QUEBEC CITY – After Russia edged Canada 5-4 in overtime to win gold on Sunday, IIHF.com reporters caught up with players and coaches from both sides to get their thoughts and feelings.
Ilya Kovalchuk, Russia: This is great! We've been waiting for this for 15 years. It’s always great to win, but it’s a team effort, and we have a great group of guys here. The players, the coaches...everybody has been positive all the time. We felt a good pressure: we knew that I don’t know how many million people would be watching us. [For my winning goal], we have a power play, and Fedorov, he’s 38 years old, but he’s brought so much patience and intensity to the team, and he makes that great pass to me. Then, I was one-on-one with the goalie and I just shot it in. The [team’s] leaders trust us and we trust them. Now we’ll have a huge party - it’s vacation time now. We have a chartered plane to Russia tomorrow, and we’ll have a party there.
Alexander Ovechkin, Russia: I want to thank my mom and dad for always believing in me. This is a huge win for us, and I dedicate it to all the Russian fans. [kisses Kovalchuk on the cheek] I love him! We're the best in the world right now, we got the gold medal, and I think we deserved it. We played hard through the whole tournament. This gold medal is the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me.
Andrei Markov, Russia: Everybody knows [Kovalchuk] is a great player and he’s got a great shot. He started to score at the right time. He won the game and it’s great for us. You know what? I think the whole team believed from the start to finish that we could win this game. We have a great team and great players. We believe in each other. [As for Evgeni Nabokov], he’s our best player. He’s the best goalie in the world. He did a great job for us. He was just unbelievable. It’s special for defencemen to play in front of him. You know, it’s not about whether you’re tired. It’s about what’s in your heart.
Vyacheslav Bykov, Head Coach, Russia: I think today, everyone is a winner. I understand the frustration of the Canadian players, but today, luck was on our side. In the end we tried to work with a lot of patience, lots of discipline, despite everything. We ended up using three lines and were able to put on more pressure. We used our power play to win this game. I have a lot of respect for Team Canada, which played very well throughout the tournament.
Ryan Getzlaf, Canada: It was a good hockey game with an unfortunate outcome. When you shoot the puck over the glass, it kind of hurts even more. But that’s a very good hockey team over there, and it was a great game for the fans. [In terms of falling into the trap of sitting back with a 4-2 lead], that’s something everybody’s thinking about. Your main focus is to try to not sit back, and the more you think about it, the more you do it. Anyone will tell you that’s the hardest thing in hockey, when you’ve got that lead, trying to keep the pressure on. Nobody wants to make that mistake or turn over the puck. They capitalized on a couple of opportunities in the third, and they were able to battle back into it. [When it came to challenging the top Russians physically], not quite as much as we wanted to, but you can’t take anything away from those guys. They’re top players, and we know who they are. They did a great job of responding, and we let them come at us and come at us. Earlier, we showed a lot of character coming back to 3-1 after they scored that first quick goal. We can take a positive out of the fact we played well in this tournament. We experienced something together, and I’m happy to have been here with these guys.
Cam Ward, Canada: We got off to a great start in the first period, doing a lot of good things out there, and we were able to get ourselves a nice cushion. In the second period, the Russians came on strong, and they were able to carry over some of that momentum going into the third period. Ultimately, they never gave up. Sometimes you’ve got to tip your hat to the opposing team. They fought hard. It’s disappointing for us. Nobody on this team signed up to win silver. You hope to win the gold medal. It’s tough right now, because you do feel like you let your country down. But there’ll be other tournaments. We’ve got to keep our heads up high. We’ve got an excellent program with Hockey Canada and a bright future. As tough as it is to swallow this one, you move on. It was an unbelievable atmosphere here in Quebec City. It’s disappointing we weren’t able to deliver the game.
Dany Heatley, Canada: It’s very disappointing. We had a two-goal lead going into the third, and I thought we’d played really well up until then. We gave them a little too much room in the third period, and they’ve got some really good shooters. I thought we tried to protect our lead a little too much. Our game is to forecheck hard, get on their D, and move the puck in their end. We maybe backed up a little too much and didn’t forecheck enough. Still, we had a really good chance to win the game. [In terms of what was said before the third period], it was the same as the whole tournament. Keep the puck going straight ahead. But they got a couple of chances and scored. I enjoyed being with the guys in this room over these three weeks. We’re going to get together again tonight.
Ken Hitchcock, Head Coach, Canada: It was a great game. For us, it’s disappointing, but it’s a real learning experience for our younger players to understand the pressures of playing at home. In my opinion, it was like two different hockey games. In the beginning, I think we overwhelmed the Russians in the beginning, and then as the game wore on, especially in the last part of the second and parts of the third, we weren't able to maintain our pressure game, mostly because we weren't able to start with the puck. They won a lot of key faceoffs, and started with the puck and made good plays with the puck. They forced us on our heels a little bit. Once they spaced us out, and made us defend on 150 feet of ice, I think they were able to expose some gaps. We made a heck of an effort. It was a very emotional and intense game, and it was very good for the game of hockey.