Russia continued their winning start to the World Championship in Germany, beating Kazakhstan 4-1 in the second match of the group stage. Captain Ilya Kovalchuk marked his 50th appearance in the tournament with a goal and was named the man of the match.

“If I had known it was my twentieth goal for Russia I would have kept the puck as a memento,” he said after the game. “I didn’t know it was my fiftieth match either, until you told me. It is great that I can say that.”

The Russia players came off the ice calm, content, but spoke guardedly about the game so as not to tempt fate.

“Why would you think it was an easy game?” said a surprised Alexander Semin, scorer of one of the goals. “No, it turned out to be a difficult one; it’s just that we got the goals. But our opponents had a very strong defense, and it was difficult to break them down.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Semin’s teammates: tough, difficult, no such thing as an easy opponent.

Only Alexander Yeremenko claimed to have had a trouble-free evening, although his legs could have frozen from inactivity. He spoke about the goal conceded.

“The single goal still haunts me,” he joked. “But yes, it would have been good to have a shut-out.”

The Kazakhs’ gameplan was to defend in deep and catch the Russians on the counter-attack. All remembered the Turin Olympics when they managed a highly creditable 1-0 defeat. In that match, to be honest, the only Kazakhstan player to emerge with his head held high was goaltender Vitaly Yeremeyev, who saved 50 shots. This time around, even though the quantity of shots was lower, the quality was much higher.

“All the same, we made a lot of individual errors,” noted Kazakhstan head coach Andrei Shayanov. “But I’m glad we are making less mistakes from match to match. Maybe in the next game we will be rid of them completely.”

The Kazakhs did try to meet the Russians as equals at least until early in the second period, when they noticeably weakened. For the remainder, it seemed they changed their plan from trying to win to trying to avoid losing too heavily.

This victory means Russia has already qualified for the second stage with a game to spare. The final game of the group stage is against Belarus on Thursday.

We should also mention that Pavel Datsyuk is finally ready to play for the national side and may even feature in the next training session.

“Maybe I’ll use him alongside Kovalchuk,” admitted Vyacheslav Bykov.

Alexei Shevchenko, Cologne

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