Team USA’s run for the World Junior Championship ended yesterday in their quarterfinal match against Russia. Despite 3 first period goals, the United States lost 5-3.
Stefan Matteau, Ryan Hartman, and Nic Kerdiles each scored a goal to give the United States a 3-2 lead after the first period. Five minutes and 2 Russian power play goals in the second period, however, were enough to unravel Team USA.
“The game changed in that five-minute segment,” said Don Lucia, head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team. “We went from being on the power play, up 3-2, to the consecutive five-on-three Russian power plays where they made two great shots. That’s where the game changed.”
Those five-on-three, power-play tallies happened in a mere 1:01 span, a definite blow to the Americans’ momentum. Trailing 4-3, USA rallied for the equalizer in the third period, but an empty net goal would seal their fate with only 28 seconds remaining.
Defeat is difficult to deal with in its own right, but the Americans had salt poured in their wounds to contend with on top of the loss. Some taunting from the empty net goal scorer, Pavel Buchnevich, was a little unsavory and immature, but considering his age (and what was yet to come) it was not the most egregious act from the Russians. As Buchnevich skated his way past the American bench, Ryan Hartman reached his stick out and hit his tormentor in the face. More immaturity from a player showing his age. The childish behavior reached its climax at the end of the game when the very age-inappropriate Team Russia trainer Alexander Rezepov decided it would be a good idea to make rude hand gestures at the beaten Americans.
In sports, and all activities concerning young men for that matter, we have a “boys will be boys” mentality. But an event like the World Junior Championship is a setting in which those boys grow into men. The behaviors of Buchnevich and Hartman were inexcusable. Far worse, however, were the actions of Rezepov. When a grown man who is in a mentor/leadership position conducts himself that way, there is cause for concern.