ASKAROV STARS, RUSSIA BLANKS CZECHS AT HLINKA GRETZKY
JASON LA ROSE
RED DEER, Alta. – Yaroslav Askarov was perfect, making 35 saves and backstopping Russia to a 3-0 win over the Czech Republic in preliminary-round action Tuesday at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
The Russians are alone atop Group B with two wins in as many games, although they could be joined by the United States later Tuesday night.
Coming off a 6-0 loss to the Americans on Monday, the Czechs carried much of the play in the first period, outshooting Russia 14-8, but trailed by a pair of goals after 20 minutes.
Yegor Chinakhov got the scoring started just past the midway mark of the opening frame, finishing a give-and-go with Arseni Gritsyuk for a power-play goal, and Yaroslav Likhachyov whipped a quick shot past Czech netminder Nick Malik with 81 seconds left in the first.
Askarov and Malik took care of the second period, making 11 and nine saves, respectively, in a scoreless stanza, before Vasili Podkolzin put the game out of reach 12 minutes into the third, driving to the net to jam in a loose puck.
The only question that remained was whether or not Askarov would get the shutout, and he turned aside all 10 of the shots he faced in the final 20 minutes to complete the clean-sheet.
Since edging Canada 4-3 in a pre-tournament game Saturday, the Czechs have yet to find the back of the net; they have gone exactly 130 minutes without a goal since Martin Has’ game-winner against the Canadians.
Russia goes for a perfect prelims Wednesday when it faces off against the United States (7 p.m. MT), right after the Czechs meet Finland (3 p.m. MT).