Two down, four to go

Dec.28 -- Russian Juniors continued to dominate its Grope A opposition on Saturday beating Slovakia by a convincing four goal margin. Igor Grigorenko, Sergei Anshakov, Alexander Polushin and Alexander Perezogin scored unanswered goals for Rafail Ishmatov's side, as three of the four forward lines got on board.

The fourth unit was kept off the score sheet for the second straight game, although Timofei Shishkanov had at least two good chances, while Dmitry Pestunov hit the crossbar in the third period. Meantime netminder Andrei Medvedev again stood short of being truly tested registering 16 saves - enough for the shut-out. Medvedev's best save came on a breakaway opportunity by Ivan Kolozvary in the opening period.

Grigorenko opened the scoring late in the opening period. Detroit Red Wings prospect walked from the corner of the rink and managed to power his way to the net and push the puck past Sevela while having four Slovakians on his back.

Anshakov made it 2-0 4:29 into second period. Mikhail Lyubushin's shot from the point was redirected in the traffic and the puck bounced on Anshakov's stick. CSKA forward was positioned right in front of Slovak net and sled the puck in between Sevela's goal pads.

Two more goals late in the final period came as result of poor focus on Slovakia's defenders part. At 17:09 Denis Grebeshkov took a low shot from the point, Yuri Trubachev niftly redirected the puck on Polushin's stick and Tampa Bay's draftee had no trouble beating Sevela within the slot. A minute later Slovakian rearguard couldn't stop Perezhogin's drive to the net and Avangard Omsk's winger beat Slovakian netminder on the stick side one-timing in a slick feed from Andrei Taratukhin.

The margin could have been much wider if it wasn't for some excellent goaltending on the part of Slovakia's Peter Sevela, who looked quite sharp managing 29 saves.

Slovaks were able to keep up with the skill of their opponents for fractions of the first period, but Russians took control of the game for the remaining forty minutes  outshoting Slovakia 24 to 9.

RHI Three Stars
1. Yuri Trubachev
2. Peter Sevela
3. Mikhail Lyubushin

On Sunday Russia faces Belarus and completes it grope play on Tuesday versus Switzerland. Barring a miracle the defending champions shall finish atop of their pool and get a bye to the semi-finals.

In other games...
On Friday Slovakia trashed fatigued Belorussians 11-1. The team of the former Soviet republic was doomed for an embarrassment when head coach Vladimir Melenchuk decided to replace starting goaltender Sergei Ragovsky with inexperienced Dmitry Kamovich midway through the opening period. Ragovsky managed to stop 10 of Slovakia's 13 shots, while his substitute faded under the pressure letting in eight goals in over two periods of play.

In Friday's other contest Czech Republic overcame Dmitiry Pätzold's heroics to beat Germany 3-0. Jiri Hudler, who shall join RSL's Ak Bars Kazan following the conclusion of the tournament, led the offense for the Czechs with a goal and an assists.

Hudler was one of the few players who battled for Jaroslav Holik's side on Saturday in an uninspired loss to a powerful Canadian team. Czechs could match Canada's speed, played lousy inside the defensive zone and were physically intimidated by Mark Habscheid squad's aggressive fore-checking.

In Sydney, The United States rebounded off an embarrassing defeat in hands of Russia and the loss of Tim Gleason. Led by Christopher Higgins two short-handed tallies Lou Vairo's team defeated Switzerland 3-1.

Sean Bergenheim's go ahead goal at 14:30 of the third period lifted Finland to a win over arch rival Sweden in a tough fought contest. Despite all the talks about Suomi contender status Erkka Westerlund's side seems to be quite far from looking like one.

-- Max Dostoevsky

P.S. >> Sorry for the lack of updates on week-end folks... Finding reliable web connection in Sydney was no less than problematic.
 
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