USA out-classes Russia 6-0
USA out-classes Russia 6-0
Zumwinkle hat-trick returns USA to final
In addition to Zumwinkle's hat-trick, Taylor Wente, Clair DeGeorge and captain Cayla Barnes also had multi-point games, while Lindsey Reed had a relatively easy six-save shutout.
“I thought it was our best game of the tournament,” U.S. coach Joel Johnson assessed. “Everything from our defensive play to getting a variety of players involved in the offence was good. It was a really well-balanced game from us and I'm proud of our kids.”
“Of course we were hoping to play better hockey and have a better result, but unfortunately we played a really bad game offensively,” Russian coach Yevgeni Bobariko. Regarding the absence of suspended players Oxana Bratisheva and captain Nina Pirogova, he said, “Of course it hurt us, but not so much. Overall we just didn't play well, which is disappointing.”
Five of the shots Reed faced were in the first period, when the Russians came out with some jump. However, the two goals from Zumwinkle put the Americans in front, and they never looked back.
Her first goal came at the 3:39 mark when she worked her way to the front of the net and took a pass from DeGeorge and scored on her backhand. The second goal came just past the midpoint of the period and was a brilliant individual effort, in which she won a battle for the puck along the left wing boards and then carried it all the way to the other side of the ice, eluding two Russian players along the way, before scoring on a wrist shot from the faceoff dot.
“It hasn't really hit me yet, but honestly, my linemates made some awesome plays and contributed to my and the team's success,” Zumwinkle began. “We found each other throughout the game. We've had a few line changes, but I think that's helped us as a team find some more combinations that can score. So I think going into tomorrow it should help us.”
In the second period it was all USA, out-shooting Russia 20-0. The Russians weren't even able to get a shot during a 40-second 5-on-3 advantage. After the Americans got two more goals early in the second period by Wente and Catherine Skaja, Russian starting goalie Valeria Merkusheva – who was brilliant in a quarter-final shutout of the Czech Republic – was mercifully pulled after allowing four goals on 17 shots, replaced by Diana Farkhutdinova.
“Those couple of goals right at the start of the second period really helped us out the rest of the game,” said Skaja. About the team's offensive outburst after getting shut out the last time out, she said: “That was something we really wanted to work on – getting shots to the net and getting to rebounds.”
After the goaltending change, the Americans added two power-play goals late in the middle frame to make it 6-0. Zumwinkle completed her hat-trick, and Natalie Heising scored the sixth goal for the Americans, who seemed to be toying with the Russians at this point. Both goals were set up by Barnes, who is now tied for the tournament scoring lead with six points.
The third period was just about preserving the shutout, which the Americans did easily, allowing only one Russian shot on goal. They now meet Canada in the final of the IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's Championship for the 10th straight year.
“We certainly have a goal to win the gold medal – that's what we've set out to accomplish,” said Johnson, looking ahead. “But I'm proud of our players, whatever happens. It's two good teams and it's going to be lots of fun.”
As for the Russians, they will meet Sweden in a battle for the bronze.
“That's the next task we have in front of us,” said Bobariko. “Of course we're hoping for the best, but it's impossible to say what will happen.”
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