Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Eichel/USA take down Russia/Antipin at Worlds as PP finally breaks through

Published by, 5-16-2017

It took a while for Team USA to finally figure out how to break through on the powerplay and thanks to Team Russia's penchant for aggressive stick penalties, the Americans had themselves plenty of chances. Russia committed eight minor penalties with seven being either slashing or high-sticking.

Team Russia came out wielding the stick 3:51 into the first period and by the end, Team USA was on their fifth powerplay, which included a double-minor for drawing blood on a high-stick. Unfortunately USA couldn't get one past Russia netminder Andrei Vasilevsky as his penalty killers clogged the middle with a tight box. However two unsuccessful powerplays did forshadow how the Americans could finally break through.

On one powerplay mid-way through the first, Team USA got a shot through and crashed the net on one of the few rebounds Vasilevsky left. Although it didn't work, early in the second period with a carryover powerplay Clayton Keller (ARI) got a shot through from the point that handcuffed Vasilevsky and he left a rebound in the crease. Brock Nelson (NYI) found the puck and found a wide open Jimmy Hayes (NYR) on the weak-side and Hayes buried it to knot the score at 1-1.

The second period was about as good a period of hockey you'll ever see as two long-time hockey adversaries traded hits, skating and scoring chances. When all was said and done Team USA overcame two more one-goal deficits and headed into the intermission with a 3-3 tie.

With just under eight minutes to play and the game knotted still knotted, the Americans took their first lead of the game by converting on the powerplay again. Buffalo's Jack Eichel, who'd been trying time and time again to get a cross-ice pass through the tight Russian defense finally did as he sent a bullet to Johnny Gaudreau (CGY) on the weak side. Gaudreau wasted no time sending it to Anders Lee (NYI) on the far side of the crease for the tap in.

USA would add an empty net goal for the 5-3 final score. It was Team USA's sixth win in a row after dropping their first preliminary round game to Germany. With the win USA wins Group A.

Potential Buffalo Sabres free agent signee Viktor Antipin was patrolling the Russian blueline and finished the game with 17:28 of ice-time while registering a shot and an even plus/minus rating. He was on the weak side when Eichel made his pass to Gaudreau but couldn't do much on the play. Antipin played both sides of the ice and looked very solid. For the seven preliminary round games he's played in Antipin registered one assist, had five shots on goal and was a plus-2.

Word on the street is that Antipin will be signing with the Sabres after the World Championships.

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