Russia lost a hard-fought game to Team OHL but captain Nail Yakupov didn't disappoint Sarnia fans as he scored a big goal and sent them an unusual present over the boards. What else was there of interest in Game 4 of the Subway Super Series?
Despite a stellar performance in Game 3 Igor Ustinski was replaced with Andrei Vasilevski in goal.
Defenceman Alexei Vasilevski — Andrei's older brother — was the only healthy scratch for Russia in Sarnia. Belleville's Daniil Zharkov and London's Nikita Zadorov weren't eligible for this game by CHL rules as they would have had five games in five nights. Team OHL's Scott Harrington and Max Domi played four games in four nights.
The crowd cheered loudly when Nail Yakupov's name was announced. The boo-birds stayed home.
Yakupov was clearly fired up for Game 4 but the OHL did a good job of tying him up and leaving him little room to maneuver.
Russia had trouble early getting three minor penalties in the first period, including when they had to play 5-on-3 for 1:07 after Blackhawks prospect Maxim Shalunov got called for delay of game for shooting the puck into the netting from his own end.
Team OHL was unlucky early in the first hitting the post, but they followed up with a good goal minutes later. Youngster Bogdan Yakimov lost track of Isles prospect Ryan Strome and he one-timed it home. Andrei Vasilevski got a piece of it but that wasn't enough.
Nail Yakupov got hit in the head at centre ice late in the opening period and damaged his helmet. He played in till the rest of the game and tossed it to the fans after.
Sarnia fans came back with the wave midway through the second period. At this point the score was 1-0.
Both OHL coach Steve Spott and Russian coach Mikhail Varnakov like their defences tight and their offense as stingy as possible. Hence, scoring chances were a rarity in this one while the neutral zone was constantly clogged.
So far Panthers prospect Yaroslav Kosov has met the expectations of being the most physical player on Team Russia. The 2012 world junior returnee battles hard for the puck and doesn't let his opponents take advantage of him. Make no mistake — he won't think twice if asked to dance.
Discipline was a big issue for the Russians in Game 4 as they got six minor penalties. Team OHL had only two.
Russia still has just one power-play marker in the series. They are 1-for-15 now.
While Varnakov's squad looks responsible defensively, they don't create as many scoring opportunities as you would expect from them. They were outshot 29-17 in Sarnia.
Vasilevski looks solid again but gave up a rebound on Dougie Hamilton's shot midway through the third which led to Frankie Corrado's goal. Ironically, Hamilton is a Bruins pick and Corrado is a Canucks prospect.
Russia took 11 shots in the first 49:20. The other six shots (35.29%) came in the last 10:40 of the game.
Kirill Kapustin was removed from Russia's top line for the first time in the series. He was swapped on the left wing for Evgeni Mozer who previously played on the fourth line.
This was third time that Sarnia hosted the event. Back in 2003 the town hosted Game 2 of the very first series and Team OHL won the game 4-0. The tourney came back in 2006 when Team OHL destroyed Russians 5-0 in Game 3. Nail Yakupov finally broke the curse for his compatriots with 36.1 left in regulation time with a quick wrister from the slot. Vasilevski was pulled for an extra attacker on this one.
Valeri Nichushkin and Maxim Shalunov were the only players on Team Russia who finished the game with a positive plus-minus as both were plus-1. So far the line Nichushkin-Tkachev-Shalunov has been the best for the Russians. Their combined plus-minus is plus-10 and their points total is six (3G, 3A). Maxim Shalunov is tied for first with Nail Yakupov on Team Russia in points with four (2G, 2A).