Russia lost a point in their first game of the tournament but have since that taken three straight regulation wins, and have shown signs of excellence and is oozing with confidence.
"Before the game we were confident, and then even got the first goa. If you don’t believe you can win any team, you’ll never win the gold medal," said Russian forward Radel Fazleyev.
This Russian team is excellent at churning out wins. They’re not always flashy, although some of their long cycles are just that, but in the preliminary round the red machine has got the job done almost without hiccups.
In the game against Slovakia, they had some penalty trouble but could still come out on top. Russia had to kill off seven penalties in the game.
“We couldn’t score goals and their goalie played well so we need to work with out scoring tomorrow, hopefully we can turn it on in the next game.
“Penalty kill was good, but we took too many penalties,” Fazleyev said.
Slovakia came into the game after a big disappointment in their game against Finland 24 hours earlier. Slovakia had a 2-0 lead early in that game, but ended up losing 8-3.
“I think it was an easier game than yesterday’s game against Finland, a much better game, we tried our best but didn’t make it in the end," said Slovakia’s Filip Lestan.
Artur Lauta’s first period goal that gave Russia the 1-0 lead was a result of one of those impressive long cycles in which the puck finally ended in Ivan Prokorov’s stick. He skated around the Slovak net, and sent it to the point to Alexander Mikulovich who fired a wrist shot.
Adam Huska made the initial save, but left a rebound in front of him. Thanks to two Slovak players colliding, Lauta got two cracks at slamming the puck in, and he gave Russia the lead at 15:29.
At 9:12 into the second period, Yegor Rykov gave Russia a two-goal buffer when he fired a well places wrist shot from the slot. Vladislav Kamenev had got the puck to the Slovak crease and when the Slovak defense tried to clear it, they only got it as far as to Rykov who had plenty of time to aim his shot. Huska made a fine dive but couldn’t get his pads on the puck.
The buffer turned out to be useful.
Slovakia had four power plays in the first two periods and even got to play almost a minute with a two-man advantage but the Russian penalty kill, which had only let in one goal in the tournament before the game, worked well tonight as well and Slovaks couldn’t find a way to bury their chances.
Then, while both teams had a player in the penalty box, Matus Sukel won cleanly a faceoff in the Russian zone. Christian Jaros fired a slap shot and Alexander Georgiev didn’t have a chance to stop the shot that landed in the top corner of his net at 15:50 into the second period.
"I’m not sure if they deserved the goal, I made a mistake and lost the faceoff, and maybe we got a little nervous and couldn’t finished our chances,” Fazleyev said.
Either way, Slovakia didn’t give up and chased a tying goal until the end, and the Russian coaches surely were a little worried during yet another Slovak power play with less than five minutes remaining, but the Russian penalty kill worked perfectly, again.
"We wanted to keep them in their zone in the end, but got a penalty, and that was the problem. We had some chances and but we didn’t score so it wasn't enough," Lasten said.
Russia wins the group, and takes on Denmark in the quarter-final. Slovakia finishes fourth, and will meet Sweden in their quarter-final on Saturday.