Andy Potts Andy Potts
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The Women’s World Championship starts next month — and the Women’s Hockey League is set to be well represented when the action gets underway in Canada. In total, 33 players from four countries have made the preliminary rosters for their national teams.

Russia relies on domestic stars

Not surprisingly, Russia draws most of its players from the WHL. Head coach Evgeny Bobariko spent the season behind the bench at Dynamo Neva, giving him a first-hand view of the talent on offer in the league. The initial, 28-strong party includes four of his players from Petersburg, as well as eight each from Agidel and SKIF, the two highest-placed Russian teams in the regular season. There’s also one representative from defending champion KRS Vanke Rays — Alexandra Vafina is set to become the first player from the Chinese franchise to represent Russia — with Tornado and Biryusa also supplying talent to the team.

Names to watch out for include 21-year-old goalie Valeria Merkusheva, who could be poised to take over from Anna Prugova as first choice. Tornado forward Anna Shokhina was one of the most productive players during the regular season, despite her team’s problems during the campaign, while Olga Sosina remains a reliable scorer with a proven international track record.

The only overseas-based player on the Russian long list is Kristi Shashkina, a star on last season’s U18 bronze-medal team who traded SKIF for Switzerland in the summer and currently plays for Zurich Lions.

Goalies: Valeria Merkusheva (SKIF), Nadezhda Morozova (Dynamo Neva), Anna Prugova (Agidel)

Defense: Ekaterina Ananina, Angelina Goncharenko, Elena Provorova (all SKIF), Maria Batalova, Maria Pechnikova, Anna Shibanova (all Agidel), Liana Ganeyeva, Yulia Smirnova (both Dynamo Neva), Nina Pirogova, Anna Savonina (both Tornado)

Forwards: Alexandra Vafina (KRS Vanke Rays), Elena Dergachyova, Anna Shokhina (both Tornado), Ekaterina Dobrodeyeva, Valeria Pavlova (both Biryusa), Fanuza Kadirova (Dynamo Neva), Veronika Korzhakova, Ilona Markova, Elizaveta Rodnova, Olga Sosina (all Agidel), Viktoria Kulishova, Ekaterina Likhachyova, Elena Malinovskaya, Landysh Falyakhova (all SKIF), Kristi Shashkina (Zurich, SUI).

Russia’s players gathered for preliminary camp in Novogorsk yesterday. The team will fly to Canada on April 22 and, after completing all the quarantine requirements, is looking forward to a warm-up game against team USA on May 4.


The ‘Foreign Legion’

And it’s not just about Russian players. The KRS Vanke Rays are often dubbed a ‘Rest of the World’ roster and the Chinese team includes players from the People’s Republic, Russia, Canada, Finland, the Czech Republic and the USA. Several of them are Chinese heritage players hoping to be eligible to play at next year’s Olympics in Beijing and, with China unable to compete in IIHF competition this year due to COVID-related cancellations of the lower divisions, many are without competitive international action this spring.

Even so, the Lady Dragons will be following the progress of Russia, Finland, the Czechs and the Americans. In addition to Vafina’s call-up for the Red Machine, there are also places for team USA duo Alex Carpenter and Megan Bozek, plus Finland’s Minntu Tuominen and Alena Mills of the Czech Republic.

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Mills joins up with two other WHL players on the Czech roster. Blue liners Pavlina Horalkova (Biryusa) and Aneta Tejralova (Agidel) also made the team and formed the first defensive pair during the recent warm-up game against Denmark. Mills and Horalkova were both on target in the 5-1 victory on April 4, having missed a 0-3 loss to the same opposition 24 hours earlier.

The championship runs May 6-16 in Halifax and Truro, Novia Scotia, Canada. Russia will contest Group A alongside the USA, Canada, Finland and Switzerland. The Czechs are in group B with Germany, Japan, Hungary and Denmark.

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Andy Potts Andy Potts
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