Russia wrapped up its Euro Hockey Tour campaign with a 4-2 victory over the Czech Republic, snapping a run of five losses and handing acting head coach Ilya Vorobyov his first victory in charge of the national team.
The past 10 days had been difficult for Russia and Vorobyov: icing a series of experimental teams, results were hard to come by across two phases of the Eurotour. It would be fair to say that the rosters used in Stockholm and Pardubice offered more questions than answers ahead of the World Championship, but the arrival of Artyom Anisimov helped to trigger a morale-boosting victory before the team heads to Copenhagen.
Anisimov, picked out as a player Russia needed after Thursday’s defeat against Finland, duly provided the assist on Evgeny Dadonov’s first-period goal against the Czechs. That came 31 seconds after a power play goal gave the opposition the lead, and set Russia on the path to a stronger performance. Pavel Buchnevich converted a Vladimir Tkachyov assist to give Russia the lead, and the pair reversed their roles late in the middle frame to put Russia 3-2 ahead. Anisimov, recently flown in from America, was rested in the third period and the Czechs worked hard to find an equalizer, but Nikita Soshnikov potted an empty net goal to secure the victory.
Now, Vorobyov faces ‘a couple of sleepless nights’ before naming his World Championship party on Tuesday. Among the hopefuls is Traktor forward Alexei Kruchinin, impressing after his best ever season in the KHL. He was clear about the importance of the victory on Sunday.
“We won the game, but the most important thing for us was getting that taste of victory again,” he said. “In the past through games the team has lost that feeling. Our next fixtures are already part of the World Championship, so we need to keep that feeling.” (FHR)
As for Kruchinin’s own World Championship prospects, he’s keen not to expect too much. “Suddenly it’s +15C outside, and I’m still playing hockey!” he said. “That’s something new for me. Whatever happens next, I’m happy to be here, gaining experience, learning and developing as a player every day I’m with the national team.” (FHR)
Russia finished third overall in the Eurotour, behind Finland and the Czech Republic. Saturday’s defeat against Sweden (1-3) kept the Russians out of the top two for the season, regardless of Sunday’s results. Now, with the preparations drawing to a close, it’s time to move forward to the World Championship.