Russians top Czechs in nailbiter

Russians Yevgeni Kuznetsov (left to right) Grigori Zheldakov and Alexander Khoklachev celebrate...

Russians Yevgeni Kuznetsov (left to right) Grigori Zheldakov and Alexander Khoklachev celebrate their win over the Czech Republic in their World Junior Hockey Championship quarterfinal match at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alta., Jan. 2, 2012. (MIKE DREW/QMI Agency)

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:35 AM ET

CALGARY - Grigori Zheldakov was the overtime hero.

But it was the goaltenders who were the true stars.

Czech 'tender Petr Mrazek and Russian puckstopper Andrei Vasilevski put on an unforgettable display at the Saddledome Monday night, turning aside a combined 81 of 84 shots.

Zheldakov finally ended the goaltending battle with a top-shelf howitzer 1:30 into sudden death to send the Russians to a semifinal matchup with Team Canada (7 p.m., TSN) with a 2-1 win.

"He played an excellent game," Zheldakov said of Mrazek."But you know, he's human.

"We were able to score on him in the overtime."

Mrazek received a loud standing ovation from the Saddledome crowd when he was named his team's player of the game.

The crowd then started chanting 'Go Canada Go,' and Russian forward Evgeni Kuznetsov responded by gesturing for the patriotic fans to turn up the volume.

"I like when the crowd is against us," Kuznetsov said. "And I think tomorrow we will be even more motivated than we were today hearing this chanting.

"But I remember the moment from the last final. It was one minute before the final whistle and people start to leave arena."

Czech forward Jakub Culek and Russia's Danil Apalkov traded second-period goals.

With the teams tied at one early in the third period, Dmitrij Jaskin one-timed a pass from the top of the crease, but Vasilevski flashed the right pad to keep it out.

Not to be outdone, Mrazek came up with a mammoth glove save off Yaroslav Kosov with 8:02 left in regulation time.

Vasilevski continued the game of whatever-you-can-do-I-can-do-better with an incredible glove save of his own, stoning Tomas Filippi with 1:51 on the clock.

Mrazek wouldn't say if Tuesday's performance was his career-best.

"It was a pretty good game for everybody on the team," Mrzaek said. "But we lost so we can't talk about it being our best game.

"It's difficult, but it's just hockey. Sometimes you have to take it.

"They scored one more goal than us."

Mrazek was magical in the first period and was the only reason the Czechs were still in the game.

Apalkov sent a cross-ice pass to Sergei Barbashev, who crushed a one-timer just 30 seconds in, but Mrzaek slid across to make the save.

It was a sign of things to come as he made a pair of left-pad beauties on a Russian powerplay, robbing Evgeni Kuznetsov and Pavel Kulikov.

Kuznetsov had another glorious opportunity on a clearcut breakaway. The Washington Capitals prospect made a nice deke and had Mrazek at his mercy, but the puck rolled at the last minute and he lifted it out of the rink.

The Czechs were much better in the second period and drew first blood when Culek buried Tomas Hertl's cross-crease pass at the 7:16 mark.

Daniel Krejci nearly made it two-zip when he danced through the entire Russian team but was turned aside by Vasilevski.

Mrazek, who had stood on his head, would love to have Russia's first goal back.

Apalkov skated over the blueline and put a wrister on net that eluded Mrazek on the blocker side.

But the Czech 'tender made up for it with perhaps the save of the tournament with a minute left in the period.

Apalkov sent a cross-crease pass to Kosov on a 2-on-1, but Mrazek slid across to make a miraculous stop and send the teams to the dressing rooms tied 1-1.

scott.fisher@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNScottFisher


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