SPISSKA NOVA VES, SLOVAKIA - APRIL 18: Russia's Nikita Shashkov #26 skates with the puck during preliminary round action against the Czech Republic at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Russia 2nd, Sweden 3rd, Czechs 4th in Group B
Mark Rubinchik's second goal and third point of the game gave Russia a 5-4 overtime win over the Czech Republic to finish Group B.
However, overtime was the least dramatic part of the game, as the 4-4 finish to regulation time was enough to determine the final order of finish in Group B, with the Russians taking second place, Sweden third and the Czech Republic fourth.
The Czechs led 4-3 late in the third period. That score would have been enough to lift them above Sweden and into third place. However, Kirill Maximov’s high shot from a sharp angle with 2:05 left in the third period changed everything.
"We made a mistake in our defensive zone," said Czech coach Vaclav Varada. "We didn't get the puck out and the Russians took advantage and tied it. Then we took the goalie out for a sixth attacker to try to get the lead back, but it didn't happen."
Even with a one-goal defeat, however, Russia still would have finished second.
"It was never even a thought for us that we would be happy with losing by one goal," Russian captain Alexei Lipanov said. "We were here to win this game, that's it. We had a good attitude today."
Regardless of what's at stake, a game between the Czechs and Russians rarely lacks emotion. With both teams safely in the quarter-finals but not knowing their exact placement in Group B, it was a highly spirited affair.
As has been the case all tournament, the Czechs enjoyed home-like support from the fans in Spisska Nova Ves, and came out of the gate playing hard. However, it was the Russians who opened the scoring midway through the first period. After just 23 seconds of power play time, Rubinchik sent an armour-piercing blast from the point through a crowd and inside the far post.
"Usually when you take a one-timer you're just trying to hit the puck squarely and make it go as hard as possible, but I kinda saw the open corner on the goalie," Rubinchik said. "There's always a bit of luck involved in every shot you take, but yeah, it went in and I'm happy."
A few minutes later the Czechs got their first power play and momentum swung back their way. Zhukov made a big save off a one-time blast from Martin Necas, and then with Russia back at full strength the Czechs tied it. Jachym Kondelik with a nice backhand pass to send David Kvasnica in alone, and he beat Zhukov with a nifty backhand deke.
The teams traded great scoring chances early in the second period, and then Russia regained the lead near the midpoint when Nikita Shashkov provided a beautiful tip of Veniamin Baranov’s long wrister - re-directing the low shot into the roof of the net.
But four minutes later the Czechs tied it again when FIlip Chytil found Filip Zadina in the high slot, and he beat Zhukov with a quick wrister.
"We could have won the game in regulation time, but we let them come back every time we took the lead," Rubinchik said. "For sure there are going to be changes, I know that. But we battled to the end so we're happy about that."
The Russians very nearly took the lead for the third time in the dying seconds of the middle period when they broke into the zone 2-on-1. Andrei Svechnikov re-directed Ivan Chekhovich’s cross-ice pass, but Jiri Patera slid across and made and made a spectacular pad save.
Instead, they re-took the lead in the third period period when Andrei Svechnikov fired a wrister from the high slot. The Czechs then got goals from Krystof Hrabik and Jan Kern to take the lead for the first time in the game with 11:20 left in regulation time.
"We definitely played better," Varada said of his team's performance compared to yesterday against the Americans. "Every time we fell behind, the boys dug down and got it back. That was the sort of effort we expect from them."
It looked like that would be the goal that vaulted the Czechs into third place before Maximov’s goal.
Both teams now travel to Poprad for Thursday's quarter-finals. Russia takes on the host Slovaks, while the Czech Republic plays Group A-winning Finland.