The U.S Juniors team and Russia met Friday to decide who would play for gold, and as the clocked ticked down in the third period, with the Americans up 2-1, celebrations were just minutes away for goaltender Cayden Primeau.
Primeau, who at 19, is a prospect for the Montreal Canadiens, did his best to remain calm during the final minutes of the semifinal. Commenting, Primeau said,
“I was just trying to stay big, then you can celebrate after the buzzer has gone.”
The win over Russia puts Team U.S.A into the gold medal game against Finland on Saturday night in Vancouver at the Rogers Arena. The loss was the first for Russia at this year’s juniors and a devastating one as they outshot the U.S 36-27. It was also the second year in a row that the U.S beat the Russians, who last year won bronze after defeating Russia in the quarterfinals.
Mike Hastings, coach for the U.S team said the more experienced Primeau was helpful with teammates adding,
“When you play a team as good as Russia, they’re going to get their chances and you need that last line of defence to be there for you, to allow you time to catch your breath at times. Your best penalty killer needs to be your goaltender and he was tonight.”
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) January 5, 2019
Primeau stopped all but one of the 36 shots he faced last night, and Russia Pyotr Kochetkov had 26 saves. Scoring for the U.S was Alexander Chmelevski and Oliver Wahlstrom, and for Russia, Grigori Denisenko.
Kirill Slepets, who spoke through the use of a translator said the loss was a hard one stating,
“It’s a big disappointment but tomorrow is a new day, new game. Our team is one of the best here. We were a little bit unlucky. Will fight for the medal tomorrow.”
The game was not without controversy after Russia scored a second goal that didn’t count. This came halfway from the first period when Dmitri Samorukov sent a pass to Nikita Shashkov that caused Primeau to scoot across the net as Shashkov deflected the pass into the net.
After officials reviewed the play, it was determined that Shashko used his skate to kick the puck in, and that resulted in the goal not counting. Speaking on the incident, Primeau said,
“We got a lucky bounce and they decided to call it off. It was definitely a big one there and we got back to work.”
Russia also had another close call in the third period after Klim Kostin sent the puck down the ice towards the goal but Phil Kemp, defencemen for the U.S was able to catch it and prevent it from potentially tying the game. Kemp, who has been signed by Edmonton said,
“It was crazy. To be honest, I wasn’t really thinking about it, I was just trying to dig it out. That was a big kill for our team.”
Quinn Hughes, who also plays defence for Team U.S said he didn’t think anyone was calm, on the ice or on the bench adding they knew they had to continue to push. The effort wasn’t lost on coach Hughes, who adding that it is positive for younger players to play in tight games. Hughes added,
“Us as a coaching staff have talked about the ride this group has allowed us to be a part of and what they’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “It was an exciting night for us.”
The Americans, who will face Finland in the finals after they defeated Switzerland in the semis, will be the underdogs even though both teams have players that some of the top prospects in this year’s draft. One of those is the brother of Jack Hughes, a forward for the U.S team, whose brother Quin Hughes is expected to be drafted in the first round, and no. 1 overall.
The gold medal game will get underway at 5pm on Saturday night at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, and the bronze medal game will get underway on Saturday afternoon between Russia and Switzerland at 1pm, also at the Rogers Arena. Bettors interested in placing bets will find Bet365, one of the leading sports betting sites online offering action along with a substantial signup bonus. Register today and show your support.