Russians surge to 4-0 win over OHL

Thursday November 13, 2014

By Josh Sweetland/CHL

Peterborough, ON – The OHL looked like a determined team in the first period of Thursday night’s Game 3 of the 2014 SUBWAY Super Series at the Peterborough Memorial Centre. Four Russian goals on 12 second period shots decided the outcome of the game though, as they found ways to execute once again to take an 8-1 series lead in points with a 4-0 victory.

Igor Shesterkin continued Russia’s trend of strong goaltending in the series, turning aside all 35 shots he faced with some help from the defenders in front of him who battled hard in the corners and fended off an intense OHL forecheck in the first period.

The opening shifts of Game 3 presented nothing short of a playoff-like atmosphere. Both sides came out hitting with Tyler Bertuzzi and Darnell Nurse making their presence felt for Team OHL while Russia responded with heavy contact from defencemen Vladislav Gavrikov and Mikhail Tikhonov.

The two teams felt each other out in the opening half of the first period, combining for just four shots through the opening nine minutes of play. An OHL powerplay sparked some activity inside the Russian zone, forcing Shesterkin to answer the bell in his first action since a strong performance in Game 1 on Monday. The New York Rangers prospect made a point blank save off Robby Fabbri in the slot to take away a high quality scoring chance and keep the game scoreless.

North Bay Battalion winger Nick Paul nearly put the OHL ahead at 5:33, but a hook by Dmitry Yudin hauled him down in the slot as he failed to direct the puck into an open cage. The ensuing powerplay yielded another close call as Paul couldn’t stuff a puck inside the post on a goalmouth scramble to the left of Shesterkin.

The OHL dictated the play in the first, outshooting Russia 13-4 in a scoreless frame.

A seemingly dormant Russian offense came to life early in the second. Russia exploded for four goals in the period as Konstantin Okulov collected his second of the series on a high speed rush entering the OHL zone. Flashy Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds forward Sergey Tolchinsky took a feed from linemate Nikita Shatsky and quickly found an oncoming Okulov who beat Spencer Martin on a one-timer at 2:16.

With a goal on the scoresheet, Russia’s offensive confidence continued to grow. Martin provided a quick lateral save off Vyascheslav Leshchenko a few shifts later to keep the deficit at one.

A costly OHL bench minor for too many men on the ice would see the Russian powerplay extend the lead to 2-0. OHL penalty killers Cole Cassels and Chris Bigras both sacrificed the body for timely blocked shots, but the Russians maintained control in the zone with captain Rushan Rafikov hammering a slapshot in from the point at 12:27.

Russia struck a third time just two minutes later as the speedy trio of Shatsky, Tolchinsky and Okulov continued to pay dividends. Shatsky took a hard pass from Tolchinsky at the left circle to snap a quick release over the shoulder of Martin at 14:28 of the second.

Down three, the OHL sought an opportunity to draw closer as Egor Korshkov headed to the box for interference at 15:19. Though they controlled nearly the entirety of the two minute powerplay inside the Russian zone, some shot blocking heroics from draft eligible centreman Alexander Dergachev drew a cheer from the Russian bench. Shesterkin would string together a pair of timely saves to keep the OHL searching for its first goal.

Consecutive penalties to Team OHL led to a five-on-three Russian powerplay where they would convert to put them in the driver’s seat 4-0. Vladimir Bryukvin found himself wide open for a hard seam pass from Dmitry Yudin as he didn’t hesitate to beat Martin inside the near post.

Team OHL knocked on the door early in the third as Zach Nastasiuk nearly beat Shesterkin over the glove from the bottom of the circle and Nick Paul, who had numerous chances in the game, couldn’t solve the Russian goaltender from in close.

Russia would hold on for a 4-0 win in front of 2,650 fans at the Peterborough Memorial Centre and take an 8-1 series lead in points.

OHL Head Coach Scott Walker was pleased with his team’s start, and credits the Russians for their ability to execute. “We did everything right in the first period,” he said. “We forechecked hard, we played them physically and got pucks on their goaltender. Their skilled guys pushed them ahead in the second with a lot of speed.”

The OHL had a trying time searching for shooting lanes on Thursday, something Walker credited Russia for paying close attention to. “Their game has definitely evolved and their guys took a lot of pucks to the body tonight. They play hard in the corners and make you work for everything.”

Captain Darnell Nurse was named the Player of the Game for Team OHL, delivering some thunderous hits and providing his usual steady presence in the defensive zone. “It wasn’t the result we came for tonight,” he said following the game. “It’s fun to be able to play with a team of such talented players and I think there were some real positives to how we played at various points. Monday will be a new day and we’ll have the weekend to think about tonight’s game.”

Team Russia went 2 for 6 on the powerplay while the OHL went 0 for 5 against a strong Russian penalty kill that cleared pucks from danger throughout the game.

The two clubs will get a hard earned weekend off before Game 4 on Monday night at the Rogers K-Rock Centre in Kingston. The OHL will slot some fresh faces into the lineup in an effort to solve undefeated Russia.

The puck drops at 7:00pm ET on Monday night. Sportsnet will be broadcasting the action across the country on Sportsnet Ontario, East, West and Pacific, and on Sportsnet Radio The FAN 590.

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