In their home-ice Olympic debut, Russia’s women defeated underdog Germany 4-1 with four third-period goals. Olga Sosina got two goals, including the winner.
There were a lot of sweaty palms, prayers and gasps along the way, as Germany led 1-0 for nearly 49 minutes. But general manager Alexei Yashin’s squad ultimately got the job done.
"It's the first time I've played in a venue like this or in front of a crowd like this," said Sosina. "When we play abroad nobody goes to see Russia playing women's hockey. The crowd inspired us."
Russia outshot Germany 37-15, but struggled to figure out goalie Viona Harrer, a veteran of six IIHF World Women’s Championships. Backup netminder Yulia Leskina was Russia’s surprise starter.
Yekaterina Smolentseva added a goal and two assists, and Iya Gavrilova also scored for Russia, while Inna Dyubanko chipped in a pair of helpers. Franziska Busch had the lone goal for Germany.
"I think we played very well in the first and second period, but the problem was that we had many odd-man rushes in the second and didn't get good shots on goal," said German captain Susann Gotz. "We needed another goal."
The hosts are eager to follow up on last year’s World Women’s Championship bronze medal with an even more important medal here in Sochi.
Under head coach Peter Kathan, Germany came fifth at last year’s Worlds, matching its 2005 peak. Its Olympic best was also fifth place in Turin in 2006. Its only two wins over Russia all-time came in those ‘05 and ‘06 tournaments. Germany got to Sochi by surpassing China, the Czech Republic and Kazakhstan in an Olympic qualification tournament.
Buoyed by the boisterous, flag-waving crowd of 5,048, the game got off to a high-tempo start at Shayba Arena.
During Russia’s first power play, Yekaterina Smolina came close to finishing off a nice line rush but put it off Harrer’s right post at point-blank range. The German netminder also stoned Alexandra Vafina on the doorstep.
The Germans opened the scoring at 6:48 of the second period when Busch entered the zone on the right side, took a drop pass from Manuela Anwander after a defensive blunder by Russian assistant captain Alexandra Kapustina, and unleashed a high, fluttering shot that beat Leskina. The Russian goalie struggled with her glove hand on several occasions.
As the game wore on, Russian head coach Mikhail Chekhanov began juggling his lines in a bid to generate some offense. Finally, it came.
At 5:04 of the third, Gavrilova gave the Russian fans what they wanted, attempting a wraparound and jamming it past Harrer’s left skate to tie the score.
"When the Russians tied the score, the crowd was overwhelming and we never really recovered," said Gotz. "We weren't prepared to handle the situation."
Just before the nine-minute mark, with Germany’s Tanja Eisenschmid in the box for tripping, Harrer blocked a shot that deflected to Sosina in the left faceoff circle, and her drive bounced in off German defenceman Andrea Lanzl. The Russians had their long-awaited lead.
It was 3-1 just 38 seconds later. Russia got a 2-on-1 rush and Smolentseva made no mistake, holding the puck and sliding it between Harrer’s pads. Now the arena was in party mode.
With 7:45 left, Sosina shoveled a rebound through Harrer’s pads to make it 4-1.
"Of course we are disappointed," said Harrer. "We had a 1-0 lead and it would have been sensational if we could have won. All the girls believed going into the third period, but after we gave up a couple of goals, that was it. We can't complain. It wasn't an undeserved victory for Russia."
The last time Russia faced Germany was in their tournament opener at the 2013 IIHF World Women’s Championship, where Russia prevailed 4-0.
At age 16, Anna Shokhina became the youngest player ever to represent a Russian senior national hockey team. She broke Alexander Ovechkin’s record, as he was 17 when he played at the Ceska Pojistovna tournament in September 2003.
The Tornado Moscow Region forward got shaken up in the corner with under three minutes left in the opening stanza, falling awkwardly into the boards after bumping skates with German defenceman Suzanne Fellner. Still, Shokina stayed in the game.
At the other end of the spectrum, Yekaterina Pashkevich became the oldest woman ever to suit up in Olympic hockey at age 41 years and 51 days. She beat out Finland’s Riikka Valila, the IIHF Hall of Famer who held the record for just one day.
Pashkevich raved about the atmosphere: "It was unbelievable. We haven't played in Russia for a long time, and especially not in front of a crowd like that. The girls had their parents and their friends up there in the stands. Some of them have never experienced that, and for someone like me it's not been since 1996."