Olympic Update: February 13th, 2018
The Russian women’s hockey team at the 2018 Olympic Games played its second group game today, after dropping their opener 5-0 to Canada. Read on, therefore, for a recap of today’s encounter with the Americans, along with some notes and quotes!
Having opened the Olympics against Canada, the Russian team continued on today against the other giant of the women’s game: the U.S.A. And indeed, the second match followed a very similar script to the first. For the second straight game, a Russian goalie made her Olympic debut, as coach Alexei Chistyakov gave 19-year-old Valeriya Tarakanova the start (Nadezhda Morozova, who had made her first Games appearance in Game 1, was the back-up). And once again, Russia produced a hard-working first period against very tough opposition. This time, however, they could not quite get to the first break unscathed, as a Kacey Bellamy goal gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.
In Game 1, the second period had been Russia’s downfall, and so it was in Game 2 as well. Just past the mid-way point of the game, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson made some Olympic history by scoring twice in six seconds, the fastest two goals ever by a single player. Suddenly, it was 3-0 for the U.S., and when Gigi Marvin made it 4-0 just a few minutes later, that was the end of Tarakanova’s debut. She departed, having stopped 23 of 27 shots, to be replaced by Morozova. The Russian players fought on, and kept the Americans from increasing their lead even further until Hannah Brandt found the net late on; Morozova, in a very creditable relief performance, stopped 22 of 23 shots she faced. For the second straight game, Chistyakov and his crew emerged on the wrong end of a 5-0 score, and once again the shot totals (50-13 for the U.S.) told a tale of their own.
Compared to Game 1, Chistyakov ran a more balanced four lines in this one; his fourth trio of Alyona Starovoitova, Diana Kanayeva, and Viktoriya Kulishova averaged about ten minutes apiece in Game 2 compared to less than three in Game 1. And seventh defender Svetlana Tkachyova, who did not play in the first game, was at least sent out for four shifts in this one. Team captain Olga Sosina was probably the best of the Russian players, taking a team-leading five shots, while Angelina Goncharenko led the way in ice-time at 20:53. And the Russian coaching staff could take comfort from serious improvement in one particular area: the team took only three minor penalties in the game, compared to seven against Canada.
Next up for the Russian squad is the final group game, on Thursday against a difficult opponent in Finland, to be followed by Saturday’s quarterfinal date with either Switzerland or Sweden. The Finns are also at 0-2 on the tournament, but their GF-GA of 2-7 betters the Russians’ 0-10, and that failure to find the net in 120 minutes so far was on the Russian players’ minds after today’s game. Said Sosina:
“We are not bad at creating opportunities, but in the end something is always missing… Each forward will draw conclusions, think about what she did in the two lost games, in order to play better against the Finns and turn minuses into pluses.“
Sosina’s line-mate Lyudmila Belyakova, who was injured in the first period against the Americans but managed to finish the game, also addressed the lack of offence:
“Of course, I am worried that we have no goals. I want to score. It is difficult to say why, after the first period, we start to give up a lot. I will not say that the team came unstuck, all the girls fought to the end. The next game against Finland, against our main rivals, we must win.“
However, coach Chistyakov took a longer view of the state of affairs, and exempted his young starting netminder from blame for the loss:
“[An aggregate score] of 0-10 from two games — this is not a blow. If we draw a parallel with previous years, then it would be 0-10 in one game. Such scores do not occur now. Yes, we give up a lot, but it is clear that the girls are battling and making progress… It is always bad to give up two goals in half a minute, so we changed goalies. However, there are no complaints with Tarakanova; this was done to shake up the team.“
As for Tarakanova herself, she reflected on her first taste of Olympic hockey:
“Today was my debut at the Olympic Games; I was very nervous before the match. But when I went out onto the ice and began the warm-up, all the fears vanished, and I immersed myself fully in the game. What can I say about the American women? They skate very well. They take excellent shots, and make quick and strong passes. Such games help us to grow and develop when we return home.“
That’s it for this update! As mentioned, the women’s team is next in action on Thursday against Finland. However, tomorrow will see the men’s team swing into action, against Slovakia, so there will be an Olympic update here tomorrow evening. Thank you for reading!