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Kerry Collins, Published April 15 2009

Medal atmosphere: Russia rallies to hand USA its first loss of World U18 hockey tournament

The medal round doesn’t start until Thursday, but Russia and the United States started early.

Led by a hat trick from Vladimir Tarasenko, the Russians overcame an early two-goal deficit to score a 6-5 victory over the United States in front of 3,584 raucous fans at Urban Plains Center.

It was the first loss of the tournament for the U.S.

“It was a very important win for us so we can show we can compete with any team in the tournament,” Tarasenko said through a translator. “Psychologically, we know we can do it.”

Russia’s win made a three-way tie atop Pool B between Russia, the United States and Finland.

Based on goal differential among only the games involving those three teams, Finland gets the top seed and the bye into Friday’s semifinals.

“There were a lot of momentum switches and a lot of back-and-forth in this one,” U.S. coach Ron Rolston said. “They’re an explosive team, and they got us in transition a couple of times.”

The United States led 2-0 going into the second period, but Russia used a long-passing transition game to net three goals in the frame to leave the game tied 3-3 going into the final period.

“We were trying to get the puck in deep and work, and they got it behind us,” said William Wrenn, who scored two goals for the U.S.

“…We made too many mistakes and we didn’t play the 60 minutes we needed to.”

Down 3-2 in the second, the United States killed off a 5-on-3 for 1:54.

Just 27 seconds after Russia’s two-man edge ended, Jeremy Morin tied the game with a power-play goal for Team USA.

Wrenn’s second goal gave Team USA a 4-3 lead early in the third period, but Tarasenko scored back-to-back goals – the second one short-handed – to give Russia the lead again.

Kirill Kabanov then scored off a faceoff at the 10:42 mark of the third to make it a two-goal margin.

Morin scored his second power-play goal of the night with 1:13 to play, but it wasn’t enough time for the United States to net the equalizer.

Igor Bobkov stopped 23 shots in the third period alone, and finished with 50 saves. The U.S. outshot Ruussia 55-26 in the game.

“It wasn’t up to me, this was a total team effort,” Tarasenko said. “I saw it was 50 shots or so for them, and we had to capitalize on every chance.”

The United States will have the second seed and will play the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at UP Center.

Russia faces Sweden in the other quarterfinal at 4 p.m. on Thursday, also at UP Center.

FIRST PERIOD: 1, US, Wrenn (Fowler), 4:14 (pp). 2, US, Brown (Zucker), 15:00.

SECOND PERIOD: 3, R, Kuznetsov (Zaytsev, Burmistrov), 1:17. 4, R, Tarasenko (Chvanov), 6:40. 5, R, Kabanov (Chvanov, Tarasenko), 10:42 (pp). 6, US, Morin (D’Amigo, Shore), 14:17 (pp).

THIRD PERIOD: 7, US, Wrenn (D’Amigo, Morin), 4:18 (pp). 8, R, Tarasenko (Kabanov), 8:50. 9, R, Tarasenko, 10:32 (sh). 10, R, Kitsyn (Burmistrov), 16:11 (pp). 11, US, Morin (D’Amigo), 18:47 (pp).

SAVES: R, Bobkov 14-13-23—50. US, Murray 6-10-4—20.

A: 3,584.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548.

Collins’ blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com