NORTH BAY, ON – The first ever CIBC Canada Russia Series contest in North Bay was an exciting one, but Team OHL came out on the wrong end of a third period scoring flurry as Russia skated to a 4-3 victory.
Kirill Urakov scored the deciding goal with 5:26 to spare in the third period, giving Russia a 5-4 series lead in points headed into Game 4 in Hamilton on Monday.
Philadelphia Flyers first round pick German Rubtsov scored twice for Russia while 18-year-old goaltender Vladislav Sukhachev was steady when called upon, turning aside 29 shots.
The OHL outshot Russia 32-25 but couldn’t come through late as Russia hung on to wrestle back control of the series.
“The first five or ten minutes of the first period were pretty good and probably the last ten minutes of the third period we stepped it up,” said Team OHL head coach Kris Knoblauch (Erie Otters). “In between those times we were slow to get to pucks, didn’t support it too well and those little things are very important. I don’t think we had it on our sticks enough tonight.”
Russia’s aggressive forecheck that came out with physicality early on was a factor in the outcome.
“They were really aggressive, more so than I thought they were against the WHL,” Knoblauch added. “We got in a little bit of trouble with miscommunication tonight. I think with a little better puck management and better passes on Monday we should be able to escape their pressure.”
Team OHL brought pressure of its own in the early going, registering the first three shots of the game, but Russia would strike first on a funny bounce in the slot just 5:25 into the first frame.
Rubtsov took a low shot from the high slot that got past OHL goaltender Evan Cormier (Saginaw Spirit), glancing off the skate of one of his own defenders out front.
Team OHL would draw even on the power play two minutes later on a perfectly executed passing play. St. Louis Blues prospect Jordan Kyrou (Sarnia Sting) dished the puck down low to Owen Tippett (Mississauga Steelheads) who quickly found Mississauga teammate Michael McLeod in the slot as he chipped a quick shot over the shoulder of Sukhachev at 6:22.
The Russians picked up the pace in the latter half of the first. Rubtsov was left alone in the slot, taking a feed from linemate Pavel Karnaukhov before waiting out a sprawling Cormier to score his second of the night at 15:54.
Russia carried a 2-1 lead into the first intermission while Team OHL led 8-7 on the shot clock.
Team OHL came out of the gate firing in the second as Sukhachev was forced into a trio of big saves, denying Adam Mascherin (Kitchener Rangers), Gabriel Vilardi (Windsor Spitfires) and Jordan Kyrou (Sarnia Sting) on quality scoring chances.
After a quiet first half of the period at his end with Russia generating just one shot on goal, Cormier was solid in the latter half, keeping the OHL within one as he turned away Artur Tyanulin (Ottawa 67’s) on the doorstep. Nikita Li would be denied twice in the final three minutes of the second, keeping the OHL within striking distance headed into the final stanza.
Russia climbed out to a 3-1 lead 6:02 into the third as Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury Wolves) was the beneficiary of a strong play below the goal line by linemate Kirill Belyaev who won a puck battle before dishing to the slot. Sokolov, a Minnesota Wild prospect and 30-goal scorer with Sudbury last season, took some of the energy out of the Memorial Gardens with the insurance marker.
The OHL power play would click for a second time beyond the midway point of the third as Florida Panthers prospect Adam Mascherin (Kitchener Rangers) brought the Gardens to its feet. Team OHL drew to within a goal as Mascherin jumped on a rebound off the end boards on Owen Tippett’s wrister that went wide at 7:48.
Team OHL tied the game at three under two minutes later as Anthony Cirelli (Oshawa Generals) buried a rebound off Kyle Capobianco’s (Sudbury Wolves) low point blast at 14:10.
The flurry of scoring continued 24 seconds later, breaking the 3-3 deadlock as Russia regained the lead. Danila Kvartalnov and Kirill Urakov teamed up for bang-bang chances in the goalmouth, with Urakov burying on the rebound at 14:33.
The OHL put forth a late push, but couldn’t convert as Russia came away victorious in Game 3, improving to 5-4-0-0 against the OHL over the past five years.
Owen Tippett (Mississauga Steelheads) earned OHL Player of the Game honours in the loss, recording two assists on the night.
The two sides clash again on Monday at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton as Game 4 of the 2016 CIBC Canada Russia Series is live on Sportsnet at 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT.