NIAGARA – This year’s U20 edition of the deep-rooted rivalry between Russia and the Czech Republic ended with a lopsided 8-3 win for Russia, which will play Finland in the quarterfinals.
While Russia goes on to play for potentially a medal, the Czechs go down to the relegation round for the sceond consecutive year. After a good opening, they were soundly outplayed by Russia, who got contribution from all four lines.
Jakub Orsava opened the scoring for the Czech Republic after two minutes, but the Russian firepower was simply too much for the fragile Czech defence and the goalkeepers Marek Mazanec and later Filip Novotny.
The Russian goals were scored by eight different players and all four lines. Captain Vladimir Tarasenko, who plays his third KHL season with Sibir Novosibirsk, showed an outstanding performance and notched four points (1+3).
The Czechs join Germany, Norway and Slovakia into Relegation Round with three points gained from the win against Norway. It’s the second consecutive year both successors of Czechoslovakia have to play against relegation, continuing the downward trend of those two countries in youth development.
The Russians meanwhile can look forward to the final round with lots of self-confidence gained after two emphatic wins against the Czechs and Norway.
Coach Valeri Bragin’s team started to turn things around after yet another poor start into a game yesterday against Norway. Since then, the Russians have scored 14 goals in five periods and in the process gaining more defensive stability.
“We are very happy and relieved that we moved to the quarterfinals. We will have a tough game there and there’s no time to relax. We need to be prepared well,” Tarasenko said. “We’re still on the way to be in our best shape, both me and the team, so there’s still room for improvement.”
Playing Russia hasn’t been a good omen for the Czech U20 national team in the last few years. One year ago on New Year’s Eve in Regina, the Russians sent the Czechs into Relegation Round with a 5-2 win and this year the Czechs suffered the same fate.
It was Russia’s seventh consecutive victory against the Czech Republic at the IIHF World U20 Championship. The last time the Czechs won was in 2000 when they defeated Russia in a shootout of a scoreless gold medal game.
On New Year’s Eve of 2010, it was all but a scoreless match.
The Russians had the first highlight-worthy game action with a breakaway from Vladimir Tarasenko and a short moment later Maxim Kitsyn hit the post. The game went soon to the other end where Orsava made an end-to-end run. Dmitri Shikin blocked the first shot, but Orsava scored on his own rebound at 1:53.
The lead lasted for only 64 seconds as Dmitri Orlov torpedoed a shot from the blueline to tie it up at one on a power play.
The Russians gained the lead at 6:23 when the Czechs allowed them another fast counter-attack by Anton Burdasov, which eventually led to a goal by Yevgeni Kuznetsov.
Only three minutes later they made it 3-1 with the next fast attack. Vladimir Tarasenko escaped along the right boards and passed the puck through traffic to Denis Golubev, who scored into the empty net from a short angle. Tarasenko made it 4-1 with just 10:48 played.
The beginning of the second period brought a glimmer of hope for the Czechs when Petr Straka scored on a rebound after a shot from Andrej Nestrasil on a man advantage at 2:34.
The Russian response came within less than two minutes with a long shot from Georgi Berdyukov on yet another power play. The ensuing Russian man advantage produced the 6-2 goal, when Danil Sobchnko jumped on a rebound.
At 10:22 of the second, the Czech defence had its biggest blackout when Jakub Orsava tried to interrupt a pass from Stanislav Bocharov, but he scored into his own net. 38 seconds later, Kitsyn made it 8-2 after a pass from Kuznetsov.
Michal Hlinka cut the lead for the final score of 8-3 on a two-man advantage with nine minutes left while the Russian hunger for goals seemed to be satisfied after the second period.
The score didn’t reflect the chances considering the Czechs’ 34-29 shot-on-goal advantage, but the Russian offence was simply that much more efficient.