In the bronze medal game, Japan edged Team USA in overtime.
As host nation, Russia was determined to put on a show for its fans in central Siberia. The roster featured many players with high-level international experience, including 14 of the team that played at last year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Alexei Chistyakov also combined his role as head coach of the national team with a position behind the bench for this student roster, while GM Vladislav Prodan highlighted Universiade’s value as preparation for the upcoming Women’s World Championship in Finland.
Canada, meanwhile, drew on a roster with rather less top-level experience. However, head coach Stacey Colarossi’s team gave the Russians their toughest test in a 4-2 group stage loss to finish second out of six teams in that round robin. In the final, once again, the Canadians made things hard for Russia: a gritty tactical battle remained goalless until the 50th minute when Liana Ganeyeva’s centre point shot found the target to put Russia in front. Fanuza Kadirova, a former captain of Russia’s U18 roster, put up the screen in front of Jessica Vance as her team-mate from Gorny Ukhta fired home the vital goal on the power play. Home gold was secured in the last minute when Alevtina Shtaryova, another Olympian, scored into an empty net.
“My emotions are running wild,” Ganeyeva told the Russian Hockey Federation after the game. “This was a tough game, Canada is a fast, energetic team. But all our girls did great: nobody gave up, everyone battled to the last. My goal was just part of the game. You need to put your best into every shot, to do everything you can to get it in the net. I put my heart and soul into it and the girls were brilliant screening their goalie.”
“It’s another medal for my collection. I’m tired after the tournament, but I can barely feel the fatigue because we won. Every victory, every award, every medal means so much to me.”
Head coach Chistyakov added: “It was a really hard game, worthy of any final. We got nervous, things weren’t working out for us, especially at the start. In the first period we had 20 shots on their net but the goalie was superb and we couldn’t score. Then our emotions got out of hand in the second and we started making silly mistakes. Our goalie, Nadya Morozova, got us out of jail. Fortunately we could put that right in the third and get in front.”
Russia’s journey to the final was impressive. In the group phase, the host nation won all five games and outscored the opposition 45-3. That set up a semi-final against the USA and, for the second time in the tournament, the Russians won by a 10-0 margin. Canada, runner-up in the group, booked its place in the final with a victory over Japan.
The Japanese went on to claim bronze, beating the USA 2-1 in overtime. Yoshino Enomoto, a defenceman who was part of her country’s Olympic Qualifying campaign but did not make the party in Korea, potted the winning goal. Earlier, Kathleen McNamara gave the Americans a first-period lead but Chisato Miyazaki cancelled out that effort in the 17th minute.
This year’s Universiade also saw Switzerland send a team for the first time. It proved to be a steep learning curve for the 2021 host nation, with the Swiss losing all five of their group games by an aggregate score of 31-5. China suffered the heaviest loss of the competition, going down 13-1 against Russia, but defeated Switzerland 3-0 to come in fifth.
The scoring charts, not surprisingly, were dominated by the Russians. Valeriya Pavlova led the way with 14 (10+4) points from seven games. Canada’s Katryne Villeneuve was second with 11 (6+5), the only non-Russian in the top eight.
Tuesday sees the men’s medal games. Russia faces Slovakia for gold – the two nations needed overtime to separate them in the group phase – after Canada plays Kazakhstan in the bronze medal game.