Russians Pull Away For WJC Semifinal Win Over U.S.

In a game played before 18,630 at GM Place, Russia scored a 5-1 victory over the United States in semifinal action Tuesday at the 2006 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.

The loss means that the U.S., which made its fourth straight semifinal appearance, will play for the bronze medal against Finland Thursday at 12 p.m. PST. Host Canada beat the Finns in the early semifinal, 4-0.

“They’re an excellent team,” said U.S. head coach Walt Kyle of the Russians. “Obviously the result wasn’t what we wanted, but I’m proud of the effort by our team. While we’re disappointed now, this team still has a chance to do what only four other U.S. teams have done in the 30-year history of the tournament, and that’s win a medal.”

In a fast-skating first period, the Russians scored the only goal of the frame when Nikolai Kulemin chipped home a rebound off Ilia Zubov’s initial shot from the high slot.

U.S. netminder Cory Schneider made several good saves in the period, including a solid stop off Roman Voloshenko’s wrist shot from the center slot with eight minutes left and a shorthanded chance by Evgeni Malkin with three and a half minutes to go in the stanza. The best U.S. chance in the period came when Tom Fritsche tried to jam one home from out in front.

In the second period, the U.S. finished with a 16-6 advantage in shots on goal, but could not score. The combination of Fritsche, Peter Mueller and Robbie Schremp had a dominating shift early in the stanza, but couldn’t cash in.

Then about four minutes later, the U.S. applied furious pressure in the Russian zone with a delayed penalty on, but chances by Schremp and Phil Kessel were turned aside by Russian netminder Anton Khudobin.

Russia made it 2-0 just 1:42 into the third period when Nikolai Kulemin sailed down the right wing and got around Taylor Chorney before putting the puck up high over Schneider at 1:42.

Team USA finally scored less than a minute later, when Jack Skille batted a rebound of Jack Johnson’s power-play shot out of the air and into the back of the Russian net, narrowing the lead to one.

But the Russians came back with a tally 39 seconds later to regain a two-goal lead, then steadily pulled away, scoring a total of four third-period goals to salt away the victory.

Schneider made 29 saves in the game, while Khudobin finished with 34 stops.

Thursday’s U.S.-Finland bronze medal game can be seen on a same-day tape-delayed basis on Fox Sports Net North beginning at 10 p.m. CST. A win would give the U.S. its fifth medal in the tournament’s history.