Team Russia at the 2018 Women’s U18 Worlds
Starting tomorrow, for the first time ever Russia will host a top-division women’s hockey world championship, as the 2018 event for the Under-18 age group gets going in Dmitrov, just north of Moscow. That fact, in and off itself, makes this a momentous event for women’s hockey in the country, even before the first puck is dropped. But drop it will, so read on for a look at Team Russia’s roster for the tournament!
Without further ado, the roster (an asterisk denotes a player who was part of last year’s U18 Worlds squad):
- Anna Alpatova (Tornado Moscow Oblast)
- Diana Farkhutdinova* (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
- Milena Tretyak* (Tornado Moscow Oblast)
Farkhutdinova, a key figure in SKIF’s powerhouse U18 team in the national championship for that age group, should get most of the work in Dmitrov, with Tretyak (no relation) as her backup. Alpatova, who won Euro gold with the U16 national team last season, is the understudy. There are some big skates to be filled here, as goaltending has been a strength for Russia at this tournament recently; Farkhutdinova’s club team-mate Valeriya Tarakanova was named best goalie in 2015, and tournament MVP in 2016. Her reign was followed by that Valeriya Merkusheva, named best goalie at the 2017 U18 Worlds.
- Anastasiya Golovkina (Atlant 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)
- Anna Savonina* (Kristall Elektrostal)
- Irina Tsatsina (Dynamo St. Petersburg)
The Russian defence group will miss the snarl — and the scoring ability — of last year’s team captain Nina Pirogova, but there are some promising players here as well. Orlova will captain this squad in 2018, and she comes from an Ukhta side that is starting to send significant blueliners to the national teams. It looks as though her partner will be Provorova, a Women’s Hockey regular for two years now despite being only 16.
Another one to keep an eye on is Ponyatovskaya, a graduate of the excellent girls’ program at the Sergei Makarov Hockey School; just 14 (she turns 15 on Monday), she is the youngest player for Russia at these Worlds. It appears that Ponyatovskaya will be paired up with SKIF’s Medvedeva. The remaining pairings, judging from practice and Russia’s one pre-tournament game (see below), will have the experienced Savonina alongside Golovkina and Kulagina with Tsatsina.
- Mariya Alexandrova (Tornado Moscow Oblast)
- Darya Beloglazova* (Tornado Moscow Oblast)
- Oxana Bratishcheva* (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
- Alexandra Budanova (Biryusa Krasnoyarsk)
- Mariya Lobur (Tornado Moscow Oblast)
- Polina Luchnikova (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
- Ilona Markova (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
- Yelena Mezentseva (Biryusa Krasnoyarsk)
- Anastasiya Pestova (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
- Mariya Serova (Dynamo St. Petersburg)
- Yelizaveta Shkalyova (Tornado Moscow Oblast)
- Anastasiya Yakubiva (SK Sverdlovsk Oblast)
Two names in particular leap out from this list, not least because they are the only two returnees from last season’s U18 Worlds squad. Beloglazova is a Women’s Hockey League rookie this season who will be playing her third U18 Worlds (12 gp, 4-3-7 is her overall stat line at the tournament), and Bratishcheva is simply having a fine season at all levels (11 gp, 5-2-7 in the Women’s Hockey League, for starters). No wonder that coach Yevgeny Bobariko has paired these two up on Russia’s top line, and they will likely be expected to lead the team in offense. Of interest is the fact that their apparent third will be 15-year-old Shkalyova, the second-youngest player on the team. Perhaps it should not be so much of a surprise, however, as Shkalyova led the victorious Russian team in scoring at last year’s U16 Euros (4 gp, 4-4-8).
Another line to keep an eye on will feature Team Russia’s two players from Biryusa, both of whom are having very good seasons in the Women’s Hockey League. Mezentseva scored 15 goals last season (matching her age at the time) for Biryusa and has a 2017-18 line of 4-4-8 in 12 games. Budanova, meanwhile, has been one assist better than that: 12 gp, 4-5-9. Tornado’s Alexandrova looks to be the third player on that line. The other two trios will be likely be: Markova-Pestova-Luchnikova and Lobur-Yakubiva-Serova.
As noted off the top, Bobariko’s team will be defending the 2017 bronze medal at this tournament; last year’s get-together in Czechia is mostly remembered for a fiery quarterfinal between Russia and the hosts. Of course, the team would very much like to take the next step as well, and displace either the Americans or Canadians (or both!) for a higher spot on the podium — all the more so given that the tournament is in Russia. In that regard, Russia’s lone pre-tournament game this week may have rung some alarm bells, as they dropped it 1-0 to Switzerland on a Rahel Enzler overtime goal. However, we should probably not read too much into a pre-tournament loss, and it will be interesting to see what happens when the competition proper begins on Saturday.
Russia takes on Canada on Saturday, and the USA on Sunday, before rounding out the Group A schedule on Tuesday against Sweden. Under the format for this tournament, the top two in Group A advance directly to the semifinal, while the bottom two play in the quarterfinals against the top pair from Group B (Czechia, Switzerland, Finland, and Germany this time around). Those quarterfinal games will go on Wednesday, with the semi-finals to be played next Friday and the medal-deciding matches next Saturday.
Thank you for reading! And last but certainly not least, to those celebrating Christmas on Sunday: С Рождеством Христовым!