Tough loss for top prospect
Matthews focuses on team after U.S. drops semifinal game to Russia
Auston Matthews showed why he is considered the top pick in this summer’s NHL draft. But right now, he just doesn’t care.
All the American forward could talk about on Monday was United States’ 2-1 loss to Russia in the semifinals at the world junior hockey championship.
Yes, his seven goals lead the tournament heading into to the final. Yes, his seven assists put him in third for overall points. But to Matthews, none of that matters without a gold medal around his neck.
“I thought I was fine,” said Matthews of his performance throughout the tournament. “I thought my line did well. I thought we really clicked well and as a team we played unbelievable as well. There’s really nothing you can say.
“We gave 110 per cent and obviously it’s a tough pill to swallow with losing in the semifinals.”
Yegor Korshkov had the eventual winner and added an assist as Russia advanced to the final against host Finland. The Finns advanced to the final after hanging on to beat Sweden 2-1 earlier Monday.
The United States will play Sweden in the bronze medal game earlier Tuesday.
“We’ve got to refocus, get ready for tomorrow and play with some pride for our country,” said Matthews. “Any time you put on that jersey you’ve got to be ready to play.”
Pavel Kraskovski also scored for Russia and Ilya Samsonov made 26 saves for the win. Christian Dvorak scored for the United States, while Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 31 shots.
Matthews, who most experts expect will go first overall in the draft this June, has taken an unconventional path to the NHL. Instead of playing in major junior in Canada or in the NCAA in the U.S., the native of Scottsdale, Ariz., opted to play professionally for the ZSC Lions in Zurich, Switzerland.
The 18-year-old forward leads his club with 14 goals despite playing against adult veterans.
Matthews was put on a line with Matthew Tkachuk and Colin White for the world juniors. d both Matthews and Tkachuk — who is also draft eligible — after the Americans’ semifinal loss.
Head coach Ron Wilson had nothing but praise for Matthews’s performance at the international event after practice on Sunday afternoon.
“I’ve been very impressed,” said Wilson. “Right from the getgo this summer Auston was our best player. I only hope that my coaching wouldn’t hinder any of his play at all and so far it hasn’t. He’s been exemplary.”
Auston Matthews reacts after the United States lost to Russia in semifinal action Monday at the world junior hockey championship in Helsinki.