Instant Classic Between the USA and Russia

The Americans record against Russia in the knock-out round was 0-7 going into their semifinal match-up. The US was also facing the daunting task of beating the same team twice in the same tournament. From the drop of the puck the game was outstanding. End to end chances, very few stoppages in play, high pace, and plenty of highlight reel plays. The first World Junior semifinal tilt was as great as you would expect a high-stakes game to be, with the Americans forsaking the record book and heading to the gold medal game.

Russia Pushed the Pace

World Junior
Ilya Samsonov (Photo:

Save for a stretch in the second period where the Americans took over and dictated the play, the Russians (who were viewed as the underdogs) seemed hungrier on the puck at times, and really gave the US all they could handle. The first game between these two countries in the round robin was close, so it came as no surprise that it would be so tight. Both goalies were strong (and run into plenty of times).

The Russian defence was under siege at times, but not necessarily because of possession. The speed of the American forwards and their strong transition game resulted in a few breaks, but goalie Ilya Samsonov put in a valiant effort. Russian defenceman (and hometown Montreal Canadiens first round draft pick) Mikhail Sergachev had arguably his best game of the tournament. He had some key blocks and created some offensive chances. He had been fairly quiet thus far but elevated his play when it mattered most.

Perhaps the turning point in the game was when Clayton Keller busted in on net and was hauled down by defenseman Zborovski. Keller was awarded a penalty shot, and the Americans leading scorer had the chance to put his team up by two, and perhaps putting the game out of reach. But Samsonov was equal to task robbing Keller with a terrific glove save. The effort seemed to energise the Russians because they wasted little time in finding the tying marker.

Fitting that a game as exciting as this would go to four-on-four overtime, for ten minutes no less. The pace in the extra frame was frantic as you would expect, with plenty of chances for both sides. The back and forth action was mesmerising at times, as the skill of both teams was fully on display. American goalie (and Flames draft pick) Tyler Parsons made some absolutely huge saves to give his team a chance.

USA Came Out on Top

Tyler Parsons, OHL, London Knights
Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

Midway through the overtime period, the Americans hit the crossbar, and them Samsonov got unbelievably lucky to keep the puck out. It looked the game was over, but turned out to be just another heart-pounding moment. The Americans were looking to improve upon their game against Switzerland, which they winded up winning, but perhaps wouldn’t have if the Swiss had a few more dangerous snipers.

If anything, the rest of the teams learned that the States are in fact beatable, and Russia certainly found ways to exploit them in this game. We all would have loved to see that overtime go on longer, but as is the case with International hockey, it was on to the shootout. The interesting difference with the NHL format is the IIHF rules stipulate that you could use the same shooter again after five rounds.

‘We needed some adversity,’ goalie Tyler Parsons said of the game against Switzerland. ‘This was our worst game of the tournament, but it’s big for us moving forward.’

Denis Guryanov scored twice in the shootout for the Russians, and Mikhail Vorobyov notched one. Jeremy Bracco scored for the Americans, but the hero of the night was Troy Terry, who scored three times in the shootout to send team USA to the final. It was an absolutely crushing defeat for the Russians, who were the better team at many points in the game, and perhaps deserved to win. It would be the second game in a row that the Americans arguably stole.

Up next for the USA is the winner of the Sweden/Canada semifinal, with the loser having to fight the angry Russians for bronze. One can only hope the next game is as exciting as the first, but it will be pretty hard to live up to.