Women’s Hockey Update: February 7th, 2018
The opening of the Olympic women’s hockey tournament is just a few days away now, and the Russian team itself has arrived at the athletes’ village and is settling into the Games routine. Read on, therefore, for a quick update on their doings (with more to come later this week), plus some news from the domestic Russian women’s hockey scene!
The Russian women’s national team traveled from their pre-Olympic base in Khabarovsk to the site of the games themselves on February 4th, and played their final exhibition game on Tuesday, against Sweden. That match saw Valeriya Pavlova give Russia a 1-0 lead, before Emmy Alasalmi tied things up in the third period for the Swedes. The game finished up in a shoot-out, where Sweden prevailed for a 2-1 victory. Nadezhda Morozova played the entire game for Russia between the pipes, providing perhaps a bit of a clue of coach Alexei Chistyakov’s intentions in that area once the tournament begins for real.
And next up for Team Russia (now aka “The Olympic Athletes from Russia”) will be that opening game of the Olympic tournament, this coming Sunday against Canada. Said forward Lyudmila Belyakova after facing Sweden:
“Of course, we are ready for the start of the Olympics. Before it begins, there is still time to pay attention to the necessary [in-game] moments. For this, we will have training on the ice and in the classroom.”
Tomorrow or Friday here at the blog, we will have a full preview of the Russian women’s roster for the Games, with some thoughts on probable line combinations and the like!
Back in the Women’s Hockey League, the teams are putting on master-classes and training camps for their players, as well as playing exhibition games, to get through the long Olympic break (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod defeated their own U18 side 4-1 in a game today). However, one team has also taken advantage of the break to make a coaching change.
SK Sverdlovsk Oblast have not recorded a win in several seasons now, and with no end to the losing streak in sight (SKSO are 0-10 to start this season, being out-scored by an average of nearly seven goals per game), the Yekaterinburg-based team has decided to part ways with former Russian national teamer Yuliya Perova. As her replacement, the team has hired 27-year-old Sergei Chistyakov (no relation to Tornado Moscow Oblast and Russian women’s national team bench boss Alexei Chistyakov).
Chistyakov is a Yekaterinburg native, and came up through the youth ranks at local KHL team Avtomobilist. However, except for a half-season stretch in 2012-13, he could not quite crack the big league, and retired from playing after the 2014-15 season. He cut his coaching teeth at the powerhouse Ural Federal University in Russia’s university hockey league, and this will be his first step into the pro game. The league website published a brief interview with him the other day about his new job, and it is worth a read.
Perova’s departure means that the league is currently without a woman in a head-coaching job. However, that situation may not last long; Dynamo St. Petersburg’s Yuliya Karpova is currently serving as basically an “Head Coach — Understudy” to Alexander Zybin, and looks likely to get a bench of her own to run sooner rather than later. As for SKSO, whether Chistyakov can turn their fortunes around remains of course to be seen. There are some good players there, including very promising up-and-coming forwards in Regina Yumaguzhina and Anastasiya Yakubiva, to name but two examples. The second half of the regular season may provide some clues as to whether the ship has at long last begun to be righted.
As mentioned in the previous update, this past weekend saw the second tournament of the Siberia-based group (Gruppa B) in the amateur League of Women’s Hockey, which took place in Novosibirsk. The first round in this group had been won, and with a perfect 5-0-0 record to boot, by Grizli-1 Novosibirsk, and they came in looking to complete the job and book their tickets to Sochi for the national amateur championship tournament this coming May. Mission duly accomplished, too, although Grizli-1 did suffer a shock along the way by being held to a 1-1 draw against Sobol Irkutsk. Sobol actually took the lead in that game, through an early goal from Olga Nekrasova, and Grizli-1 waited until well into the third period before their equalizer arrived courtesy of Olga Kochneva.
But for the group champions, the other four games of the tournament went as planned. Apart from the Sobol game, the toughest encounter of the weekend came against rivals Kuznechanka Novokuznetsk. But Grizli-1 got out to a 4-0 lead in that one, courtesy of two goals from Yekaterina Preis (Natalya Trunova, the former Kazakh Olympic goalie who now plays forward for Grizli-1, assisted on both), and cruised from there to a 4-2 victory. And so their final record for Gruppa B stands at nine wins, no losses, and one tie, and a third consecutive trip to the nationals is now confirmed, where Grizli-1 will attempt to improve on their bronze-medal finish from last season.
Kuznechanka finished up in second place at 8-2-0, and may yet get to Sochi themselves (the two best second-place teams in the league will accompany the four group-winners to Sochi). Sobol (5-4-1), despite their great effort against the eventual champions, had to make do with third place, ahead of Grizli-2 Novosibirsk (4-6-0) in fourth. The table was rounded out by Sibirskie Khasky Novosibirsk at 3-7, and Yugorchanka Surgut at 0-10.
This coming weekend will see more amateur women’s hockey action, as Gruppa A will play its second qualifying tournament. That is a four-team group at the moment, after last November’s expulsion of Amazonki Moscow, and is currently topped by two-time defending national champions Grad-1 Moscow, who come in with a perfect 3-0-0 record from the first tournament and a GF-GA of 27-0. The rest of the field will be made up by Spartanki Moscow (2-1-0 after the first round), Grad-2 Moscow (1-2-0), and Tigritsy Amura Khabarovsk (0-3-0). We will recap that tournament fully in next week’s update!
And that’s it for this week! Next time, we will have some Olympic coverage of course, as well as a recap of that upcoming amateur hockey tournament. Plus, as always, anything else that may crop up in the meantime. Thank you for reading!