International Ice Hockey Federation

Russia blanks Sweden for 3rd

Russia blanks Sweden for 3rd

Merkusheva makes 32 saves in 2-0 shutout win

Published 14.01.2017 19:23 GMT+1 | Author Derek O'Brien
Russia blanks Sweden for 3rd
PREROV, CZECH REPUBLIC - JANUARY 14: Russian players celebrating after a 2-0 win over Sweden in the bronze medal game at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. (Photo by Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Valeria Merkusheva made 32 saves to record her second shut out in three games, and help Russia win the bronze medal with a 2-0 win over Sweden.

Yelena Provorova's goal in the second minute of the third period was all the offence Russia needed to claim third place at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. After the Russians worked the puck around the perimeter of the Swedish zone, her long shot from the point found its way through traffic. It was the only shot to beat Anna Amholt all game on 31 attempts.

“I don't think the full impact of the victory has really sunken in yet, but it will soon. So many emotions right now,” said proud Russian head coach Yevgeni Bobariko.

The Swedes had three power play chances after Provorova's goal – including two overlapping penalties that produced a 5-on-3 for 49 seconds – and did get some shots on Mekusheva, but the Russian goalie wasn't given too much trouble.

Sweden's attempt to even the score was dealt a fatal blow, however, when Paula Bergstrom was penalized for tripping with just 2:20 remaining in regulation time. They then went two players down when Hana Olsson was called for an illegal hit with 1:17 on the clock. With the two-player advantage, Daria Beloglazova hammered the nail in the Swedish coffin.

The win avenged last year's bronze medal game in Kitchener, where Sweden won a tight 2-1 game. Both teams had several returning players, and for the Russians it felt especially sweet. 

“Last year it was the same two teams and we lost,” said forward and alternate captain Margarita Dorofeyeva, “so it felt really good to beat them this year, twice.”

When these two teams met in the group stage, Russia won 2-1 in a shootout. Like that group stage meeting, the game today was scoreless after 40 minutes. This time, the first two periods were in fact themselves like two different games, but neither produced a goal.

Sweden came out of the blocks stronger and dominated the first half of the opening period, peppering Merkusheva with shots while the Russians had trouble getting out of their own end. The pressure was especially strong during an early power play, and then around 7 1/2 minutes in, Emil Olovsson hit the goalpost.

“Once the players started to play according to our game plan, they executed it very well,” said Bobariko. “We managed to stop the Swedish momentum and turn the play into their zone.”

The Russians started to push back late in the first period, and then carried that momentum into the second period, where they were airtight defensively, allowing the Swedes only one shot on goal.

“It feels wonderful,” said an elated Russian captain Nina Pirogova. “We fought for each other, played as a team, and showed how resilient we are right to the end.”

Pirogova was back in the line-up after serving a one-game suspension in yesterday's semi-final loss to the USA. She was chomping at the bit the whole game, and was extra motivated to play well today.

“It felt horrible to not be able to play yesterday and especially not to be able to help the team,” Pirogova admitted. “So it felt great to get back onto the ice with the team today, and I did what I had to do.”

“I'm really happy because I think we have a really good team here, so it would have been a shame to leave without a medal,” Dorofeyeva continued. “Yesterday against the USA was a tough game, but today the girls understood that this game was for the medals, so we did our best.”

This is the second bronze medal win at the U18 World Championships for Russia, to go along with two bronzes at the senior women's level. Of course, Russia has never won gold or silver - and neither has any European country. Bobariko thinks it's only a matter of time, however.

“The more we play against the North American teams, the more confidence we get against them,” he figures. “For us, it's a valuable experience to get to play against them and see how they play.”

For now, however, the Russians will enjoy their bronze-medal victory.


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