A game that was tight and defensive throughout ended with some wild offense as Russia captured a 2-1 overtime victory over Switzerland in the preliminary round of the IIHF World U18 Championships.
Nico Hirschier's third period goal tied the game at one apiece for Switzerland and sent the game into overtime.
In the four-on-four overtime, the game really opened up. Switzerland's Dominik Volejnicek, who scored the overtime winner for Switzerland on Thursday, had the opportunity to be the hero again when he picked up the puck on a clear breakaway from the red line. But Volejnicek wasn't able to settle down the puck on the rough ice and his wrist shot was stopped by Russian goalie Danil Tarasov.
Off the rebound of Volejnicek's shot, Russian transitioned the puck up the ice, sending Pavel Dyomin on a mini-break of his own. A Swiss defender was on Dyomin's back and pulled him down, forcing a delayed penalty call, but Dyomin was able to get enough of a shot off to beat Swiss goalie Matteo Ritz for the winning goal.
The victory gives Russia their first two points of pool play, while Switzerland gets one point, giving them three total.
Notes and Thoughts:
-This game probably would have been a lot more entertaining if it had been played next year. Russia's youth has been well-documented after their U18 had to be replaced at the last minute over fears of the team testing positive for banned substance meldonium. The Russian U17s were very good in their own age group, but for the most part still looked like a U17 team here. They moved the puck well, but the youth was really evident in the way they shot the puck.
Switzerland is also a team playing for next year, where they should be pretty good. Their top forwards: Nico Hirschier, Axel Simic, and Nando Eggenberger all come back next year, as does 2000-born defenseman Nico Gross, who I thought was impressive for his age.
-The biggest beneficiary of Russia's meldonium scandal might be Wilkes-Barre(NAHL D Dmitri Zaitsev. Zaitsev had a relatively quiet year with the Knights and didn't make NHL Central Scouting's final ranking. But here, he's getting the opportunity to play top pairing minutes alongside Mikhail Sergachev in front of every NHL team, and he's showing some nice ability. Zaitsev isn't terribly quick or a smooth puckhandler, but he's strong on his skates and plays a simple, reliable game. He's not a definite NHL Draft pick, but there's a chance an NHL team might like what they see here and take a late-round gamble on him.
13:21 Yaroslav Alexeyev from Klim Kostin and Dmitri Zaitsev 1-0 Russia
Alexeyev's wrist shot from the left face off circle beat Ritz high to the glove side.
9:07 Nico Hirschier from Marco Miranda 1-1 tie
Hirschier carried the puck into the offensive zone on the right wing with speed. He pulled up at the top of the circle, looked across the ice to fake a pass, then fired a high wrist shot over Tarasov for the goal.
1:58 Pavel Dyomin from Alexander Alexeyev 2-1 Russia
Alexeyev made a pass from his own end up to Dyomin, giving him a semi-breakaway down the left wing. Dyomin was pulled down by a Swiss defender, but managed to get enough on his wrist shot to get the puck over the blocker of Ritz for the goal.