2020 has been tough, to say the least, but you left the best gift for last. A night-capper of Russia versus the United States. The best preliminary matchup. On Christmas Day. Thanks buddy. You’re the best.
Love, hockey fans everywhere.
It’s been 16 years since world juniors kicked off on Christmas Day — which also featured the same two teams going at it back then — and like any good ‘ol meeting between two big rivals (i.e. Miracle on Ice) this Russia-USA contest is expected to be a drag-out, no-holds-barred, barnburner.
Two of the top three teams in the tournament meeting on opening day of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship with the winner taking, what’s expected to be, control of Group B and therefore an easier path to gold. Aside from being a scene-setter for the next 12 days, it’s also a key opportunity for a number of players to showcase just what they plan to bring to the tournament.
American Cole Caufield has had this date circled on his calendar since the day last year’s tournament ended in disappointment for the U.S. The Wisconsin standout had high expectations last year and only collected two points (goal, assist) in five games. He’s been determined to prove that last year was a fluke, and a big game in the team’s biggest game for the round-robin will show it’s a new year.
But it won’t be easy for Caufield and his cohorts as they face a dynamic puckstopper on the other end in Yaroslav Askarov. The Russian netminder at just 18 has torched the competition in the KHL this season and is also on a bit of a redemption tour after a poor 2020 showing.
So grab the eggnog, fruitcake and Chinese food as Sporting News has all the heart-thumping action between these two powerhouses in Game 1 of the tournament.
(All times Eastern.)
USA vs. Russia scores, highlights from 2021 World Juniors preliminary game
Second period: Russia 4, USA 1
11:00 p.m. — Some pleasantries being said at the end of the period. Maybe that’ll spark the Americans.
10:54 p.m. — The second shot Wolf faces? A partial breakaway that he saves. Wolf is a solid netminder and could be a No. 1 on any other team.
10:48 p.m. — Knight has been pulled after allowing four goals on 12 shots. Flames prospect Dustin Wolf is in. Knight did not have a great 2020 tourney (2-2, 2.49 GAA, .913 save percentage) and was looking for a better result in 2021. This was not the start he was looking for.
10:47 p.m. — GOAL. Wow. Spencer Knight not having a good night. Plays a puck that was being iced and turns it right over to Russia’s Ilya Safonov who scores as Knight tries to scramble back. Russia leads 4-1.
10:43 p.m. — GOAL. Off dump-in, Americans turn it over (Jake Sanderson) as they stand around and Vasiliy Ponomarev (CAR) gets his second of the game. Russia leads 3-1.
10:39 p.m. — USA heads to the power play. They would get some zone time but nothing came of it.
10:32 p.m. — My goodness. Cole Caufield has some silky mitts.
10:30 p.m. — GOAL. What a head-man pass by Maxim Groshev (TBL) — you don’t see it in the video but it was ridiculously good as it came from the defensive zone — to Zakhar Bardakov (2021 eligible) who breaks in a beats Knight five-hole. Russia leads 2-1.
10:29 p.m. — Americans getting some good chances early on as Bobby Brink misses a wide-open net.
10:28 p.m. — This is a head-scratcher.
Cole Caufield, who assisted on USA’s goal, had just 2:58 TOI in the first period. Only Brett Berard (54 seconds) and Sam Colangelo (2:02) had less. #WorldJuniors
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisTHN) December 26, 2020
10:27 p.m. — Second period is underway.
10:12 p.m. — Some intermission reading — It’s gold or bust’: NHL players look back on World Junior Championship memories
First period: USA 1, Russia 1
10:04 p.m. — Russia heads to the power play with 3:22 left on the clock. (They don’t get much action.)
9:58 p.m. — GOAL. Captain Cam York (PHI) sends the puck to the net and — while originally thought Matthew Boldy deflected but was changed during intermission — the puck squeaks between the arm and body of Askarov. Game tied 1-1.
9:55 p.m. — Trevor Zegras and Yaroslav Askarov are a modern-day Sean Avery and Martin Brodeur.
9:52 p.m. — Americans pick things up now and have a good chunk of offensive zone time with Matthew Boldy and Cole Caufield getting some good looks. USA finally with shots on net (about 12 minutes in, yikes).
9:49 p.m. — GOAL. Russia controls the puck off a dump-in and Hurricanes prospect Vasiliy Ponomarev with a masterful deflection that sends the puck fluttering past Knight. Russia leads 1-0.
9:44 p.m. — Power play ends as the Americans struggled with zone entry and couldn’t get set up. They don’t register a shot on net — and in fact, with more than six minutes ticked off, they don’t have a single shot in the game. Russia has three.
9:42 p.m. — USA gets a power play as Alex Turcotte gets taken down while driving to the net. Not a good start for the Russians as the Americans have some firepower.
9:40 p.m. — Both teams came out looking to set the tempo but so far just a lot of up-and-down hockey with neither team sustaining any pressure.
9:40 p.m. — USA gets lucky as they had too many men but didn’t get caught.
9:38 p.m. — “Great day for hockey.” Puck has been dropped.
9:22 p.m. — It’ll be Askarov vs. Knight. Buckle up.
9:10 p.m. — If you missed this from earlier today, you should definitely watch it now.
Cole Caufield and Trevor Zegras were the last ones on the ice at Team USA practice because they don’t leave until they tip the last puck into a bucket 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/3ba6Oe3xnT
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 25, 2020
8:50 p.m. — How the Russians will go.
Team Russia lines #WorldJuniors
(Bychkov, Bashkirov) https://t.co/gSKvSNJlD6
— Gillian Kemmerer (@gilliankemmerer) December 26, 2020
8:23 p.m. — That top-6.
7:12 p.m. — Getting ready.
World Juniors 2021: Latest news