian Sloboda with 1:24 left in regulation.
Russia clinched first place in Group B and will play Denmark from Group A when the quarterfinals begin on Saturday. Slovakia finished fourth in Group B and will face Sweden in the quarterfinals, also on Saturday.
RW KIRILL KAPRIZOV (Minnesota 5th/2015): Kaprizov has flown under the radar this tournament because Russia (like most teams) can roll three scoring lines. He’s shown chemistry with undrafted puck wizard Andrei Svetlakov, and against the Slovaks, it was Kaprizov who stood out thanks to speed and a soft set of hands. Although he didn’t register a point in what was a tightly-played affair, Kaprizov had several quality chances. He just missed tucking one under the crossbar from in close in the first period, and later beat his defender to the net to receive a pass from Artur Lauta and force Adam Huska into making a great save. He’s one of Russia’s younger forwards in Helsinki, but he’s been one of its better forwards
LHD YEGOR RYKOV (2016 Draft Eligible/1997): Rykov was rewarded for his fine two-way play with added minutes and a spot on Russia’s top power play unit. He’s been its most aggressive defender from an offensive standpoint after Ivan Provorov, and his ability to read plays and not overcommit has worked out well for him in a tournament where most of the better chances come off of turnovers. He also made a strong move by sneaking in left circle and finding Alexander Polunin at the far post before Huska robbed him with a nice save.
RW ARTUR LAUTA (2016 Draft Eligible/1996): We’ve viewed Lauta over 20 times this year, and not once did we ever see him give up on a play or take a shift for granted. Against Slovakia was no different, except he showcased more skill than grit. The goal he scored from the top of the crease had an extrememly high degree of difficulty since the only place to puck the puck was up and over a 6’4 goalie who was inches away from him. Well, that’s exactly what Lauta did for his second goal of the tournament. In the second period, he combined with Provorov for a nice rush up the ice, then threaded the needle with a perfect cross-ice pass to a streaking Kaprizov, who turned the play into a mini breakaway. He’s a double-overager and by a lot (February, 1996 birthday), but he’s having as solid a tournament as any role player can have.
G ALEXANDER GEORGIEV (2016 Draft Eligible/1996): He beat the Czechs in a literal shootout, the Finns in a figurative shootout and now he stymied the Slovaks to improve to 3-0. He’s a technically sound goalie who stays on his feet and doesn’t like to wander, making it difficult to beat him from the angles where the Russians have been keeping their opponents. He improved to 3-0, but has only faced about 80 shots over a combined four games. He comes across as the perfect goalie for the kind of system the Russians employ, but keep in mind that he struggled the one time he faced a team (Finland) who made him earn his paycheck.
G ADAM HUSKA (New York Rangers 7th/2015): Huska rebounded from a tough loss to the Finns which looked as if they were going to have him steal one in front of their own fans. He was far less busy against Russia, but the quality of the chances he faced were still significant. His overall record fell to 1-3, but he’s faced 133 shots in his four starts and has a solid .900 save percentage. He looks like a really intense competitor when he’s on the ice, so don’t let the boyish looks fool you. Huska keeps himself involved no matter where the puck is, and he’s incredibly quick to his feet to reset after an initial shot attempt. He’s going to face Sweden in the quarterfinals, and don’t be surprised when the score is close.
RHD CHRISTIAN JAROS (Ottawa 5th/2015) Jaros took on a real leadership role in a tough game as the Slovaks had difficulty generating offense in the face of stiff Russian resistance. Jaros was involved in all three zones and scored a goal on a heavy shot from the point. Both he and partner Erik Cernak were eating up all the minutes, and it will be interesting to see him matched up against Swedes he’s familiar with from the SHL.