International Ice Hockey Federation

Survival of the Motherland

Survival of the Motherland

Russia wards off a stiff challenge by Czechs

Published 15.08.2018 10:50 GMT+5 | Author Slava Malamud
Survival of the Motherland
CHELYABINSK, RUSSIA - APRIL 21: Russia's Danila Galenyuk #3 celebrates after a second period goal by Ivan Morozov #8 (not shown) while the Czech Republic's Lukas Dostal #29 and Libor Zabransky #8 look on during preliminary round action at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Pavel Dorofeyev’s third-period game winner gave Russia a hard-fought victory in its second game of the IIHF U18 World Championship.

"We have paid them back for the Hlinka Memorial", said Alexander Zhabreyev after the game. No, Mother Russia isn't really vindictive. It just has a good memory for past offenses and tends to get upset about them.

Special teams were key in this game, as Podkolzin and Ivan Morozov provided timely tallies for the Russians in an extremely hard-fought contest. Pavel Dorofeyev also scored for the home team. Jakub Lauko and Vojtech Strondala connected for the Czechs on their own power plays.

The Russians were missing Semyon Kizimov who scored their first goal of the tournament. According to the coaches, he has fallen ill. Ruslan Iskhakov, who couldn’t finish the first game with an injury, however, returned to the ice and took his place in Russia’s first line.

Regardless of the rosters, however, it was obvious what scenario the game would follow. Spurred ahead by the overfilled Traktor Ice Arena, with the extremely loud and boisterous fans chanting “RAAA-SEE-YAAA”, the tournament hosts charged forward with wild abandon from the early going, forcing Lukas Dostal into a few tough saves. The Czech defense was also determined to atone for the previous night’s loss. They had apparently learned from the brave efforts of the Slovaks, swarming Russian puck carriers and laying out to block shots.

"It was a very dificult game", said Russian head coach Alexander Zybin. "Even though we had warned the boys that the opponent would be angry and fast. We have played them a lot, and they games againt them are always difficult." 

Even though the Russians only held a 7-2 advantage in shots on goal through the first 15 minutes of action, the Corsi numbers, so beloved by today’s NHL analysts, would’ve probably been through the roof and up to the Ural mountain peaks for the host team. The Czechs, meanwhile, remained patient and disciplined and waited for the payoff.

The payoff came in the shape of Russian penalties, giving the Czechs a chance to improve on yet another area of concern from last night’s game, the power play. The second opportunity they got, they did just that, as Pekar, from behind the net, found Lauko in the crease, and the Chomutov Pirates forward beat Amir Miftakhov on a backhanded second-chance shot.

"Referees have become more strict lately", said Zybin. "Every touch with a stick or a glove can lead to a penalty. That is why during intermissions and on the bench we always remind the boys to be careful. But, in the heat of the battle, some of them just don't get it."

The Czechs didn’t deviate from their game plan in the second frame, letting Russia dictate the pace and dominate puck possession, while hoping to frustrate them with stifling defense, blocked shots and Dostal’s goaltending. The tactic worked, while the Czechs stayed at full strength, but, once again, one penalty too many made the difference, when, at the 15:26 mark, Morozov’s booming slap shot from the left circle finally found its way in, caroming off the edge of Dostal’s pad.

"This was the key moment of the game", said Russia's captain Anton Malyshev. "We started to win physical battles, and they stepped back and began to lost to us in many aspects of the game."

Power play continued to be the source of Russia’s best chances in the third period, the first few minutes of which so a number of spectacular saves by Dostal with Czechs killing another penalty. But if the Czechs figured on riding their NHL Scouting’s No. 1-ranked European goaltender or the rest of the game, it probably wasn’t the best idea. With 10:40 left in the third, their defense finally made a fatal blunder, leaving Podkolzin all alone in the low slot. Vladislav Mikhailov threaded the puck to the 16-year-old prodigy, and Podkolzin’s one-timed slap shot left Dostal no chances.

Just three minutes and two seconds later, the Russians appeared to have finally sealed it. Dorofeyev gained the zone on the right side, smartly moved to the middle of the circle in order to use two Czechs and one teammate as a screen and unleashed a wrister into the far upper corner, beating Dostal on the stick side.

The Czechs, however, gave it a desperate push in the final minutes, pulling the goalie for the sixth attacker with three minutes left while on a power play, and Russians, unable to contain such a massive assault, left Strondala stranded in the right circle. His slap shot successfully evadad the goalie and a desperately sprawling defenseman. To compound the situation, Russians immediately took another penalty, as Danil Isayev took a 2-and-10, but the final onslaught by the Czechs was fought off.

"In the third period, we started to posess the puck more, to get open more often, to get in front of the goalie", said Zybin. "But we really messed up the ending of the game with all the unnecessary penalties. This could have led to a different result."

"We played much better today than last night", said Czech Republic's coach David Bruk. "That game was decided in the first five minutes when we allowed two power play goals. Today, Dostal played much better, obviously, and the team was more confident. We did well on the power play and had a chance late to even it up."

Russia will be back in action tomorrow against Finland, while the Czechs will square off against France on Monday.


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