Young Russians impress
by Andy Potts|11 FEB 2019
Yegor Spiridonov is one of two Russian players who could return from last year’s U18 World Championship team.
photo: Andrea Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images
The main u18 action of the weekend took place beside the Black Sea, where Russia staged a Five Nations tournament and came out on top. A high-scoring victory over Team USA in the deciding game was the highlight. Elsewhere, there were tournament wins for Slovakia and Norway on home ice, while France was triumphant in Italy.

Russia triumphs in Sochi

An 8-4 victory over the USA in Saturday’s closing game secured top spot for Russia in the five-nation tournament in Sochi’s Iceberg Arena. The event, which coincided with the fifth anniversary of the Sochi Winter Olympics, saw the Russians finish with three wins from four games, plus a shootout loss against Finland.

Going into Saturday’s game against the Americans, Russia knew it still needed one more victory to get over the line. But a flurry of goals either side of the first intermission saw the host jump to a 3-0 lead and it never relinquished that advantage. Arseni Gritsyuk, later named as the top forward at the tournament, opened the scoring at 15:28 and there were further tallies from Takhir Mingachev and Yegor Spiridonov, Gritsyuk assisting on the latter. Nikolai Burenov made it 4-0 midway through the game before Alex Tercott got one back on the power play for the USA. Dmitri Shenin and Ryder Rolston traded goals late in the middle frame and Russia rattled in three more in the third: Burenov got his second of the game, Yegor Chinkhanov added a goal and an assist and Dmitri Zaitsev scored the other. The Americans pulled back a couple of power play goals in the last seconds, but the game was long gone.

Semyon Chistyakov, who was named as the top defenceman at the tournament, said: “It was important for us to win on home ice before we go to the World Championship. It gives us confidence. Against the Americans, a lot of things worked out for us. We went out hard, full of belief, and from the first shift we played at a high tempo. I don’t think we needed any motivation for this game – the USA is a big rival for us.”

Gritsyuk said that the words of head coach Vladimir Filatov had been a motivation for him to prove that he was worth a place in the team. “But first of all, you need to prove to yourself that you deserve a call-up to the national team and can perform at this level,” he added. “Everyone on this roster wants to be part of the World Championship. Now I’m going back to my club and I’ll keep working on converting more chances and defending better on the penalty kill.”

Filatov himself was encouraged by what he had seen in Russia’s final warm-up before the U18 Worlds in Sweden. “The results speak for themselves,” he said. “On this basis, we can give a positive assessment of the player, they guys showed up well. Now our coaching staff will be following these players in the Youth Hockey League and drawing up our roster, then at the end of March we’ll start preparing for the World Championship.”

Host wins Dzurilla tournament

In Slovakia, the Vladimir Dzurilla tournament in Piestany went down to the final day. All four teams went into Saturday’s action tied on three points. Belarus had hopes of taking gold after a wild 8-5 victory over the host on Friday, but needed a shootout to beat Germany after a 5-5 tie. That meant that a regulation time win for Slovakia or Switzerland would secure top spot – and the Slovaks did enough with a 3-1 victory.

It wasn’t easy, though. A nervous first period produced no goals and the Swiss went ahead at 6:23 of the middle frame through Denys Rubanik. Michal Mrazik quickly tied the scores, but it wasn’t until 16:17 of the third period that Martin Chromiak gave Slovakia the lead for the first time. Dominik Sojka sealed the win with a last-minute goal.

“Paradoxically, we played better in our earlier games,” said head coach Viliam Cacho. “In the first period we could not generate any offense, apart from a few shots in the first three or four minutes. The Swiss gave us a real test, saw lots of the puck and didn’t really face much trouble in defence.”

Tournament wins for France & Norway

Norway’s youngsters came out on top in a four-team tournament on home ice in Gjorvik. The host nation went undefeated through the competition, but needed at least a point from Saturday’s closing game against Denmark to be sure of winning gold. The Danes still had a chance of pipping Norway with a regulation-time win, and made a perfect start with a goal after 72 seconds from Mikkel Jensen. However, the Norwegians hit back to lead 2-1 in the third period on markers from Markus Lam and Trym Lokkeberg. With 20 seconds left, Denmark forced a 2-2 tie thanks to Jonas Torbenson. It was already too late to deny the home team gold, and Calle Olsen rubber-stamped the success with a shoot-out winner. Latvia pipped Denmark to second place with a 6-3 win against winless Austria.

In Italy, the French U18s won all three games in another four-team event. The youngsters defeated Slovenia in overtime thanks to an Emmanuel Navarro goal 12 seconds before the hooter. Next came a convincing 6-2 verdict against Hungary. In the final game, a third-period double from Jules Boscq secured a 4-2 victory over the host nation. France topped the group, two points clear of Hungary. Slovenia came third with winless Italy bringing up the rear.

Ukraine and Poland played two challenge games in Bila Tserkva. The host opened with a 4-2 victory on Friday before the Poles responded to win Saturday’s game 6-5 in overtime.


Five Nations Tournament in Russia
5 Feb. Sochi (RUS) Finland Czech Rep. 3-6
5 Feb. Sochi (RUS) Russia Sweden 3-0
6 Feb. Sochi (RUS) Sweden USA 7-5
6 Feb. Sochi (RUS) Russia Czech Rep. 5-1
7 Feb. Sochi (RUS) Sweden Czech Rep. 4-3
7 Feb. Sochi (RUS) USA Finland 3-2
8 Feb. Sochi (RUS) Czech Rep. USA 2-8
8 Feb. Sochi (RUS) Russia Finland 2-3 SO
9 Feb. Sochi (RUS) Finland Sweden 6-3
9 Feb. Sochi (RUS) Russia USA 8-4
Standings: 1. Russia 10, 2. Sweden 6, 3. USA 6, 4. Finland 5, 5. Czech Rep. 3
Vladimir Dzurilla Tournament in Slovakia
7 Feb. Piestany (SVK) Belarus Switzerland 3-5
7 Feb. Piestany (SVK) Slovakia Germany 6-3
8 Feb. Piestany (SVK) Switzerland Germany 0-3
8 Feb. Piestany (SVK) Slovakia Belarus 5-8
9 Feb. Piestany (SVK) Germany Belarus 5-6 SO
9 Feb. Piestany (SVK) Slovakia Switzerland 3-1
Standings: 1. Slovakia 6, 2. Belarus 5, 3. Germany 4, 4. Switzerland 3.
Four Nations Tournament in Norway
7 Feb. Gjorvik (NOR) Latvia Denmark 6-0
7 Feb. Gjorvik (NOR) Austria Norway 0-4
8 Feb. Gjorvik (NOR) Denmark Austria 8-2
8 Feb. Gjorvik (NOR) Norway Latvia 6-0
9 Feb. Gjorvik (NOR) Norway Denmark 3-2 SO
9 Feb. Gjorvik (NOR) Latvia Austria 6-3
Standings: 1. Norway 8, 2. Latvia 6, 3. Denmark 4, 4. Austria 0.
Four Nations Tournament in Italy
7 Feb. Neumarkt (ITA) France Slovenia 2-1 OT
7 Feb. Neumarkt (ITA) Italy Hungary 1-5
8 Feb. Neumarkt (ITA) Hungary France 2-6
8 Feb. Neumarkt (ITA) Slovenia Italy 3-0
9 Feb. Neumarkt (ITA) Italy France 2-4
9 Feb. Neumarkt (ITA) Hungary Slovenia 6-1
Standings: 1. France 8, 2. Hungary 6, 3. Slovenia 4, Italy 0.
Other games
8 Feb. Bila Tserkva (UKR) Ukraine Poland 4-2
9 Feb. Bila Tserkva (UKR) Ukraine Poland 5-6 OT