Canada's Connor McMichael (17) scores on Russia's Yaroslav Askarov (1) as Yan Kuznetsov (2) defends during first period IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship action in Edmonton on Monday, January 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Canada to play for gold after downing Russia 5-0 in semifinals

Canada 5 Russia 0

EDMONTON — Canada will play for gold at the world junior hockey championship in Edmonton after beating Russia 5-0 in semifinal action Monday.

Alex Newhook returned from injury to put Canada on the board just 59 seconds into the game.

Connor McMichael, Cole Perfetti and Braden Schneider added goals for the defending champs, and Dylan Cozens sealed the result with an empty netter.

Russian goaltender Yaroslav Askarov struggled to hang on to his stick at times and stopped 30-of-34 shots.

Devon Levi had 28 saves to collect his third shutout of the tournament.

The United States and Finland were set to face off in the other semifinal game later on Monday. The medal round will be played Tuesday.

There were fears that Newhook would not return to the tournament after suffering an upper-body injury in Canada’s final preliminary-round game against Finland on New Year’s Eve.

The Colorado Avalanche prospect from Corner Brook, N.L., missed Saturday’s quarterfinal game against the Czech Republic but looked healthy on Monday when he scored his third goal of the tournament on his first shift of the game.

Newhook’s shot hit the back bar of the Russian net and popped back out before anyone on the ice knew it went in. Play continued until the goal horn was sounded and officials reviewed the video as Newhook’s teammates congratulated him on the bench.

McMichael added to Canada’s lead midway through the first frame after a battle in front of the net resulted in Askarov misplacing his stick.

Jakob Pelletier sent a crisp pass to McMichael down low and the native of Ajax, Ont., popped it in behind the Russian netminder to put Canada up 2-0.

A power-play marker from Perfetti widened the margin 15:05 into the first period.

Less than five minutes into the second frame, Askarov lost his stick once again and Canada capitalized.

Schneider took a long shot from the top of the face-off circle and beat the Russian goalie glove side. It was his first goal of the tournament.

Russia got on the board with less than three minutes to go in the second period only to have its goal disallowed.

Canadian defenceman Justin Barron got tangled with Levi on a Russian power play, preventing the goaltender from getting all the way across the net in time to stop a shot from Mikhail Abramov.

The Russians celebrated but Canada quickly challenged the call for an offside zone entry and, upon review, the officials agreed, waving off the goal.

Cozens nearly added to the Canadian tally with just 30 seconds to go in the second period when the Buffalo Sabres prospect was awarded a penalty shot. But Askarov stopped Cozens’ backhand attempt with his skate.

Russia pushed hard in the third period.

Shakir Mukhamadullin came close to scoring midway through the frame, ringing a shot off the post.

Both teams went down to four men with just over four minutes left on the clock after Peyton Krebs and Zakhar Bardakov were called for roughing.

The Russians pulled Askarov with about three minutes to go, and Cozens buried the empty-net goal with 1:29 left on the clock.

The 19-year-old from Whitehorse, Yukon, also had two assists in the game. With 16 points (eight goals, eight assists), he leads the tournament in scoring.

The tilt between Canada and Russia on Monday was a rematch of last year’s gold-medal game, which saw the Canadians claw their way back from a deficit for a dramatic 4-3 win.

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