By Jason La Rose, Hockey Canada

DAWSON CREEK, B.C. – Vasili Ponomaryov scored the winner on the power play with 51.9 seconds left in overtime, giving Russia a tournament-opening 3-2 win over Canada East on Saturday afternoon at the 2019 World Junior A Challenge.

It’s the seventh time in a row the Russians have beaten East, and the fifth year in a row they have started their schedule with a victory.

With the clock ticking closer to a shootout, Ponomaryov took a drop pass from Kirill Kirsanov at the blue-line, wheeled into the middle of the ice and beat a screened Devon Levi (Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Que./Carleton Place, CCHL) on the glove side.

The Russians looked to be on their way to the full three points after Daniil Gushchin went five-hole on Levi seven minutes into the third period, but Dovar Tinling (Pointe-Claire, Que./Hawkesbury, CCHL) banked a shot off the back of goaltender Yegor Guskov with just 2:40 left to force overtime.

Tinling finished with a goal and an assist for the Canadians, while Shakir Mukhamadullin added two helpers for Russia; they were the lone players with multi-point efforts.

A scoreless first period was a feeling-out process for both teams, with just six shots apiece.

Jérémy Laframboise (Sainte-Catherine, Que./Longueuil, LHJAAAQ) finally broke through when he scored from in close off a Tinling set-up on an East power play 8:24 into the second, but Nikita Kiryanov poked a loose puck through Levi just over five minutes later to get the Russians even.

There were chances at both ends leading to the Ponomaryov winner in overtime; Gushchin was turned away by Levi on a breakaway just seconds into the extra period, and Ryan O’Hara (Oakville, Ont./Oakville, OJHL) beat Guskov but not the post.

Both teams are back in action Sunday; Russia takes on the Czech Republic in the early game (2 p.m. MT) before East meets West in an all-Canadian match-up (7 p.m. MT).

Photo Credit: Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images