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Russia dominates Summit Series

The Russian national team overwhelmed the Pride, Riveters and Whale this October.

The Russian women’s national team’s bench during the team’s final Summit Series game against the Metropolitan Riveters in Newark, New Jersey at the Barnabas Health Hockey House.
Mike Murphy

For the second consecutive season the Russian women’s national team traveled to the east coast of the United States for the NWHL/Team Russia Summit Series. For the Connecticut Whale, Boston Pride and Metropolitan Riveters the two game series against an international squad was a brief but intense preseason. For Russia, playing six games in ten nights was a grueling test against North American talent. The odyssey should help prepare Russia for the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, especially for games against Canada and the United States.

Team Play

For the most part Team Russia shredded the NWHL competition. Russia posted a 6-0-0 record and with a +10 goal differential in the Summit Series. At least part of Russia’s dominance was a result of the Whale, Pride and Riveters having precious few practices before meeting the national team. Each NWHL club also underwent significant roster turnover during the offseason. But with all of that being said, the Russians still impressed.

The standout performance of this year’s series was a game that Connecticut Whale fans are still trying to erase from their collective memory. Russia bested the Whale 8-2 on October 15th after scoring three goals in the first period while limiting Connecticut to just a single shot. It was a dominant display. The Whale managed to see more of the puck after that disastrous first, but the goals kept coming for Russia. Seven different players scored for the Russian side including former NWHL star Ludmila Belyakova.

Tornado and Russian national team winger Ludmila Belyakova prowling in the slot on the power play in a game against her former NWHL team the Metropolitan Riveters.
Mike Murphy

Perhaps the most telling number is that in six games the Russians had five regulation victories. The Boston Pride were the only team to take them to extra time, but they fell in the shootout in their first game against the visiting international squad. When the Pride hosted Russia again three days later tempers flared. All told there were 18 penalties called including three misconducts, two of which were majors for grabbing the facemask.

On the whole it was a very successful trip to the States for Russia. Captain Olga Sosina’s team looked like a cohesive, elite international club for much of the series. The Russian bench was quick to identify where the NWHL teams were still making adjustments and wasted no time exploiting those weaknesses. In some of the games Russian stars were blatantly cherry-picking, but who could blame them? The stretch passes and opportunities for breakaways were there and the blue line looked strong stifling zone entries for the entire Summer Series.

Standout Players

Anna Shokhina

Anna Shokhina taking a slap shot on a breakaway in a game against the Metropolitan Riveters.
Mike Murphy

Shokhina led the Russian national team in the Summit Series with four goals and eight assists against NWHL competition. It’s safe to say she was playing on another level.

The captain of Tornado had four multi-point games including a four point game in Russia’s 8-2 beatdown of the Whale on October 15th. Despite scoring four goals in half a dozen games Shokhina played unselfish hockey and frequently used her speed to attack on the rush. Prior to the Summit Series she had four points in four games for Tornado after leading the league in scoring with 81 points in 39 games in 2016-17.

Maria Sorokina

Maria Sorokina of the Russian national team stacking the pads to stonewall Janine Weber of the Boston Pride.
Michelle Jay

All three Russian goaltender played well in the Summit Series. Nadezhda Morozova started the most games and posted a shutout against the Riveters to close out the summit series, but Maria Sorokina’s numbers in her two starts were superior. Sorokina put up a combined .933 save percentage in her starts against the Whale and the Pride. All three of the goals she allowed in the series were scored when the Whale and Pride were on the power play.

Sorokina, who plays for Dynamo St. Petersburg in the RWHL, has been in a platoon with Morzova in recent major international tournaments. Sorokina is the older of the tandem at 22-years-old, which speaks volumes about just how bright the future of Russian goaltending is.

Alevtina Shtareva

Like Shokhina, Shtareva is just 20-years-old and is part of Russia’s exciting young core. But unlike her Tornado teammate, Shtareva is something of a pure sniper. She scored six goals in six games for Russia in the Summit Series including back-to-back two goal games against the Whale and Pride. The young winger got into the box score with a point in every game of the Summit Series.

Shtareva’s production dropped significantly last season in the RWHL after two head-turning seasons in her teens. She may be a little inconsistent, but there’s no denying that Shtareva has a nose for the net and a bright future. Shtareva has yet to score a goal for the senior team at the Women’s World Championship, but her offense is something that Russia will need in PyeongChang.