Yaroslav Askarov was perfect in a 31-save performance, backstopping Russia to a 3-0 win over Canada West in a battle of unbeaten teams Wednesday night at the 2018 World Junior A Challenge.
Askarov became just the second goaltender to post a WJAC shutout against Canada West, joining Swedish puck-stopper Mathias Israelsson, who stopped all 37 shots he faced in a preliminary-round game in 2011.
“We started the tournament off strong, which is good because we put ourselves in a good position. We didn’t necessarily have the game that we wanted today, but we just have to have a short memory for that. Our only focus now is the Czechs and how we’re going to get past them,” said Canada West captain T.J. Lloyd (Spruce Grove, AJHL).
The Russians, who handed West its first loss and solidified their hold on first place, did all their offensive damage in the first 25 minutes, chasing Canadian starter Matthew Davis (Calgary, Alta./Spruce Grove, AJHL) in the process.
Nikolai Burenov started the scoring on a first-period power play, swatting in the rebound of a Vasily Podkolzin shot to put Russia up by a goal after an evenly-matched opening 20 minutes.
Aleksandr Gordin jumped on another rebound to make it 2-0 just 83 seconds into the second period, and Maksim Groshev took advantage of miscommunication to score shorthanded at 5:01, ending the night for Davis after three goals on 12 shots.
Matthew Radomsky (Winnipeg, Man./Steinbach, MJHL) was lights out in relief, turning aside 16 shots.
The Canadians carried the play in the middle frame, outshooting Russia 16-9 on the back of three power plays, but Askarov was up to the task.
A four-minute man advantage with less than seven minutes to go gave West one final chance to find a way past the netminder, but the Russian penalty kill kept the shutout intact.
Already assured of a semifinal spot, the Canadians close out their preliminary-round schedule Thursday night against the Czech Republic (7 p.m. MT), while Russia will try and finish off a perfect prelims Friday against the United States (2 p.m. MT).
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