Canada/Russia Challenge Game Day: 8/10/12
Russia 6 @ Canada 3
For the second time in as many days, two teams studded with juniors stars battled on ice in Yaroslavl. The Russians avenged their narrow defeat yesterday by thumping the Canadian squad 6-3 in what was the second match of the Canada-Russia Challenge. Canada made the game close twice but the Russia, much more aggressive, able to maintain possession and in control of the pace for much of the game, put the game out of reach in the third. The Russians were good but the Canadians, between lapses in positioning, miscues and too many trips to the penalty box, were equal parts sloppy today.
Two of the three Lightning prospects involved in the exhibition series, defensemen Nikita Nesterov and Artem Sergeev, played today. 2012 1st-round selection Andrei Vasilevski watched from the bench, resting after backstopping the Russians yesterday.
TSN Radio was complimentary of Lightning prospects on a couple occasions and praised Nesterov (pictured above) in particular after a sequence where his efforts played a key role in Russia scoring its 5th goal. It was another strong showing for the Lightning's 2011 5th-round selection after a performance yesterday that also earned good reviews. He looked sound at both ends of the ice and both relaxed and confident on the power play, during which he notched his assist and nearly scored late in the first on a rocket from the point that fooled not only himself but also a couple teammates who began to celebrate. Also, Nesterov--known to have a bit of a mean streak--played with a noticeable edge after the game got chippy early on; shortly after jawing at the Canadians after one whistle, he got away with a take-down when he came to the aid of a teammate run roughshod into the boards on a late and dangerous hit. As the game progressed, he seemed to work over opposing forwards with his body and/or stick as much as possible.
Sergeev, who had an assist yesterday, was less noticeable but that isn't to say he played poorly. Apart from one sloppy breakout pass which was intercepted (but did not lead to a scoring opportunity for Canada), he gave his team effective minutes and displayed poise with the puck. His shining moment came in the second when he looked off a Canadian defender, spied a teammate racing toward the net and calmly fired an on-ice pass from the boards into the slot that was redirected high and wide.
Kirill Kapustin, an undrafted forward who split time between Lokomotiv's junior and senior squad last season, scored a hat trick for Russians but the game-winner was scored by Blackhawks prospect Maxim Shalunov, who found a rebound in the slot and, with a quick release, beat Canadian goalie and new Stars prospect Max Lagace. Shalunov also tallied an empty-netter in the last couple minutes.
This was the final game of the series that will be played in Yaroslavl, site of last year’s deadly airline crash that killed 44 players and coaches from the KHL's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl organization. Games 3 and 4 will be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, next week.
(Photo by Eric Dubose)