The big red Russian machine kept rolling on Tuesday at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
Russia picked up a tidy 3-0 win over the Czech Republic to move to 2-0 in the tournament, but it was an unexpected performance from their young netminder that had Servus Arena buzzing.
Goalie Yaroslav Askarov, one of only two 2002-born players on their roster was perfect on the afternoon with a 35-save shutout.
“We did exactly what we wanted to do. The guys showed up really well, they blocked shots and they made my life easier, so we are happy with the game,” said the 16-year-old through a team interpreter.
It was the first start of the tournament for the young netminder after Vladimir Sartakov earned a victory over the Finns on Monday.
The six-foot-two, 161-pound Askarov turned aside 14 shots in the first against the Czechs, 11 in the second and closed the game out with ten in the third.
He said he was nervous pre-game, but as the day went on he felt more prepared and his teammates gave him plenty of support when the puck finally dropped.
“It is always like this before the game, you feel a bit nervous. After the pre-game warmup and you go into the game, you catch a few and feel confident. We had a good start and I felt pretty good,” Askarov added.
Yegor Chinakhov opened the scoring on the power play for Russia at 10:47 of the first. Late in the frame, Yaroslav Likachyov wired a wrist shot from the top of the circle past Nick Malik in the Czech net.
The Czechs pushed back physically in the second but failed to convert anything in front of Askarov. They also had seven power plays in the game but the Russian netminder was equal to the task. The teams combined for 40 penalty minutes in the contest.
“That kind of game from the Czechs, they play a provocative game,” said Russian head coach Vladimir Filatov though the team interpreter.
“I cannot say I am happy with how the team responded to that type of game, we ask them not to respond, just to play hockey. Sometimes the emotions were too high.”
Vasili Podkolzin closed out the afternoon with a highlight reel goal for Russia. He drove wide past a Czech defender and slipped the puck past Malik just inside the far post.
It was an exclamation point in another steady performance from the Russians who moved to 2-0 with the win and will square off with Team USA for first in the group Wednesday night.
“I’m very thankful to the boys because they did exactly what I asked them to do,” added Filatov.
“It was our goal to win both games and every game in this tournament. We are not surprised. We are happy with our performance, but it was our goal.”
After a 4-3 pre-tournament victory over Canada, the Czechs failed to score in their second straight tournament game. They will finish Pool B play Wednesday afternoon against Finland.
Team USA picks up crucial win over Finland
The Americans set up an important date with a big victory in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup on Wednesday.
Team USA got goals from five different players in a 6-2 win over Finland to move to 2-0 in the tournament. The win means Wednesday’s contest with Russia will determine the winner of Group B.
Luke Toporowski and Sam Colangelo scored for USA in the first but Finland responded with just under 90 seconds left in the frame.
Arthur Kaliyev added another American goal 1:30 into the second, but the Finns responded on the power play three and a half minutes later.
John Farinacci and Jackson Jutting scored just 17 seconds apart in the third to break the game open for team USA. Jutting added two assists for a three-point night.
Toporowski added a short-handed marker late in the third period.
Anton Lundell had a goal and an assist for Finland.
Dustin Wolf made 26 saves in the U.S. net and Roope Taponen stopped 33 for Finland.