Yakupov's Russians drop 1-0 decision to WHL
Oilers prospect Nail Yakupov held pointless as Russia gets blanked by Team WHL
VANCOUVER - Give a game-breaker time and space and he'll make you pay. But, as seen in a 1-0 result Wednesday night in Vancouver, Nail Yakupov had neither as his Russian squad lost another, making it a 3-2 Canadian edge in the 2012 Subway Super Series.
Laurent Brossoit pitched a 30-save shutout and stopped all three in a shootout to collect the win.
"We lost. That's it," said a blunt Nail Yakupov post-game. "We had chances to score on the power-play but didn't."
Yakupov -- a target since Team WHL assembled their game plan at Tuesday's practice -- was set in Canada's sights early on. Just 49 seconds into the game while the Oilers' 19-year-old prospect raced to a loose puck along the sideboards, Edmonton product and Prince Albert Raiders pivot Mark McNeill connected with Adam Lowry to crunch Yakupov hard into the glass.
No doubt, it was slated to be a night of tough sledding.
When asked how he thought he played Wednesday night, Yakupov wasn't keen to indulge in a self-evaluation.
"Ask my coach. He knows."
Still with a chance to be a hero in the shootout, Yakupov's slow-motion attempt was denied. At the other end, Hunter Shinkaruk, McNeill and Sam Reinhart all beat Andrey Makarov for goals.
Yakupov said the hard-hitting style of the WHL was something he and his team couldn't get used to.
"Every league plays different hockey," he said, looking back at what the other CHL squads have brought to the table. "The OHL and the Q have more skill and the WHL -- they work hard, have more hits. It makes us better.
"You have to work hard and try. I've tried to do my best every game. But I think tomorrow (in Victoria) will be a different game."
He didn't have many opportunities to release it, but when he was given the time, space and the right pass in his wheelhouse, Yakupov's one-timer is like no other at this level. But, as he did all night, the Oil Kings goaltender was putting on a show for Ron Tugnutt and Hockey Canada, answering them all and making it look easy.
In Nizhnekamsk of the KHL, Yakupov has collected 10 goals and 14 points in 13 games -- as his agent Igor Larionov deftly pointed out Tuesday morning in Vancouver, he has more goals than NHL superstars Alex Ovechkin (six), Pavel Datsyuk (six) and Evgeni Malkin (eight).
"We have a good team, good lines, good coach, good goalie and that's why I score a lot of goals."
AROUND THE RINK: Oilers prospect Travis Ewanyk was a wrecking ball early on, but was crunched with a well-executed hip check by Russian defenceman Mikhail Naumenkov early in the second period. Ewanyk made it back to the bench under his own power, but was doubled over within seconds and was forced to leave the game. He will not be making the trip to Victoria to play Thursday night.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick