Russia advances to the 2008 IIHF World Juniors Finals in Kazan

The Russian Junior team earned a spot in the finals of the 2008 IIHF World Juniors (U18’s) with a 3-1 win this afternoon over USA. A great deal of young Russian talent has been on display in Kazan as Russia has won each of its five games in fairly easy fashion. Forward Kirill Petrov, who has played two seasons for Ak Bars Kazan, capped off Russia’s scoring with an empty-net goal with just over one minute remaining in the third period. Nikita Filatov, who added an assist in today’s contest, has had a strong tournament thus far, scoring 3 goals and adding 6 assists; his 9 points lead the Russian squad and is good for third among all scorers. Not to be lost in the shuffle is the strong play of both Magnitogorsk goaltender Alexander Pechurskiy, who has posted a 2.10 goals against average along with a .920 save percentage and Cherepovets defenseman Maxim Chudinov, who is tied for second among defensemen in scoring with 5 points. Pechurskiy and Chudinov currently carry Red Line rankings of 169 and 194 for the 2008 NHL Draft. Khimik winger and Chelyabinsk native Anton Lazarev has been a revelation, posting 3 goals, 4 assists, and a +5 rating while earning the best player of the game award in this past Friday’s 10-1 win over Denmark (to clinch a spot in the semifinals). In that game, Anton Lazarev, Kirill Petrov and Artem Yarchuk each scored 2 goals to pace Russia’s attack.

Russia will face off against Canada on Wednesday in what will be the first ever meeting between the two teams in the World Juniors. Canada will counter with Brampton center Cody Hodgson, who ranked 17th in the Ontario Hockey League in scoring this past season with 40 goals and 45 assists. Hodgson is tied for third in scoring in the tournament, trailing only Belarus’ Igor Revenko (11 points) and Slovakia’s Richard Panik (10 points). Also on Wednesday, Sweden will take on USA with hopes of earning the bronze.