MALMO, Sweden — It wouldn’t be a classic world junior championship game between Russia and Team USA without a little controversy.
The Russians defeated the Americans 5-3 in the quarter-finals to eliminate the defending world junior champions from the tournament. Late in the third period with Team USA down by a goal, the Americans had pulled goalie Jon Gillies for an extra attacker. While trying to handle the puck, U.S. defenceman Matt Grzelcyk slipped and fell, allowing Russian forward Pavel Buchnevich to steal the puck and skate in to score an easy empty-net marker to seal the victory.
Buchnevich went skating in celebration right past the U.S. bench. The Americans took exception.
“It’s pretty immature on their part,” said American forward Stefan Matteau. “But at the end of the day they won the game and we’re going home. But it wasn’t appreciated that’s for sure; I know if we would have won we would have shown more class than that.
“It was just childish. Talking and making signs and whatever.”
Making signs and whatever, like this no doubt.
That's team trainer Alexander Rezepov and forward Eduard Gimatov, telling Team USA to shut it - in not so many (or any) words. According to star defenceman Nikita Zadorov, who scored twice to give the Russians the victory, both benches were guilty of shenanigans.
"We know the American guys and we know they want to win," said the Buffalo Sabres prospect who plays for the OHL's London Knights."They were chirping us and we know that we would have to take it easy."
Buchnevich was given a 10 minute misconduct for unsportsmanlike conduct for his celebration. After the game, Buchnevich told Russian reporters one of the American players hit him with a stick in the face from the bench as he was celebrating. He was seen holding his jaw while sitting in the penalty box.
“If you lose you should not do that,” Buchnevich told Russian journalist Roman Solovyov.
Buffalo Sabres forward Mikhail Grigorenko said his countrymen were just happy to have won the game, but that perhaps they should have scaled back their celebrations.
“We probably should have not done that," said the 19-year-old. "But after the empty net goal we realized that we won the game. I should probably say sorry to team United States, because it wasn't really sportsmanlike. But we were really, really happy - it was nothing to do with (Team USA) we were just happy we won the game."
The Americans had jumped out a 3-2 lead after the first period but things started to fall apart in the second. Two second period power plays – both 5-on-3 advantages – would prove to be the undoing for the defending world junior champions from the U.S.
“The refs did their jobs," said Matteau. "North American teams coming over here (to Europe) know that maybe the officiating is different, but we still gave them a reason to call penalties and that's what shot us in the foot.
"At the end of the day we got power plays too and we couldn't finish."
The Americans actually spent an extra minute on the power play over the course of the game, but couldn't convert. Goalie Andrei Vasilevski, playing in his third consecutive tournament, backstopped the Russians to the semifinals with a 30 save performance.
“It’s amazing to have a great goalie and have him play like that,” said Grigorenko. “You know even if you sometimes make some mistakes he will be there to make the saves. That's a huge difference between our team and other teams - we have the best goaltender in the world in the under-20."
The Russians will now face the winner of the quarter-final between the hosts from Sweden and Slovakia.The Russians lost to the Swedes earlier in their Group B round robin game and they're looking for revenge.
"This game made us a better team than we were yesterday," said Grigorenko of the win over the U.S. "Hopefully we'll be able to keep the same energy and compete level in the semifinals.
"Hopefully God will be on our side again."