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Canada drops Russia, earns bye to World Jr. semis

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TSN.ca Staff
12/31/2012 3:15:13 PM
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Canada clinched a bye to the semi-finals with a 4-1 victory over Russia at the World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia on Monday.

If you missed the game, you can catch encore presentations on TSN at Noon et/9am pt and again at 7:30pm et/4:30pm pt. A final encore is available on TSN2 at 11pm et/8pm pt.

Once again, a big hit was a big factor, but this time the Canadians were on the receiving end and took advantage of the ensuing extended powerplay. Canadian defenceman Tyler Wotherspoon was the victim of a first period hit from behind by Valeri Nichushkin and had to retreat to the dressing room for further medical attention. Nichushkin was initially given two minutes for cross-checking, but officials then upgraded the charge to a five-minute major for checking from behind and a game misconduct.

Dougie Hamilton made it worth Wotherspoon's pain when he fired a rocket from the point past Russian goalie Andrei Markov for a powerplay goal and a 1-0 lead.

Mark Scheifele scored his fourth of the tournament on the same powerplay, converting a rebound off another point shot to make it 2-0 for Canada.

That powerplay and the resulting goals turned out to be the difference in the game. Canadian coach Steve Spott credited his staff with making some changes to the powerplay after the unit did not play well against the United States.

"If we don't score on that (five minute major), maybe we aren't having this same interview," Spott told TSN after the game.  "That was crucial."

The Russians came back quickly from the early deficit, with Nikita Kucherov converting a Scheifele turnover with 2:24 left in the opening period, but they weren't able to do any more damage in the face of some stifling defence and an overpowering Canadian forecheck. The Russians only managed four shots in the third period and 22 overall, compared to 48 for Canada. When the Russians did get chances, goaltender Malcolm Subban was there.

Jonathan Drouin, promoted to the top line for this game in an effort to spark the offence, responded with Canada's third goal. Drouin converted a wrap-around just after Canada had killed off a penalty early in the second period to make it 3-1. Drouin was named the Player of the Game for Canada.

"Jonathan Drouin really gave a shot of adrenalin to that top line, which was already playing pretty well," said TSN hockey analyst Ray Ferraro, noting that the 17-year old's "dash" was a real difference-maker against the Russians. Spott said it was likely that Drouin would remain on the top line going forward.

Jonathan Huberdeau capped the scoring with an empty-netter after Subban keep the Russians at bay in the third period, including a save on a late penalty shot.

Ferraro said it was the most complete game Canada has played at the tournament, pointing out that the return of suspended forward Boone Jenner really helped to settle the forward lines. Jenner and his linemates, Phillip Danualt and Brett Ritchie, dominated the Russians along the boards - especially in the third period.

While Canada won Group B and advanced directly to Thursday's semi-finals, Russia will be forced to play a quarter-final game against Switzerland, the third-place team from Group A, on Wednesday.

"Everyone's going to get re-juvenated and we'll come back even stronger in the semi-finals," said Wotherspoon, who could probably use the break more than most. He took a skate in the face early in the game and then missed the rest of the first period after the hit from behind by Nichushkin. He returned, however, to spearhead a strong showing by Canada's defence corps.

Spott said he was pleased with the effort his team put forth against a tough opponent.

"We said we've got to get better every day," Spott said. "I think today was obviously our best game and we have to build on that."

In earlier action, the United States clinched a quarter-final berth with a 9-3 win over Slovakia. The Americans will face the Czechs in the quarters after the Czech Republic beat Switzerland 4-3 in overtime. The Swiss made the playoff round after Finland was dumped 7-4 by Sweden and fell into the relegation round. The win gave Sweden first place in Group A and a bye to the semi-finals.

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