Russia’s quest for a third straight World Championship gold was foiled by the Czech Republic in the final in Germany, and remarkably it was two players from the KHL, Jakub Klepis and Tomas Rolinek, who struck the killer goals past Semyon Varmalov.
Everything went wrong for Russian national side Sunday. Klepis pounced on an error to open the scoring after only twenty seconds, and for the second time in this tournament Vyacheslav Bykov’s men found themselves chasing the game.
“No, we just couldn’t put things right,” Sergei Gonchar said after the match. “We kept playing our own game, only we didn’t manage to take our chances, so we couldn’t turn the game around.”
Maybe Russia would have stood a better chance were it not for the incomparable display by Czech goaltender Tomas Vokoun. He was at the very top of his game, able to withstand an onslaught from the best of Russia’s attackers here in Cologne.
“I’d like to applaud the performance by Vokoun,” admitted Vyacheslav Bykov. “But apart from that, I would say fortune was smiling on the Czechs today.”
Russia suffered a series of unfortunate setbacks, one of the worst being Alexander Ovechkin’s collision with Sergei Fedorov, which caused the Metallurg Magnitogorsk man to miss the rest of the match with severe concussion.
In the third period Alexei Yemelin picked up a 5+20 penalty when he sent Czech captain Jaromir Jagr flying through the air and crashing into the boards. And then, right at the end, Evgeny Malkin shoved an opponent in the face and so incurred an unnecessary trip to the bench at a crucial stage of the match.
“Malkin wanted to score, he was really trying,” said the head coach, leaping to Malkin’s defense. “But he couldn’t keep his emotions in check. This is sport, and I won’t blame him in any way.”
Pavel Datsyuk gave the fans a glimmer of hope when he halved the deficit with a minute remaining. Pavel, incidentally, was named best attacker of the tournament by both the journalists and the organizers, but it brought him little cheer.
“All the same, I play a team game,” he answered. “And team success pushes any other prizes to the background.”
While the Russia team fell just short of taking the gold medal, it nevertheless remains one of the most consistent outfits in world hockey, having earned in the last four years two golds, one silver and one bronze.
“We came to Germany in search of medals,” said Bykov. “And even though second place leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, it is still an achievement. The guys earned and deserve the award. If I had the chance to do this all again, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Sergei Gonchar was grasping for reasons why success had eluded Russia:
“We had the advantage most of the time, we put them under a lot of pressure in the third period, and we had chances to take the game to overtime, but it just didn’t happen.”
“What was lacking most?”
“It’s very hard to say. You can’t do the inquest until later, with a cool head.”
“But all the same, can you think of anything?”
“In some parts we were unlucky, maybe … No, and anyway, I wouldn’t like to judge such serious matters straight after the game. It’s hard to talk about such things.”
“So the missed chances were just bad luck?”
“Yes, remember when the puck came back off the pipe. It just wouldn’t go in the goal today.”
“Did you have to change everything after conceding in the first minute?”
“No, I wouldn’t say we changed much, we still played our own game, we created chances, but we just didn’t finish them.”
“Before the World Championship there was some talk about the fate of the coaching staff depending on the result of this tournament. Tell us, do you think Vyacheslav Bykov should stay?”
“Yes, I think he should. Over the last few years the team has had some great results. Apart from, of course, the Olympics. We have a great set up here and a good atmosphere in the team and on the bench. I don’t think they should make any drastic decisions.”
Alexei Shevchenko, Cologne