Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Russia became the first team to defeat the Czech Republic in this season’s Euro Hockey Tour, taking a 4-3 verdict after a shoot-out in Moscow. The Czechs now share the overall lead in the tour with Finland, which crushed Sweden 5-1 in a game that brought a goal for netminder Frans Tuohimaa. The results mean that all four teams have a chance of winning the Channel 1 Cup in tomorrow’s games.

Russia 4 Czech Republic 3 SO (2-0, 0-2, 1-1, 0-0, 1-0)

After Thursday’s loss against Sweden, only the first line of Vadim Shipachyov, Kirill Kaprizov and Mikhail Grigorenko escaped criticism and that was the only combination that was retained in this game. Elsewhere, in a commentators’ nightmare, two Vladimir Tkachyov’s appeared on one line: one from SKA and one from Ak Bars playing alongside Nikita Soshnikov.

Photo: 14.12.19. Eurohockey tour 2019-2020. First channel cup. Russia - Czech Republic

The refreshed line-up delivered fast: in contrast to Thursday’s slow start, Russia went in front in the third minute thanks to Andrei Kuzmenko and continued to press throughout the opening frame. Both teams hit the piping before Russia’s power play came up with a second goal late in the frame when Shipachyov fed Grigorenko.

The second period, though, went the Czechs’ way. The visitor scored two goals on the counter to tie the scores through Lukas Sedlak and Tomas Filippi. Then, in the 48th minute, Hynek Zohorna put his team in front for the first time in the game.

Russia responded fast. Igor Ozhiganov combined with SKA’s Vladimir Tkachyov to improvize a tying goal for the defenseman. And the same Tkachyov potted the shoot-out winner, with Ilya Sorokin stopping every Czech attempt.

Russia’s next game is on Sunday against Finland. And it’s a special match-up, taking place at St. Petersburg’s Gazprom Arena in front of a crowd of up to 70,000.

Alexei Kudashov, head coach, Russia:

There was a turning point in the second period when we allowed two goals from counter attacks. We were leading 2-0 but we did not take our chances when we should have increased that advantage. We let them back into it and made things hard for ourselves. At the start of the second period we did not play the kind of hockey we talked about and we let the Czechs get the first goal. We had plenty of chances, odd man rushes, but we were trying to score highlight reel goals when we needed to keep it simple.

In the third period we played with more confidence. We tried to give equal game time to all our lines because in this tournament the games come thick and fast.

Mikhail Grigorenko, forward, Russia:

We started out OK, created plenty of chances but didn’t score enough of them and let the Czechs get the initiative back. We could have calmly finished off the game but in the end, it was a relief to win it in a shoot-out. It turned out to be a tough game, but that’s nothing to be afraid of. Tomorrow’s a new day, we’ll get some rest and go again. We need to be better at both ends of the ice; we have to be stronger in the defensive zone and we also need to take more of our chances, we need to score every time on the power play.

We played in the football stadium last year and it was a great spectacle. It’s not often you get to play hockey in a stadium like that. I can’t wait for the game and I hope we won’t let our fans down and will give them a win to celebrate. It’s a huge arena and I’m sure we’ll have a big crowd so we have to get straight into the game and not start to worry about the occasion.

Finland 5 Sweden 1 (0-0, 2-1, 3-0)

The fans who came early to the arena saw a rare sight at the end of the first game when Finland goalie Frans Tuohimaa fired the puck into the Swedish net. Typically, goals credited to netminders come in delayed penalty situations when an error from the attacking team sees the puck end up in the ‘wrong’ net after a save at the other end was the last touch from the opposition. Here, though, Tuohimaa, a 28-year-old currently playing for HIFK, shot the puck up the ice and into the empty net as Sweden pressed for a way back into the game.

Photo: 14.12.19. Eurohockey tour 2019-2020. First channel cup. Finland - Sweden

That put the seal on a convincing win for Suomi against its Nordic neighbor. After a goalless first period, Sweden took the lead through Daniel Brodin’s second goal of the tournament. But a goal and an assist from Miro Aaltonen helped to turn the game around, with Aaltonen’s eye-catching display coming after his move to SKA during the week. Tuohimaa’s big moment was the second empty net goal of the game as Sweden suffered a heavy loss.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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