Kazan (19:30 msk)
Omsk (16:30 msk)
Omsk (16:30 msk)
Team USA 5 Team ROC 0 (1-0, 1-0, 3-0)
Team ROC faced a difficult time against the defending Olympic champion in Beijing, going down to a shut-out loss against the USA. But there were positives to take from a brave defensive performance — and a flawless cameo from 17-year-old goalie Daria Gredzen.
Gredzen, who plays for Biryusa Krasnoyarsk in the Women’s Hockey League, came into the game with 11 minutes to play. At the time, the American offense was rampant, having scored three goals in five minutes at the start of the third period. But the youngster stood up to the challenge well, making 19 saves to deny the opposition any further markers.
Earlier, starting goalie Maria Sorokina also impressed. The 26-year-old Agidel netminder had to be at her best as the Americans dominated much of the play. Her 19 saves in the first period kept the game alive for Team ROC but there was nothing she could do about Savannah Harmon’s opener on the power play. Hilary Knight was the architect, producing an exquisite no-look pass across the front of the net for Harmon to tap in at the back door.
Team ROC was limited to just two shots on goal in that opening frame, and the second continued in similar vein. Sorokina had to be alert to pad away a great chance for Kendall Coyne Schofield but her opposite number Nicole Hensley was called into action to deny Polina Luchnikova a tying goal in the 28th minute. Unfortunately for the Russians, the USA heeded the warning: a second goal was not long in coming when Hilary Knight tipped Harmon’s point shot past the unsighted Sorokina to double the lead.
The Russians weren’t done. Veronika Korzhakova fed Viktoria Kulishova for a one-timer that forced Hensley into another big save but the balance of play heavily favored team USA. Only hardworking defense and inspired goaltending kept the game in the balance.
Despite her heavy workload, Sorokina insisted that she enjoyed games like this.
“We get to play against the very best,” she said. “After the game, everyone has some food for thought — we know what we need to add to our game, what levels we need to reach. And those who find the strength to reach that level will continue to develop. Playing good hockey always benefits us. It was very fast, I faced good shots. I always enjoy games like that.”
That balance was finally shattered early in the third. Team USA came storming out of the blocks and rattled in three quick goals. Grace Zumwinkle, Jesse Compher and former KRS Vanke Rays ace Alex Carpenter put the game out of reach and sent Sorokina to the bench for a well-earned rest. In total, the Russian goaltenders faced 62 shots in a gruelling day at the office.
“We need to keep up with the speed of the game, because that’s what they do,” admitted Russian forward Alexandra Vafina. “That’s what we need to improve because we’re used to a slower tempo, I guess. We were making more mistakes when the speed got higher. That’s why we got stuck in our zone and it was hard for us.”
After two games in Group A, Evgeny Bobariko’s team is in third place with three points. Team Canada leads the way after crushing victories over Switzerland and Canada, with the USA in second place after two more modest wins. The Swiss and the Finns are yet to get off the mark. All five teams from this group will advance to the quarter finals, but the placings will determine the strength of the opposition at the start of the knock-out phase.
Team ROC’s next game comes on Monday against Canada.