Tolchinski stars in Group A showdown
by Andy Potts|29 MAY 2021
ROC's Anton Burdasov (#71) celebrates his goal with Ivan Morozov (#8), Emil Galimov (#72) and Dmitri Voronkov (#11) against Switzerland.
photo: Chris Tanouye / HHOF-IIHF Images
Sergei Tolchinski was at the heart of Team ROC’s victory in this Group A summit meeting, grabbing a goal and an assist in two third-period minutes to lift his team to a 4-1 win over Switzerland.

The result improves ROC to 12 points and puts Valeri Bragin’s team three clear at the top of the group, ahead of the Swiss and a Slovakia team that can draw level with victory over Denmark in Saturday's evening game.

An entertaining encounter was level after Switzerland found the net early in the third period. But then Tolchinski took control, setting up Pavel Karnaukhov for the go-ahead goal before adding a third himself. To finish the job, he potted an empty net goal.

"It wasn't an easy game for us," said Karnuakhov. "The Swiss are a good team, they have skilled guys and they are fast. It was a hard game, but we took advantage of their mistakes."

Switzerland looked capable of getting something from this encounter, especially after Nico Hischier's tying goal. But Tolchinski's surge left the Swiss to ponder what might have been.

"We came out strong in the third period, tied the game and then we kind of lost it a little bit," Hischier said. "We weren’t really detailed enough. Russia just needed one or two chances and they were in the back of our net. 

"It’s a little frustrating. We fought well. We didn’t give them much. They got the power-play goal on their only power play. When we gave them something, they scored. It was an intense game and we didn’t give up. Not a bad game from us but we’ve got to learn from the little mistakes."
Switzerland vs ROC - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship
SUI ROC 29 MAY 2021
The first period was evenly poised. Team ROC made the slightly stronger start but was unable to turn that into an opening goal. Then Switzerland came into the game more, especially after getting on the power play midway through the opening stanza, and went into the locker room looking – slightly – the better team.

Phillip Kurashev was very active for the Swiss on that power play, having a good opportunity of his own before creating a further opening for Timo Meier. However, the Russians held on and once back to full strength they created a good chance for themselves when Artyom Shvets-Rogovoi took play from zone to zone before firing just over the crossbar.

But the opening session concluded with Switzerland knocking on Alexander Samonov’s door. Meier sounded a warning with a break down the right before miscuing his shot, then Hischier fired the puck to the slot where Andres Ambuhl drew a fine save from Samonov to keep the scoresheet blank as we went into the first intermission.

Team ROC had another penalty to kill early in the second period but steadily began to exert more control after Rushan Rafikov returned to the game. Midway through the action, Reto Berra was at full stretch to keep his goal intact after Nikita Zadorov’s point shot prompted a huge scramble in front of the Swiss netminder.

And the pressure paid off. Switzerland took its first penalty of the game and Anton Burdasov converted that into the opening goal. He got the puck deep in his own territory and surged down the ice, blazing down the right flank before heading for the net and beating Berra from the doorstep.

The puck got beyond Berra again late in the frame but young Dmitri Voronkov saw his effort clip the inside of the post and bounce to safety behind the Swiss goalie.

Switzerland tied it up midway through the third period thanks to a moment of magic from Ambuhl. The Swiss veteran seemed to be out of options as he brought play out of the corner with Vladislav Kamenev breathing down his neck. But the 37-year-old had the answer, producing a spin-a-rama move to get away from the SKA St. Petersburg forward and fire the puck across the face of the goal for Hischier to score.

But the Red Machine responded with Tolchinski coming to the fore. The Avangard forward was the MVP of his team’s recent Gagarin Cup triumph and here he proved to be the catalyst for a Team ROC revival. Barely two minutes after the Swiss tied the game, he burst down the left only to be hauled down by Tobias Geisser. Everyone expected play to stop, but Tolchinski, sliding on his backside, steered the puck back out in front of the net and Pavel Karnaukhov was alert to the opportunity and beat Berra from close range.

"There wasn't much else I could do," admitted Tolchinski. "I knew that Pasha [Karnaukhov] was going to the slot and I managed to get the puck there. And Pasha skated well and got the shot off. It wasn’t really as special as you might think, I just swung my stick at the puck and that was it. Like I said, this was the only way I could get the puck to the slot.”

A further two minutes and 12 seconds elapsed before Tolchinski was at it again, extending the Russian lead to 3-1. This time it was a clearance down the boards from Slepyshev which released Tolchinski into the danger zone. Jonas Siegenthaler dived in without troubling the forward’s advance and the backhand finish went over the shoulder to leave Berra with no chance.

"I don’t think we got relaxed," said Switzerland's Kurashev. "We played a really solid game, I think. They just got a couple of chances and they took advantage. They were just better than us at finishing their chances."

And as Switzerland pushed for a way back into the game, Tolchinski wrapped it up with an empty net goal. That marker was assisted by Alexander Barabanov, a recent addition to the line. And that change is working well for both players, the Avangard man said. “We found a pretty good chemistry together,” he said. “We both play the same hockey, neither of us are really big so we suited each other from the first shift. We see each other, we help each other. I like playing with him.”

Team ROC continues with games against Sweden and Belarus on Monday and Tuesday to finish off the group stage. Switzerland is back in action tomorrow against Belarus looking for a win that could secure its own quarter-final berth.

And Swiss head coach Patrick Fischer feels that if the teams meet again in the medal rounds, his men could come out on top.

"It was absolutely a close game that could have gone either way. In the first period, we out-chanced them 6-1 and didn’t score," he said. "I think we had the upper hand at the start of the second, then we made a couple of turnovers and started to play more in our zone. In the third period we tied it up. If we play them again, I think we know what to do."
Switzerland vs ROC - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship