Tough loss for top prospect

Matthews fo­cuses on team af­ter U.S. drops semi­fi­nal game to Rus­sia

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS -

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.”

AP PHOTO

Aus­ton Matthews re­acts af­ter the United States lost to Rus­sia in semi­fi­nal ac­tion Mon­day at the world ju­nior hockey cham­pi­onship in Helsinki.

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