Olympic Update: February 11th, 2018
The women’s Olympic hockey tournament is underway (it actually commenced on Saturday), and the Russian side saw its first official action of the Games today. Read on, for a game recap, along with some notes and quotes!
The Russian women opened their tournament against Canada at the Kwandong Hockey Centre, with the Russian men’s team in the stands looking on. It was a month ago that the Under-18 Russian women’s team had begun its own World Championship with a famous victory over the Canadians. There would be no repeat, however, on this day. Nadezhda Morozova was strong in the Russian net in the opening period, and the teams got to the first break without a goal. But early in the second frame, the floodgates opened; first Rebecca Johnston gave Canada the lead, and that was followed shortly by Haley Irwin’s goal for 2-0. Before the end of the period it was 3-0, courtesy of Melodie Daoust. Midway through the third, Johnston and Daoust each scored in quick succession, and Russian coach Alexei Chistyakov chose at that point to replace Morozova with Nadezhda Alexandrova. The veteran netminder was solid the rest of the way, stopping all ten shots she faced, but the final score still read 5-0 for Canada. Shots on goal in the contest were 48-18 in Canada’s favour, so it was hardly an undeserved victory.
Fatigue and penalties were problems for Team Russia in this one. Coach Chistyakov chose to shorten his bench almost from the outset, in the hopes that an early goal might give his team a big lift. The fourth forward line of Diana Kaneyeva plus 18-year-olds Alyona Starovoitova and Viktoriya Kulishova played less than three minutes in the game, and seventh defender Svetlana Tkachyova was not used at all. The short bench was a solid hockey gamble, even though it did not work out this time, but the price was increasing fatigue as the game went along, and with that came trips to the penalty box. Russia was whistled for seven minors, compared to just two for Canada; one of the Canadian goals (Irwin’s) arrived 5v4, and another (Johnston’s second) came with a two-player advantage.
Russia’s line and defence combinations in this one were pretty much as we anticipated in Friday’s preview post. Chistyakov did move defender Yekaterina Nikolayeva into the spot, alongside Yekaterina Lobova, vacated when Anastasiya Chistyakova was ruled out with acute appendicitis. Nikolayeva and Lobova played mostly behind Russia’s de facto third forward line (Fanuza Kadirova, Yekaterina Smolina, and Yevgeniya Dyupina), but it was tough night for them; all five players ended up at -2 for the game.
However, it was not entirely doom and gloom, as Team Russia’s top two lines created some good moments. In particular, the unit of Valeriya Pavlova, Olga Sosina, and Lyudmila Belyakova, playing in front of defenders Liana Ganeyeva and Mariya Batalova, produced Russia’s best chances of the game. Pavlova led the team in shots on goal with six, two ahead of Anna Shokhina, who was in her accustomed spot in the “Tornado Five” unit (forwards Alevtina Shtaryova and Yelena Dergachyova plus defenders Nina Pirogova and Goncharenko rounded out that group). The 19-year-old Pirogova played 21:37 to lead the squad in time on ice.
I mentioned above that Alexandrova’s turn in netminding relief was a good one, as she stopped ten out of ten shots in the back half of the third period. As for Morozova, although her final line of five goals against on 38 shots faced does not look terribly good, she did make some excellent and difficult saves in the early going.
To finish up, here are a few of the post-game comments. Said team captain Sosina:
“To stay even with Canada for one period — is that the best we can do? No, I think that if we had taken advantage of our chances [early], then perhaps the game would have developed differently. There was not enough discipline and skill.”
Batalova, one of the team’s two assistant captains, had this to say:
“In fact, it was a good game, we played well on defense. We gave up goals because of our own mistakes. We can play with Canada, just at some point, physically, the opponent was faster; the Canadians played four lines, and we were at three. We were worn down, tired in the end of course, we tried to play hard with them.”
And as for coach Chistyakov, he took a bit of the long view:
“We have a talented generation, with whom it will be interesting to work. And this generation, which is now in the senior national team, also played with the Canadians on an equal footing at the youth level. We have the youngest team at the Olympic Games! We will make progress. Canada has a very skillful senior team, but nobody gave up.”
The road gets no easier for Russia at this point; next up on the schedule, on Tuesday, is the U.S.A., coming off a 3-1 victory over Finland. We will have a full recap of that game as well, and in the meantime, look for a preview of the Russian men’s Olympic roster here tomorrow. Thank you for reading!