PODKOLZIN LEADS RUSSIA TO HLINKA GRETZKY BRONZE
JASON LA ROSE
EDMONTON, Alta. – Vasili Podkolzin finished his hat trick as part of a seven-goal third period, and Russia held off a pesky United States side to earn a 5-4 win Saturday and win bronze at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
The three-goal effort caps a tremendous performance for the Russian captain, who found the back of the net in all five games and leads the tournament in goals (eight) and points (11) with just the gold medal game remaining.
Special teams ruled the day for both teams; the Russians and Americans combined to go 6-for-11 on the power play, with each converting three times with the man advantage.
U.S. goaltender Derek Mullahy was the story early, turning aside all 13 shots he faced in the first period to keep the game scoreless, and stretching out to rob Ilya Nikolayev with his right toe early in the second.
But penalty trouble doomed the Americans in the middle frame; a pair of minors just 29 seconds apart gave Russia a two-man advantage, and they converted on both halves.
Yaroslav Likhachyov was first at 5:39, knocking in a bouncing puck at the side of the net, and Podkolzin snapped in a cross-ice feed from Daniil Gutik 42 seconds later to make it 2-0.
The Americans finally broke through on a power play of their own early in the third period when captain John Farinacci found a loose puck at the side of the net and beat netminder Yaroslav Askarov, but Podkolzin found space and rifled in his second of the game just over two minutes after that to restore the two-goal lead.
That was it for scoring until the final seven minutes, when the teams went off for five goals.
Arthur Kaliyev pulled the U.S. back within one at 13:53, knocking in a second-chance whack at the top of the crease, but Podkolzin finished his hat trick in style by splitting the defence and dancing around Mullahy only 22 seconds later.
Nicholas Robertson whipped in a wrist shot on the power play to make it 4-3 with 2:32 to go, but again the Russians answered within a minute; Nikolayev burst into the offensive zone, spun around one American and slipped the puck through the legs of another before beating Mullahy for the eventual game-winner.
Josh Nodler swept in the fourth American goal with 18 seconds left and Mullahy on the bench for an extra attacker, but that would be as close as the U.S. would get.
The win gives Russia bronze for the third time in four years at the tournament, and runs its all-time summer under-18 medal total to 15 (three gold, four silver, eight bronze).