Russia proved too big, too strong and too smart for the USA to win the men’s ice hockey title on Wednesday and confirm their dominance at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
Talisman Matvei Michkov (RUS) scored twice in his side’s 4-0 final victory, his eighth and ninth strikes of the competition, to help his team to an overall tally of 29 goals in four games, with just three conceded.
These are numbers that tell a clear story.
“Physically we were a bit stronger so when we could we applied some pressure on them,” said Michkov, the tournament’s top scorer. He also hailed the importance of the six-to-one penalty count in Russia’s favour.
“Discipline plays a really important role,” Michkov said. “We won today because of discipline and team spirit.”
The USA did start aggressively, determined not to be overawed by opponents who had crushed Finland 10-1 in their semifinal. But, true to Michkov’s words, Russia stayed tight and compact, squeezing the USA who were never able to get their fast-paced offensive game going.
And when the USA’s passion tipped over into indiscipline, Russia struck, scoring first when Frank Nazar (USA) was off the ice, penalised for interference.
“The first period was really good. We had a lot of opportunities and we used those opportunities when they had players off [the ice],” Russia captain Ivan Miroshnichenko said.
When his team scored a second powerplay goal to put them 3-0 ahead midway through the second period, the match was just about over as a contest.
“They are great hockey players. They obviously work hard and they were so hard on the forecheck,” USA team captain Jimmy Snuggerud said, referring to Russia’s suffocating defence.
His goalkeeper, who had performed admirably keeping out 22 of the 26 shots rained down on him, was equally impressed by the champions.
“It’s our first time playing them,” Dylan Silverstein (USA) said. “They took the game away from us. They are a good team. They played great.”
In the bronze medal match, Canada started fast, scoring twice in the first three minutes and, despite Finland pulling to within a goal late in the third quarter, the North Americans never gave up control, winning 4-2.
Forward Cedrick Guindon (CAN) was a standout. First the 15-year-old finished the move of the match in the 10th minute of the first period to put Canada 3-0 up and then, as Finland pressed to force a late equaliser, he stroked in to an empty net to start the celebrations.
“It’s a really good feeling,” Guindon said. “It was a tough loss [2-1 to the USA in the semifinals] but it wasn’t hard to get focused for this. We looked at it as a gold medal game.”
For Finland the pain of fourth place, but two-goal defenseman Elmeri Laakso (FIN) remained proud of his team’s effort, particularly after the shock of going down 10-1 to Russia in their semifinal.
“We improved a lot from yesterday, that was really important,” Laakso said. “Canada are one of the best teams in the world and their offence was a very high level.”