Pacific storms past Russians to Under-17 final

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Matthew Gourlie
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Sawchenko and co. to face Americans in final Saturday

Zach Sawchenko had the best seat in the house to watch his Team Pacific teammates take control of a hockey game.

Prince Albert Raiders forward Jayden Hart tries to get a shot off against Moose Jaw Warriors goaltender Zachary Sawchenko. Prince Albert Daily Herald photo by Perry Bergson

Pacific scored six straight goals to beat the Russians 7-3 Friday in the semifinal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in North Sydney, N.S. Sawchenko only had four saves to make in the second period as his teammates tilted the ice in their favour.

“This was probably one of the hardest games I’ve played all tournament. I’m used to getting at least six or seven shots every period. Here I had big breaks where there wasn’t any action,” said Sawchenko, a goalie with the Moose Jaw Warriors. “Coming off the games against the Czechs and the Swedes where there were shots every few minutes, this was a change.”

Not that Sawchenko was complaining. He was happy they picked the semifinal for their most lopsided win of the tournament.

“The boys were going today and I’m so proud to be a part of this group,” said Sawchenko. “You always expect a close game, but it’s never a bad thing when you blow someone out. It gives us a little more confidence going into the gold medal game.”

Team Pacific will play the United States today (3 p.m., TSN) in the tournament final.

The U.S. beat Quebec 9-1 in the other semifinal and have out-scored their opposition 43-6 in their five games.

“The States are good, but that being said every team can be beat,” said Sawchenko. “The Canada-U.S.A. rivalry is always great and it’s going to be a good game. On home soil, the place will be bumping (Saturday), which will be great. All we need is the support. I’m excited and all of the boys are ready to go.”

Sawchenko didn’t start the first game of the tournament for Pacific — a 4-3 loss to Quebec — after he allowed all three regulation goals in their 4-3  shootout loss to Russia in pre-tournament play.

“We knew we had something to prove this time and that last time was a fluke,” said Sawchenko who made 25 saves in Friday’s win. “We’re a different team since then. It’s like night and day. This group has glued together, we’re so close. I’ve never been part of something like this. It’s really special. I know that when we’re all pushing in the same direction and all have that common goal that we can accomplish great things.

“We’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, but we know we’re not done.”

The Russians twice led in the first period thanks to goals from Dmitry Zhukenov and Aleksandr Zhebelev. Noah Juulsen tied the game and Ty Ronning scored with 15 seconds left in the first to give Pacific a 3-2 lead.

Matteo Gennaro scored twice and Nick Merkley, Jansen Harkins and Giorgio Estephan also scored for Pacific who scored three times in 3:24 early in the third period to ice the game.

Artur Tyanulin scored Russia’s second power play goal of the night late in the game.

Pacific threw 54 shots at Ilya Samsonov in the Russian goal.

Team West won the ninth-place game, beating Germany 4-3.

Warriors prospect Ryan Gardiner scored the game-winning goal eight minutes into the third period for Team West. Jackson Keane, Jesse Gabrielle and Colt Conrad also scored.

Organizations: Canada-U.S.A.

Geographic location: Pacific, North Sydney, United States Quebec Russia

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