The United States and Russia will meet in the semifinals of the 2015 IIHF World Championships on Saturday and the trash talk already has begun.
Russian forward Artemi Panarin, who recently signed with the Chicago Blackhawks, started things off.
“We’re in a fighting mood to play the Americans,” he said Thursday, via the IIHF. We need to teach those college kids a lesson.”
Team USA has several NHL players on its roster, including Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, but it also features some college players as well. The most notable name in that group is Boston University forward Jack Eichel, who is expected to be the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Eichel scored the game-winning goal in overtime in the United States’ win over Slovakia to end the preliminary round.
Regardless of its motivation entering the semifinal, Russia will be a tough test for the U.S. as the defending champion of this tournament. Its roster also will be bolstered by the arrival of Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin.
Ovechkin led the NHL in goals scored this season and is a finalist for the Hart Trophy, but his Capitals were eliminated from the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs with a Game 7 defeat to the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
The last time Russia and the United States played in a major competition was the preliminary round at the 2014 Winter Olympics. That game is best remembered for T.J. Oshie’s legendary performance in the shootout.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@CraigCustance