International Ice Hockey Federation

Russia rolls over Czechs

Russia rolls over Czechs

Vasilevski's shutout sends Russians to SF

Published 18.05.2017 19:13 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Russia rolls over Czechs
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 18: Russia's Sergei Andronov #11 and Czech Republic's Jan Kovar #43 race for the lose puck during quarterfinal round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Goalie Andrei Vasilevski earned his third shutout of the tournament as Russia downed the Czechs 3-0 to win the early quarter-final in Paris on Thursday.

Thanks to this stifling effort, the Russians will face the winner of Canada-Germany in the semi-finals in Cologne on Saturday. Nikita Kucherov stepped up with a goal and an assist, and Dmitri Orlov and Artemi Panarin also scored, while Yevgeni Kuznetsov had two helpers. The Russians clearly enjoyed their brief visit to the French capital.

"We were ready for them," said Sergei Andronov. "They always go hard and they had a bit of an advantage because they played all tournament here. They know the ice, the boards. They outplayed us a bit in the first period, but by the second we were okay. We got used to the conditions and played well."

Russia now has a shot at its first gold medal since Minsk 2014. It has medaled at the Worlds three years in a row, including 2015’s silver and 2016’s bronze.

The Czech Republic's drought continues. They haven't won gold since 2010 in Cologne or a medal of any shade since 2012’s bronze in Helsinki. This was a disappointing and anticlimactic end to a tournament in which they went unbeaten in five straight games in between losses to Canada and Switzerland.

Czech goalie Pavel Francouz did his best, but it wasn't enough. The 26-year-old Traktor Chelyabinsk netminder got the quarter-final start after posting better numbers than Petr Mrazek of the Detroit Red Wings in the group stage -- a 0.99 GAA and 92.6 save percentage versus a 2.47 GAA and 88.1 save percentage.

Entering this game, coach Oleg Znarok’s team boasted the tournament’s top offence with 35 goals in seven games. Not always famed for their defensive play, the Russians shone in all three zones to help Vasilevski get his tournament-leading third shutout with 27 saves. The modern-era record for most shutouts at the Worlds is four, shared by Czechoslovakia's Jiri Kralik (1982) and Canada's Cam Talbot (2016).

"The key was our penalty killers," said defenceman Vladislav Gavrikov after Russia killed off five minors. "They were excellent, and so was our goaltender. That was the difference."

Vasilevski criticized his teammates after their 5-3 loss to the U.S. in the Group A closer, and the Russians had a gritty start here. During an early Czech power play, Vladislav Namestnikov hobbled off after making an ill-advised shot block with his left foot.

"Everybody worked together, as a team," said Andronov. "We blocked shots, played for each other."

Sergei Plotnikov set up a pinching Dmitri Orlov for the 1-0 goal at 8:45. The Washington Capitals defenceman came blazing down the middle to zing a wrister past Francouz’s glove.

The Russian wave kept coming. Valeri Nichushkin and Vladimir Tkachyov narrowly missed finishing off on a 2-on-1. Russia got its first power play after Czech blueliner Jakub Jerabek sent Kucherov tumbling head over heels on a low hit on the rush and was called for interference.

Kucherov got his revenge with the 2-0 man-advantage goal at 13:36. Kuznetsov circled the Czech net and fed Kucherov in the right faceoff circle, and he went high to the short side before Francouz could react.

Now the Russian fans erupted with chants of “Shaibu!” and “Rossiya!” Meanwhile, Czech frustration mounted. Captain Jakub Voracek rang one off the post during a late first-period power play.

Russia’s checking tightened up in the second period. And when Ivan Provorov was penalized for tripping up Voracek mid-period, Vasilevski shut the door. Nichuskin and Tkachyov came awfully close again on a shorthanded break.

Kucherov nearly scored on a partial breakaway to kick off the third. He was in the box for tripping when the Czechs finally got their first shot of the period near the mid-way mark.

Panarin misfired on a breakaway and was clobbered by Czech blueliner Tomas Kundratek when he picked up the rebound behind the net. But with 6:05 remaining, he sealed the deal at 3-0, converting a 2-on-1 with Kucherov for his team-leading 14th point.

"It was a tough game, and we can't take so many penalties and expect to win every time," said Gavrikov.

This was the sixth all-time quarter-final meeting between Russia and the Czech Republic since the IIHF instituted the playoff system in 1992. Their records are now equal at three wins and three losses apiece.

Looking back, the most memorable outcomes include Russia’s 3-1 win in 2002, which ended Czech hopes of capturing a fourth straight gold medal; the Czechs’ 4-3 overtime victory in 2006 on Zbynek Irgl’s clever close-range tally; and Russia’s 4-0 win in 2007, which marked the final time Russia would remain unbeaten on Moscow ice dating back to 1957. (Mikko Koivu’s 2-1 semi-final overtime winner for Finland ended the streak.)

After this quarter-final, the three best Czech players of these Worlds were named: Pavel Francouz, Radko Gudas, and Jakub Voracek.


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