After scoring just one goal and conceding fifteen in the group stage, the Olympic Athletes from Russia could be forgiven for lacking confidence heading into the quarterfinals.
But the OARs worked together, saw their confidence skyrocket, and rowed into the semifinals.
Anna Shokhina’s career game helped OAR’s offense explode, with Team OAR cruising to a 6-2 takedown of Switzerland, avenging their 2-0 defeat on home ice to the Eisgenossinnen four years ago. Perhaps ironically, they took advantage of penalties and turnovers, the very things that doomed them in the group stage.
Shokhina opened the scoring in the first, in unlikely fashion. With both Yekaterina Smolina and Yekaterina Nikolayeva in the box, the team’s penalty kill, a major Achilles heel in Group A play, went to work. They played aggressively on the PK, and it paid off. Shokhina picked Lara Stalder’s pocket and entered the zone alone, dangling before slotting the puck past Florence Schelling. An unlikely 3-on-5 shorthanded goal gave OAR the lead.
Switzerland pulled it back early in the second thanks to the tournament’s breakout star, Alina Müller. Müller used a slick move to beat Nikolayeva and get the puck on her backhand, which she roofed on Nadezhda Morozova to level the score at 1.
The Swiss would take the lead about ten minutes later through the power play. With Angelina Goncharenko in the box for an illegal hit, Lara Stalder fired from the slot, beating Morozova high glove side for a 2-1 Swiss lead.
That would be as good as it would get for the Swiss, though.
Two minutes later, Stalder tried a backhanded clearance in her defensive zone. She wound up giving the puck right to Smolina, who was denied by Schelling, but Viktoria Kulishova buried the rebound for the tying goal.
In the dying minutes of the second, Sarah Forster took a holding the stick penalty, and OAR took a lead they would not surrender. Liana Ganeyeva took a shot from the blueline that beat Schelling via a deflection off of Swiss defender Nicole Bullo, giving OAR a 3-2 lead to take into the locker room.
Remembering the heartbreak in Sochi four years prior, OAR went for the jugular in the third.
About eight minutes in, they struck a dagger into the hearts of the Swiss. Off a faceoff, Sabrina Zollinger’s failed clearance became a turnover with Shokhina intercepting it. Shokhina lulled Schelling to sleep then sent the puck to her linemate for club and country, Yelena Dergachyova, who buried a massive insurance goal to make it 4-2.
OAR added another six minutes later, a power play goal with Bullo in the box. A lovely passing play saw Shokhina send the puck to Dergachyova, cut to the far side of the net, and receive a return pass from Dergachyova, which became a tap-in goal to make it 5-2.
OAR added a shorthanded empty netter in the final minute, with captain Olga Sosina burying the puck to expand the cushion to 6-2.
Schelling made 15 saves in defeat, while Morozova stopped 17 for the victorious Russian side, whose offense looked terrific to end the game - living up to the Russian hockey nickname of legend: “Red Machine.”
Switzerland heads to the placement games and will face Korea, while OAR will battle Canada.