POPRAD, SLOVAKIA - APRIL 23: Russia's Alexei Lipanov #10 celebrate and Yevgeni Kalabushkin #15 celebrate with the third place trophy after a 3-0 win over Sweden in the bronze medal game at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Misfiring Swedes can't capitalize on chances
Sweden had the better of play, created more scoring chances, and had the puck more, but Russia scored the goals, taking the bronze with a 3-0 win over Sweden.
The medal was Russia's first in six years at the men's U18. The last one was a bronze in 2011.
"It’s not first place," said Kirill Maximov, "but it’s still a medal, and it’s a good result after the semi-final yesterday. I think we played well as a team and we got a medal - not exactly the one we wanted, but it’s better than nothing."
Sweden, last year's runner-up, finished in fourth place this year.
"It’s a real disappointment," offered Swedish coach Torgny Bendelin. "Absolutely. You have to capitalize on your chances. We gave them a power play - a simple mistake and they scored there. The second goal was a terrible mistake from us, and they scored on their chances. Then they played very solid defence after that. We had a few chances, but we didn’t score on them."
Kirill Ustimenko stopped 30 shots to record the shutout while Adam Ahman blocked 22 of 24 in the Sweden goal.He was a surprise starter given that Maxim Zhukov had played the last three games in a row.
"The overtime goal yesterday [in a loss to Finland] wasn’t a very good one, and we didn’t want to take the risk of putting Zhukov in because we didn’t think he was in the right mental state," Russian coach Sergei Golubovich revealed. "We thought Ustimenko was the right choice. He did a great job tonight."
This was the first shutout ever in a U18 bronze-medal game since the current playoff format started in 2003.
The team's had identical records head-to-head before the game, splitting 12 games and scoring 35 goals each. As of today, Russia now has a 7-6 advantage and has scored more goals.
The game featured just four minor penalties, two a side, and was played at a brisk clip.
Russia opened the scoring late in the first period on a great second effort by Danila Galeniuk on a power play. He deftly tipped Andrei Svechnikov's shot, but it hit the post and landed right there. Falling, Galeniuk nudged the puck over the line before Ahman could react.
The Russians made it 2-0 early in the second when a wayward pass up the middle was picked off by Dmitri Samorukov. He kept the puck in at the Sweden blue line, took a couple of steps and then ripped a wicked shot over Ahman's glove.
Sweden had several opportunities to get back in the game but fired wide or failed to finish time and again. The most glaring passed chance came on a penalty shot midway through the game. Lucas Elvenes was stopped by Kirill Ustimenko.
Svechniov had two great chances to add to the Russian tally in the third, making one great rush and snapping a quick shot frmthe slot, but both chances were stopped expertly by Ahman.
Kirill Maximov finished the scoring with an empty netter with 15 seconds remaining.
"It definitely wasn’t our best game," said Erik Brannstrom. "We were at our best against Canada. I don’t know what to say. I’m very disappointed. We had lots of shots, but we didn’t score. We didn’t play such a bad game, but it wasn’t good enough."