Women’s Hockey Update: December 27th, 2017
Slightly delayed, but here is this week’s Russian women’s hockey update! This edition includes recaps of some international games this past weekend, Russia’s preliminary roster for the Under-18 Women’s Worlds, and more — including, unfortunately, some further sad Olympic news. Read on…
Last week saw further bad news from the IOC’s Oswald Commission, investigating allegations of doping at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Having already suspended six Women’s national team players from the Games for life, the commission added two more names to that list: forward Tatyana Burina and defender Anna Shchukina. Burina retired from playing last season, having last been a member of the national side at the 2016 Worlds. Shchukina is an active player for Agidel Ufa and , and although she has not featured in the national team in the current campaign, she was on the roster for the 2017 World Championship.
The Russian Hockey Federation condemned the Oswald Commission’s verdicts as “groundless,” and promised both Burina and Shchukina with full support in their appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
We still await any definite word from the IOC on whether the Russian women’s hockey team will take part in the 2018 Olympics. That decision may not actually arrive until well into January, although the IIHF, which has staunchly supported the Russian players throughout this, would surely like a resolution earlier than that.
Whatever will happen with the Olympics, the women’s national team was on the ice this past weekend for a pair of exhibition games against their Japanese counterparts in Nagano. Head Coach Alexei Chistyakov took something of a “B” team to Japan, with some national team regulars present but other significant players omitted for this one (the big Tornado Moscow Oblast line of Anna Shokhina, Alevtina Shtaryova, and Yelena Dergachyova was not present, for example, nor was Agidel’s formidable Olga Sosina). Valeriya Tarakanova and Valeriya Merkusheva were the two netminders selected for this trip.
Tarakanova got the start in the first game, on Sunday, and it was a thriller. However, the excitement did not really start until late in the second period, when Alyona Starovoitova beat Japanese goalie Akane Konishi to give Russia a 1-0 lead. The Japanese equalizer arrived just a minute later, from Naho Terashima, and just 64 seconds after that, Ayaka Toko gave the home team a 2-1 lead that they would take into the second intermission. In the third period, Rui Ukita stretched the Japanese to two goals before Yekaterina Dobrodeyeva pulled one back for Russia with ten minutes to go. When, with just eight minutes left, Haruka Toko restored Japan’s two-goal advantage (and Tarakanova was pulled for Merkusheva) the home team appeared to have sealed the win.
But there was more drama to come. With four-and-a-half minutes left on the clock, Mariya Pechnikova scored, pulling the Russians to within a goal as they trailed 4-3. Chistyakov’s group pressed hard in the closing stages and with just 100 seconds remaining, got their reward; team captain Liana Ganeyeva potted the 4-4 goal to send the game to overtime. Nothing could be resolved there, but in the shootout it was Starovoitova who finished what she had begun, scoring the key penalty shot in what finished up as a 5-4 Russian win.
The two teams got back at it on Monday, in a game that, while it lacked the late fireworks of the first meeting, was a tense and exciting one as well. Both teams switched starting goalies, with Merkusheva in net for Russia and Nana Fujimoto for Japan. Oddly, all the scoring in this one would come in a three-minute spell halfway through the second period. Miho Shishiuchi was first on the board to give Japan a 1-0 lead, but that lasted only 90 or so seconds before Alexandra Vafina found the net for Team Russia. Back to work went Shishiuchi, as her second goal of the game restored the Japanese lead a minute and a half after Vafina’s marker. This time, there would be no dramatic late equalizer; both goalies kept their nets empty of pucks for the remainder of the game, and it ended as a 2-1 Japanese victory and a split of the mini-series.
The Russian national team will now be rejoined by those key rested players as they prepare for their next tournament. That will be the six-team Nations Cup in Füssen, Germany, beginning on January 3rd and running through the 6th. Germany, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Canadian national development team will make up the rest of the field at that one.
And we are now less than two weeks away from the opening faceoffs of the 2018 Under-18 Women’s World Championship, to be held this time in Dmitrov, just north of Moscow. It will be the first time that Russia has hosted a top-division women’s world championship at any age level. The Russian U18 team got down to business, in the form of their pre-tournament camp at the national training base in Novogorsk, on Monday. Twenty-eight players are in camp, of whom 23 will be selected for the tournament. The expanded roster is as follows:
- Anna Alpatova (Tornado Moscow Oblast)
- Diana Farkhutdinova (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
- Milena Tretyak (Tornado Moscow Oblast)
- Anastasiya Golovkina (SSHOR Moscow Oblast)
- Irina Kulagina (Tornado Moscow Oblast)
- Anastasiya Medvedeva (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
- Alina Orlova (Arktik-Universitet Ukhta)
- Vita Ponyatovskaya (Mechel Chelyabinsk)
- Yelena Provorova (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
- Aisylu Rakhimova (Arktik-Universitet Ukhta)
- Anna Savonina (Kristall Elektrostal)
- Sofiya Sychyova (Biryusa Krasnoyarsk)
- Irina Tsatsina (Dynamo St. Petersburg)
- Mariya Alexandrova (Tornado Moscow Oblast)
- Darya Beloglazova (Tornado Moscow Oblast)
- Oxana Bratishcheva (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
- Alexandra Budanova (Biryusa Krasnoyarsk)
- Mariya Lobur (Tornado Moscow Oblast)
- Anna Lopukhova (SSHOR Moscow Oblast)
- Polina Luchnikova (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
- Ilona Markova (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
- Yelena Mezentseva (Biryusa Krasnoyarsk)
- Anastasiya Pestova (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
- Mariya Pushkar (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
- Mariya Serova (Dynamo St. Petersburg)
- Kristi Shashkina (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
- Yelizaveta Shkalyova (Tornado Moscow Oblast)
- Anastasiya Yakubiva (SK Sverdlovsk Oblast)
There will be much more here about these players when the final roster is revealed, but at first glance, the ones to watch particularly include Beloglazova and Bratishcheva, as well as the defender Provorova. And I would not lose track of Budanova, having an excellent rookie year in the Women’s Hockey League for Biryusa (12 gp, 4-5-9) or Shashkina, who is tearing up the Russian national Under-18 championship for SKIF’s youth team. There are others of interest as well, but as I said, more coverage when we see the final lineup.
One last note: there will indeed be some Women’s Hockey League action between now and March after all (the original schedule had a nearly three-month break for the Olympics and other international play). The two-game set between between Tornado Moscow Oblast and SK Sverdlovsk Oblast was originally scheduled for earlier this month, but had to be postponed due to some unspecified travel difficulties. Those games will be played on January 15th and 16th.
And that is about it for this week! Next week, we’ll have Nations Cup roster updates, any news that there is from the U18s’ camp, and doubtless some other notes as well. Thank you for reading!