Bronze fails to satisfy Russia.
06.01.2009. Yzerman, Chris. The Ottawa Citizen

 OK, so the bronze-medal game took a backseat, way back, to last night's gold-medal finale of the world junior hockey championship.

Heck, even after Nikita Filatov scored twice in a 5-2 victory over Slovakia, the Russian captain admitted the Lord Almighty may have not even bothered presiding over this one, as he'd suggested when Canada rallied to defeat Russia in thrilling fashion in a semifinal on Saturday.

"Maybe God didn't watch this game," Filatov said after being asked by a reporter whose side he was on this time. "I don't know. Maybe he was just waiting for the final."

This one did carry some significance, though.

It meant a lot to the Slovaks, who were looking for their first world junior medal since 1999 and just their second ever.

It also meant a lot to the Russians, who, after coming so close to being the ones playing for gold, needed something to ease the pain of Saturday's loss, as well as the death of Alexei Cherepanov just a few months before the tournament.

Bronze wasn't what they came for, but at least they didn't go home empty-handed.

"I can't imagine that," said Russian defenceman Dmitri Kulikov of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Drummondville Voltigeurs.

Kulikov had the misfortune of being on the end of two bad bounces that led to goals in Canada's comeback on Saturday, and he was still crestfallen over it yesterday.

"It's very important to win a medal at this tournament. It's not easy," he said, before qualifying his answer. "But we all know it's not the same. If we won the last game, it was going to be (better)."

Judging from Filatov's reaction when asked about Cherepanov, who collapsed during a Kontinental Hockey League game in October and died, that loss still cuts deep.

"I don't know. With him," Filatov said, appearing to choke up, "(maybe) we'll be world champions."

Filatov, a Columbus Blue Jackets prospect, capped a standout tournament with his seventh and eight goals.

They certainly spoiled the chance for the Slovaks to cap their tournament on a high before an appreciative Scotiabank Place crowd of 18,763.

The Russians took an early lead and never looked back in order to extend their medal streak at the tournament to five consecutive years.

It's the second-longest run by any nation behind Canada, which guaranteed itself an 11th medal finish in a row by reaching last night's championship contest.

"It was a very good game by us, so of course we're all happy," Filatov said, his medal dangling from his neck. "All the things against Canada, they weigh in the head, and for a long time, for all the guys."

Pavel Chernov had a goal and an assist for Russia, which also won bronze last year, and Maxim Goncharov and Dmitri Kugryshev, into an empty net, also scored.

The Slovaks, already guaranteed of their second-best finish ever just by making the semi-

finals, can return home with their heads held high after making a run this far.

Martin Stajnoch and Tomas Tatar each had a goal and an assist for the Slovaks yesterday, and goaltender Jaroslav Janus, who caught the eyes of fans and scouts alike with his outstanding play, made 20 saves.

"We did a good job, you can't just say the last two games," said Janus, an undrafted 19-year-old who plays for the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters.

"We played the whole tournament well, and it's important we finished in fourth place. That's really good for us and our country. We're happy."

The Russians won their Group B preliminary-round meeting with Slovakia 8-1, but the Slovaks were a much more dangerous bunch after upsetting the United States in a quarterfinal and giving Sweden a scare in a semifinal.

However, the Russians took the lead just 41/2 minutes into yesterday's game. With a delayed penalty call coming against the Slovaks, Chernov cut into the slot and lifted a shot over the shoulder of Janus and under the crossbar.

Early in the second period, Goncharov jumped out of the penalty box and took a three-quarter ice pass from Evgeni Dadonov before scoring on a breakaway.

Stajnoch beat Vadim Zhelobnyuk, who also finished with 20 stops, with a shot from the point midway through the second, but, before the period was over, Filatov ripped a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle through Janus' pads to send Russia was on its way. 

1 Канада 6 5 1 0 0 46-12 17
2 Швеция 6 5 0 0 1 27-11 15
3 Россия 7 5 0 1 1 32-18 16
4 Словакия 7 2 1 0 4 22-28 8
5 США 6 3 1 0 2 34-19 11
6 Чехия 6 2 0 1 3 23-22 7
Подгруппа А
Канада, США, Чехия, Германия, Казахстан
Подгруппа В
Швеция, Финляндия, Россия, Словакия, Латвия
За 7-10 места
Финляндия, Латвия, Германия, Казахстан

1/4 финала
США - Словакия
Россия - Чехия

1/2 финала
Швеция - Словакия
Канада - Россия

США - Чехия
Россия - Словакия
Канада - Швеция
Первая страничка турнира
Молодежные чемпионаты мира (до 20 лет) 2009 года.
Первая страничка
Дивизион I. Группа А
Дивизион I. Группа B
Дивизион II. Группа А
Дивизион II. Группа B