WJC: Russia Dethrones the Defending Champions
The tea leaves were ominous for the USA junior national hockey team before the first quarterfinal puck even dropped.
The Americans' loss to Canada in the final game of pool play cost them a top seed in the bracket phase, and who was there to greet them but their knockout nemesis in this competition?
How the Russians finished third in their pool is anyone's guess -- actually, they came out flat and got outworked by the Finns -- but there they were. The USA has never beaten Russia in bracket play. They were 0-4 coming into the match, now they're 0-5, and they have no one but themselves to blame.
Sloppy play is never advisable against a squad as skilled as Russia -- not to mention as disciplined as its teams were during the Soviet era -- and this was the telling factor here. The USA gave up two -- two! -- five-on-three goals that cracked open a close game and gave it away on a silver platter. The highlights don't even need announcers to underscore the tone:
On second thought, check that. Someone else will get close to silver here. The defending champions are going home empty-handed.
Russia will now advance to the semi-finals to meet the host Swedes, who dismantled Slovakia, 6-0, in machine-like fashion. These teams met in pool play, with Tre Kronorna emerging victorious, 3-2, in a match that wasn't really that close. The other semi-final sees the feisty Finns trying to pull of another upset, as they clash with a Canadian club determined to atone for last year's medal-empty performance. Canada easily dispatched Switzerland, 4-1.
The semi-finals are set for Saturday evening in Malmö.