The Russians started their World Junior Championship venture with a loss to Team Sweden. Matvei Michkov potted a double, but it wasn’t enough to get the best of Tre Kronor.

After losing 4:6 a pretournament game to Team Canada, the Russians had their debut in Red Deer against Team Sweden. Sergei Zubov’s men were determined to repeat last year’s win over Tre Kronor, with Igor Larionov behind the bench for Russia, but failed to stay out the penalty box and couldn’t find the way to the opposition crease, starting the tournament with a loss as a result.

The game started with the Russian pushing the gas, but the Swedes had the first powerplay opportunity of the night when Nikita Novikov was caught on a foul play in the Russian defensive zone. Just ten seconds in, and Tre Kronor gets the go-ahead point when Oskar Olausson beat Yaroslav Askarov with an accurate wrist shot from the right circle. The Swedish first line was dangerous again when a shot by William Eklund made his way past Askarov, but Shakir Mukhamadullin managed to catch up with the puck and clear the net avoiding a further goal.

With seven minutes to go, finally the Russians had a scoring chance when Alexander Pashin went one-on-one with Jesper Wallstedt – but the Swedish goalie kept his cool and rejected the forward’s attempt. However, despite the chance, the Russians couldn’t shift the momentum and the first period ended with a well-organized Swedish side up by one.

The second period started where the first ended – with the Swedes controlling the game and leaving little space to the Russians, but the Sergei Zubov’s men started gaining some momentum after a few minutes, with Wallstedt called to a couple of saves on Nikita Chibrikov and Fyodor Svechkov. The Russian pressure led to the first penalty called against the Swedish side. Michkov had a great chance right away with a one-timer from the right circle, but Wallstedt was ready once again. However, despite some pressure on the offensive zone, the Russians allowed a fast counterattack to the Swedes, and defenseman Simon Edvinsson got full advantage to get in front of Askarov and beat him five-hole for Tre Kronor’s second of the night.

Once again, the Russian answer was quite weak, and Pavel Tyutnev was caught tripping in the offensive zone for the Swedish second powerplay of the night. Team Russia closed the gaps, but another tripping – this time by Marat Khusnutdinov – put the Swedes up by two men. This time the Tre Kronor showed no mercy, and a blue line shot by captain Emil Andrae went in beating Askarov glove-side.

The Russians, however, didn’t surrender, and in the following offensive play the puck found the back of the net after several ricochets in front of Wallstedt’s crease, with Fyodor Svechkov being credited with the goal.

In the third period, the Russians came out strong off the locker room and with Yegor Guskov replacing Askarov between the piping. However, the Sergei Zubov men were again on penalty troubles allowing an early two-men advantage to Tre Kronor. Not surprisingly, the Swedish found the back of the net again as Guskov failed to cover enough of the crease to reject Alexander Holtz’s shot from the right flank.

After the goal, however, Matvei Michkov created a chance out of nothing with his bursting speed and crush the net as the Russians closed the gap down to two goals. Less than a minute later, ricochets helped Team Russia again when a combination by the first line ended up in the back of the net with Michkov credited with his second of the night. Despite the often lousy play, the Russians were back on track again with just one goal to recover. With the momentum clearly on its side, Team Russia went all-in trying to tie the game, with a huge chance on Shakir Mukhamadullin’s stick stopped by a fully composed Wallstedt with a bit more than ten minutes to go to the final hooter. The Russians kept on pressing, but Sweden killed its hopes with a laser-like shot by Theodor Niederbach that beat Guskov five-hole. In the final minutes of the game, Sergei Zubov recalled Guskov for a sixth skater, but the Swedes found the Russian net again, this time with Daniel Ljungman.

Team Russia plays its second game in the tournament on Dec 27 against Team Switzerland, who will be at its debut at the 2022 World Junior Championship.

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