Greetings from Lake Placid, where earlier tonight the Russians juniors topped Team USA’s under-20 squad at Herb Brooks Arena, site of the 1980 Miracle on Ice. It was the third game of four that the two teams will play this week, and the first played on the Olympic-sized rink here in Lake Placid. It also turned out to be the first win for the Russians, who overcame a dozen penalties and a 33-17 shot disadvantage to come away with a 6-4 win.
Those of you who’ve been following along closely already knew that I planned to post updates from the game on Twitter, and tweet I did, so head over to Twitter and scroll down to around 6:30pm on Friday for the Cliff Notes version of what happened on the ice (with my apologies for the typos and name-butcherings). For a slightly more detailed account, including the complete scoring summary, head on over to USA Hockey. It’s late, and we’ve got a busy day planned for tomorrow (this is a “vacation”, after all) so I’m just going hit a couple of the highlights:
- As I tweeted (eventually, after the PA announcer faked us out by announcing “Bourque” for the first US goal), New York Rangers’ prospect Ryan Bourque was a healthy scratch tonight, so I didn’t get the opportunity to see him in action. A couple of the United States’ other top players players — Jordan Schroeder and Kyle Palmieri — also sat this one out. That, along with the larger ice surface, may go a long way in explaining why the Russians fared better in this one than they did in Tuesday’s 8-1 trouncing and Wednesday’s 6-1 defeat. If I were a betting woman, I would take the fact that Bourque sat out tonight — and his performance in the series so far — as an indication that he’s all but assured a spot on the roster for the World Junior Championship this winter.
- A little more from our conversation with Rangers former Assistant GM and current Phoenix GM Don Maloney: GMDM, as the younger Maloney brother is known in Phoenix, is in town to see Coyotes prospect Mike Lee, who served as the backup goaltender tonight. He also wanted to get a look at some of the draft-eligible Russians who were playing and specifically mentioned Vladimir Tarasenko (after seeing him play live, I can’t blame him!) The bulk of our conversation centered on former Ranger Petr Prucha, who’s still a big favorite in the BtB household. In case it wasn’t obvious from last season’s trade and this summer’s early re-signing, Maloney remains a big fan of Prucha’s and expects him to rebound to the form he showed during his rookie season. He attributed his decline in scoring to the added pressure of signing such a big second contract in New York and was very happy with how he played after he arrived in Phoenix at the trade deadline.
- I liked what I saw of Rangers’ 2009 second round pick Derek Stepan. He picked up two more assists tonight (both primary), giving him five in three games, and could have had a couple more points in tonight’s game had the puck bounced the right way. This was my first time seeing Stepan play, and what impressed me most was his vision. He did a real good job finding his open linemates (though his passing wasn’t flawless — one particularly good scoring chance ended when he passed the puck into this linemate’s skates.) He made quite a few really nice rushes up ice as well, and showed he wasn’t afraid to drive straight to the net when he did.
- Chris Kreider’s performance was a little more mixed. He took another penalty (his third in three games I believe) and coughed up the puck at least twice — once at his own blue line and once at the Russian blue line. On the positive side, he was able to use his speed to get around the Russian defensemen a couple times, and one such rush lead to a great scoring opportunity which ultimately resulted in an American power play. This is his first experience at this level of play, however, and while he didn’t stand above any of the competition, he also didn’t look out of place.
We’ll be on hand for the fourth and final game of the series — at the smaller, NHL-size USA Rink — on Saturday evening at 5pm. Tune in then for more updates via Twitter. (The next update here probably won’t come until we get home from Lake Placid on Sunday night.)
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