They played the full 60, but five minutes is all Canada needed in their 8–1 win over Russia Tuesday night. In that five minutes they scored five goals and absolutely dominated the sixth-ranked team in the world.
With the win, Canada can now clinch a spot in the semi-finals with a win over Finland on Thursday night. The tournament is set up so that the top four teams from last year’s tournament play in group A, all of them are guaranteed at least a spot in the quarterfinals and the top two teams will get a bye straight into the semi-finals.
The game didn’t start the way that Canada would have wanted it to. The team seemed tentative in the offensive zone and were making just one pass too many, when a shot on net would have been more effective.
The Russians came out of the gate playing well, and despite Canada controlling most of the game, it didn’t come as a complete shock when Russia opened the scoring seven minutes into the first period.
A weak shot from Iya Gavrilova was deflected by a Canadian defender on its way to the net and completely fooled Charline Labonté in goal for Canada.
The Russian lead held up for the remainder of the period and Team Canada knew they would have to make some changes heading into the second.
“We made a few adjustments in terms of what they were doing in the neutral zone and how they were playing defensively. So we knew we needed to skate the puck a little bit more, get it deep and be in a better position to support the puck and the goals were going to come. We had a lot of good chances in the first period so we knew we just had to stay on them and put the puck in the back of the net,” said Team Canada defenceman Meaghan Mikkelson.
And put the puck in the back of the net they did.
Just 40 seconds into the second period Rebecca Johnston let a shot go that finally found its way past Anna Prugova in the Russian net and tied the game up for the Canadians.
Team Canada wasn’t done there however. A floating slapshot from Halli Krzyzaniak hit the back of the net just two minutes after Johnston’s goal.
Before the in-rink announcer had the chance to tell the 4,500-plus fans in the rink who scored the previous goal, Jennifer Wakefield skated past the Russian defenders and managed to slide the puck into the net while falling down, giving Canada three goals on its first four shots of the period.
That goal prompted Russian coach Mikhail Chekanov to pull Prugova from the net and replace her with Maria Sorokina.
Sorokina wouldn’t fare much better against the potent Canadian attack. Just one minute after her introduction to the game, Mikkelson buried a rebound to give Canada a 4–1 lead.
After the swarm of Canadian goals the Russian team lost their discipline. They were given two penalties on the same play leading to a 5-on-3 advantage for Canada. Mikkelson scored again on the power play, just 40 seconds after her first goal, giving Canada a 5–1 lead.
“We just had to get that first goal. We had a lot of chances in the first period so I think just going into that second period, we weren’t down on ourselves. We knew we had to just keep getting shots on net,” said Rebecca Johnston on Canada’s five-goal scoring burst.
The rest of the game played out with Canada controlling the puck, causing the disheartened Russians to chase the game without any real chance of working their way back into it.
The one concerning factor of Team Canada’s play after the first period was the penalties that they took.
The end of the second period and the beginning of the third can only be described as a parade to the penalty box for Team Canada. While they were able to kill off all of the Russian power plays, Canada has taken 13 penalties in the two games they’ve played.
“I think that something we need to be better at moving forward is the discipline. We know kind of what the refs are going to call now, the little hooks, interference and sticks and all that, so it’s good that this is happening early on in the tournament so that we know that that’s something we can’t do moving forward. We have to stay out of the box,” Mikkelson said.