Andy Potts,
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The French capital proved a welcoming destination for Team Russia as it overpowered the Czech Republic to reach the World Championship semi-final

Russia 3 Czech Republic 0

After Tuesday's defeat against the USA, Russia was forced to travel from Cologne to Paris for its quarter-final match-up. The team also went with a warning: any repeat of the errors that beset its game against the Americans could mean an abrupt end to the 2017 campaign.

18.05.17. 2017 IIHF World Championship. Russia - Czech Republic

Instead, though, the team responded strongly, posting its fourth shut-out in eight games and leaving the Czechs well beaten. Goals from Dmitry Orlov, Nikita Kucherov and the tournament's leading scorer Artemy Panarin ensured that Russia shone brightly in the City of Light, while goalie Andrei Vasilevski had 27 saves to collect his third shut-out of the tournament.

However, the win came accompanied with another warning as Russia had to kill five minor penalties over the 60 minutes - a problem in previous games that has yet to be ironed out.

"Our penalty killers were key," said Lokomotiv Yaroslavl's Vladislav Gavrikov. "They were excellent and so was our goalie. That was the difference.

"But it was a tough game, and we can't take so many penalties and expect to win every time."

Russia took the lead in the ninth minute with Orlov's first World Championship goal. The D-man collected a Sergei Plotnikov pass on the blue line and saw a chance to advance before unleashing a shot over the glove from the high slot to beat Traktor goalie Pavel Francouz.


And that lead increased on the power play after Vityaz defenseman Jakub Jerabek sat out an interference minor. Kucherov, who was on the receiving end of Jerabek's foul, took revenge with his sixth goal of the tournament after Evgeny Kuznetsov sped round the back of Francouz' net and served up an inviting pass for Kucherov to strike with a one-timer.

But it wasn't the perfect start for Russia; an injury saw Vladislav Namestnikov limp out of the game early on, and the Czechs also had their chances. Russia's penalty problems contributed to the team falling behind 13-8 on the shot count, while Andrei Vasilevsky was relieved to see a Jakub Voracek effort rebound off the post to safety late in the stanza.

However, Russia's defense was tighter all over the ice in this game. A second-period Czech power play told the story; solid forechecking meant that much of the two minutes was spent closer to Francouz' net than Vasilevsky's. There was a strong sense that after wresting control of the game in the opening stanza, the Russians were not about to give it up. The Czech offense, featuring familiar names such as Jan Kovar (Metallurg Magnitogorsk), Vladimir Sobotka (until recently Avangard) and Roman Cervenka (a Gagarin Cup-winner with SKA in 2015), was struggling to get a good look at Vasilevsky's net and find a path back into the game.

Namestnikov returned to the bench for the third period, and Russia began to generate more offense as the Czech's hopes faded. Artyom Zub played in Sergei Andronov, but the CSKA man was denied from close range by Francouz. Then Anton Belov sent Panarin on a one-on-one break, but the Czech again had the edge.

The third goal came in the 54th minute as Russia unpicked a Czech attack and stormed down the ice. Kucherov and Panarin led the rush, and the latter fired the puck home to take his individual tally to 4+10=14 points.

Russia now returns to Cologne for Saturday's semi-final against the winner of tonight's Canada - Germany clash.


Andy Potts,
exclusive for
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