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Podkolzin leads his U20 Russian squad to victory and captures the Karjala Cup

They defeated the best available European pros from Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

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#19 Vasily Podkolzin in action against Sweden during the 2020 Karjala Cup tournament held in Helsinki, Finland.
Photo by VESA MOILANEN/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images

The other teams involved in the Karjala Cup tournament said Captain Vasily Podkolzin and his U20 squad were unworthy of participating in the professional mens’ tournament. They were outraged that Russia sent kids to compete with men.

In the end, they decided to let the kids play no doubt planning to shellack them on the ice. Most dismissive was Finland’s head coach Jukka Jalonen.

You can bet Russian head coach Igor Larionov used Jalonen’s quote to help motivate his young charges. Whatever Larionov did do it resulted in his teenagers embarrassing the adult Finns 6-2.

Vasily Podkolzin led all Russian forwards in the game in ice time and was both an offensive and defensive force.

He made this nice play on his club’s 3-0 goal garnering the primary assist on the tally.

He also got credit for a secondary assist on this power play goal when he fed the puck to his teammate who then passed the disc to the goal scorer.

Podkolzin then followed up his strong first tourney game against Finland with an even better performance in his second game against Sweden.

In a tight battle, his club trailed the Swedes 1-0 with time running out on the clock. Coach Larionov pulled his goalie for the extra attacker. Podkolzin then intercepted an errant clearing attempt by a Tre Kronor defenceman that bounced to him off the referee. He then sent a pinpoint pass across the offensive zone to his teammate who tied the game 1-1.

The tied game went to overtime but it solved nothing.

After playing a strong 20 minutes and 46 seconds in the match, Podkolzin got his chance to be a hero in the shootout. He then delivered the win, scoring the shootout game winning goal on a pretty move from his backhand to his forehand.

Now all that stood in the way of a tournament upset victory for the youngsters was the Czech Republic men’s team.

The Czechs came out fast from the starting gate but could not put one in the Russian net.

After the initial flurry by the Czechs, the Russian kids settled down and posted a 3-0 shutout victory over the opposition adult men. Vasily Podkolzin notched a primary assist on Russia’s third goal to salt away the victory.

The youthful Russians had overcome their opponents’ disrespect to win the tournament. It was now time for Captain Podkolzin to claim the Karjala Cup trophy on behalf of his crew.

After collecting the Cup, the victors took part in the now traditional hockey group championship team photograph.

Amongst his teammates taking part in the photo-op was fellow Vancouver Canucks’ prospect Dimitry Zlodeyev. The 18 year old 2020 draft pick was designated as the club’s 13th forward in the first two games of the tournament. He played just over two minutes in the first game late in the third period after the game was all but over. He then did not get on the ice at all in the tight shootout victory over Sweden. But in the third Cup winning game, Coach Larionov promoted him to fourth line center and gave him nearly twelve minutes of ice time. While he did not get on the scoresheet, he played a solid mistake free game.

Vancouver Canucks’ fans hope to someday see Podkolzin and Zlodeyev pose together for a Red Machine-type victory picture only instead in a Blue-and-green version of the photograph.

While Zlodeyev is still a few years away from challenging for an NHL roster spot, Podkolzin is currently due to arrive in Vancouver this coming May. He will be expected by the NHL club and its fans to help the Canucks’ with its then late season push to try and return to the NHL playoffs for a second straight season. If the stars align perfectly maybe he will get a chance to replicate that winning photograph sooner than later in the NHL.