A power-play goal with less than two minutes to play proved to be the difference as Russia defeated Team WHL 3-1 on Tuesday night at Langley Events Centre in front of 4,134 fans.
Stepan Starkov scored the winner on a goal-mouth scramble and Ivan Muranov added an empty-net goal less than a minute later as Russia avenged a 2-1 loss the night before in Kamloops.
The teams were playing the first two games of the CIBC Canada Russia Series. It continues with games in Sarnia, ON (November 8) and Oshawa, ON (November 12) between Russia and Team OHL before concluding with stops in Sherbrooke, QC (November 13) and Drummondville, QC (November 15) against Team QMJHL.
Hockey Canada uses the Series to evaluate potential players for their final roster at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
Ty Smith, the first-round draft pick of the New Jersey Devils in 2017, opened the scoring at 5:10 of the first period with his wrist shot from the point beating Russian goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov.
Team WHL dominated the first period with an 18-7 shots on goal advantage but the teams went to the locker room tied at one as Bulat Shafigullin got his stick on Evgeny Kalabushkin’s shot, redirecting the puck past David Tendeck.
Neither team scored in the second period and the game seemed destined for overtime until a late WHL penalty gave Russia their third power-play of the game, and they wasted little time, scoring the winner 25 seconds later.
“It was a good first period, but I think we ran out of gas a little bit tonight,” said WHL coach Tim Hunter, who will also be the head coach for Canada at next month’s World Junior Hockey Championships, which will be hosted by Vancouver and Victoria. “A lot of guys playing four games in five nights and (Russia) pushed the pace. They are a fast team, probably the fastest most of these guys have played in the WHL this season.”
“The other team is trying too, and they compete as hard as we did.”
After getting outshot by a two-to-one margin in the opening frame, Russia held a 20-16 advantage over the final 40 minutes. Tendeck, the Vancouver Giants goaltender and a sixth-round pick of the Arizona Coyotes in 2017, finished with 25 saves – including several clutch saves in the third period while the score was still tied — and was named the player of the game for Team WHL.
“He kept us in the game in the second period, we bent but didn’t break there,” Hunter said.
“It obviously wasn’t the result we wanted but it happens,” Tendeck said. “It’s sport, someone is going to have to win and lose. The team played well in front of me and really helped me out there.”