As the exhibition and tournament games have rolled on, Team North America has steadily gained more followers. They are a gifted group of kids who were going head to head with their most formidable foe yet in Team Russia.
The Wonder Twins of Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews teamed up for the first goal of the game. It was everything we dreamed of and more.
McDavid gets past Father Time himself, Pavel Dasyuk, along the boards. On the far side, Matthews streaks by a stumbling Alexei Emelin and receives the puck to put it past Sergei Bobrovsky.
Despite being outshot 9 to 11, the Aqua Teen Hockey Force kept Team Russia in check a majority of the first period.
The second period started with much of the same. The Russians earned back to back power plays and couldn’t find a way to score.
Slowly the tide began to turn. It started with this save by Bobrovsky on McDavid.
McDavid gets a huge breakaway but Bobrovsky isn’t having that. Watch LIVE on #RGCL: https://t.co/C2bDFxZ9Mj #WCH2016 pic.twitter.com/CfdhDw8G0r
— Rogers NHL GCL (@RogersNHLGCL) September 20, 2016
Finally, the offensive talent of Russia broke loose.
It started with an unfortunate deflection to the benefit of Vladislav Namestikov. Matt Murray made the initial save. Then the puck hit off his back skate and into the net. Russia ties the score at 1-1.
A scant 50 seconds later, luck strikes again for Team Russia.
The puck hits the stanchion and rebounds to Nikita Kucherov. Murray wasn’t ready for Kucherov to turn and shoot in what seemed like slow motion.
At 2-1, Russia has their first lead of the tournament.
During the commercial break following the goal, Matt Murray goes to the bench to get the thumb of his blocker-hand taped. This could be nothing, but it’s worth mentioning.
Nathan MacKinnon had been annoying the Russians throughout the game. He and Dmitry Kulikov exchanged words at the end of the first period. This time he mixed it up with Andrei Markov after Bobrovsky made a save. Both players were taken off, but MacKinnon got the extra minor.
Just 16 seconds into the four-on-four, Evgeni Kuznetsov went end-to-end to score Russia’s third goal in a little over four minutes. He celebrated by pantomiming like a crane (or some other angry bird).
A couple minutes later, a goal by Vladimir Tarasenko put the Russians up 4-1 on Team North America, and ended Matt Murray’s night. He was 4 of 11 in net.
In came John Gibson for the Teenage Mutant North Americans. We always hear about the spark teams are given by a goaltending change. In this case, it was true.
Two minutes after Gibson entered the game, Team North America cut the lead in half.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is doing work in front of the net. He gets the puck out to Morgan Reilly at the top of the circles. He hammers it home in front of the locals.
The period ends with more spectacular saves from Bobrovsky. He faced 18 shots in the second period alone and only allowed one goal.
One minutes and 35 seconds in to the third period, Evgeni Malkin is sent to the box for hooking Johnny Gaudreau.
MacKinnon and The Nuge were in front of the net doing work. The puck comes to MacKinnon who deftly stops it with his skate, then passes it out to Nugent-Hopkins. He hits Bobrovsky once, picks up his rebound and gets it past the netminder and defender.
Team Millennial went at Russia with everything they could in the third. They threw 19 shots at Bobrovsky in the third period. Russia only had four shots in the same timespan.
The officials whistled Artemi Panarin for tripping. Shortly thereafter, they penalized the Russians for delay of game. The kids would play at 5 on 3 for 1:34. If it wasn’t for Bobrovsky, they would have scored.
Todd McLellan pulled Gibson with 1:23 to go in the period. The youngins’ fired everything they have at the net.
Dmitry Orlov takes a penalty with 40.3-seconds remaining. It was now or never for the kids. Shayne Gostisbehere came the closest to scoring as he clanged it off the post. Bobrovsky stayed calm and did the rest.
The Russians clear and the game is over. Team North America falls just short, 4-3.