Russia got a boost with news that Nikita Gusev is now in Denmark with the national team while Belarus desperately needs some encouragement after a second heavy defeat. Elsewhere, Latvia and Finland started with victories, Slovakia suffered a heartbreaking late loss against the Czechs and Team USA overpowered Denmark.
No game for Russia today, and the hot topic at the lunchtime practice – apart from the unusually cold practice rink – was the fate of Nikita Gusev. The SKA forward, expected to lead Russia’s offense here, could not come to Denmark with the rest of the squad on Wednesday due to injury but flew into Copenhagen yesterday and joined the team in the hotel.
In town, but not in training. Gusev wasn’t present in Saturday’s session. Alexei Zhamnov, one of Ilya Vorobyov’s assistant coaches, told reporters that the player’s fitness was being closely monitored in the hopes that he could be added to the roster in the coming days. Russia’s next game is against Austria early on Sunday.
A 0-5 loss to defending champion Sweden was rough, but perhaps not critical to Belarusian prospects in this year’s tournament. However, today’s 2-6 reverse against France is a different story. From hoping for a quarter-final spot, Belarus is now anxiously looking at a relegation battle. It’s survival chances were hardly helped by newly-promoted Austria picking up an unexpected point from its opening game against Switzerland, while Dave Lewis’ team looks desperately short of a cutting edge at one end and a solid goalie at the other.
For France, former CSKA man Stephane Da Costa led the way with a goal and two assists as his team bounced back from its 0-7 loss against Russia yesterday. He was understandably happy to put the record straight, but the Belarusian team was clearly worried about its start here.
“The game against France was really important for us but look at the scoreline,” said Vladimir Denisov. The vastly experienced Dynamo Minsk man continued: “I guess a few players didn’t really get how significant this game was, it’s embarrassing. We needed to do more to help our young goalies.
“In this championship we should be beating our immediate rivals and putting up a real fight against the favorites.”
The Czech Republic won its local derby against Slovakia in dramatic fashion, prevailing 3-2 in overtime after tying the game with 10 seconds left in regulation. Martin Nekas grabbed that all important goal, then Dmitrij Jaskin claimed the winner in the extras. Andrej Nestrasil had two assists while Pavel Francouz made 15 saves as the Czechs got off to a winning start.
Belarus hit trouble but there was better news for Latvia as it began its campaign with an overtime victory over Norway. Bob Hartley’s men trailed 0-2 in the first period but recovered to tie it up thanks to goals from Rudolfs Bacers and Rodrigo Abols before Bacers got his second of the game early in overtime to win it for the Latvians.
Finland also picked up a victory in Group B, overwhelming Korea 8-1. Veli-Matti Savinainen, who recently completed a move from Ugra to Kunlun Red Star was among the Finnish scorers in a game that saw a record three short-handed goals.
The third game in Group B saw the USA continue its winning start with a comfortable victory over Denmark. A 4-0 success against the host nation puts the Americans on top of the table following Friday’s shoot-out triumph against Canada.