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2019 World Championship Preview: Russia

The Russians are coming off a strong fourth-place finish in PyeongChang. Can they jump to the podium at Worlds?

David Cerny, Reuters

Schedule

Russia is in group A with Canada, Finland, Switzerland, and USA.

  • April 5, 12:30 p.m. ET | Russia vs. Switzerland
  • April 6, 9 a.m. ET | Russia vs. Finland
  • April 8, 12:30 p.m. ET | Russia vs. Canada
  • April 9, 9 a.m. ET | Russia vs. USA

Roster

  • Goalkeepers: Valeria Merkusheva, Anna Prugova, Nadezhda Morozova
  • Defenders: Daria Teryoshkina, Maria Batalova, Nina Pirogova, Liana Ganeyeva, Yekaterina Nikolayeva, Anastasia Chistyakova, Anna Shibanova, Anna Savonina, Yelena Provorova
  • Forwards: Valeria Pavlova, Anna Timofeyeva, Oxana Bratishcheva, Alexandra Vafina, Viktoria Kulishova, Yelena Dergachyova, Alvetina Shtaryova, Anna Shokhina, Olga Sosina, Alyona Starovoitova, Yekaterina Smolina, Diana Kaneyeva, Fanuza Kadirova
  • Head Coach: Alexei Chistyakov

Players to Watch

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 12 Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Olga Sosina

The team’s captain, heart, and soul. A versatile skill player — a forward who can play in all three zones well and is coming off arguably her most clutch performance to date, scoring a hat trick to save Agidel Ufa from being upset in the domestic league playoffs.

Oxana Bratishcheva

A young player coming off a breakout season, posting 42 points for SKIF Nizhny Novgorod at the age of 18. A part of the 2017 U18 team that won bronze and the 2018 U18 team that upset Canada. The forward could be Russian women’s hockey’s next big star.

Anna Shibanova

The defender is a veteran of the 2014 Olympics and four World Championship squads. She missed the Olympics due to a doping ban that was later overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and will have a chip on her shoulder going into the tournament. Shibanova is the top-scoring blueliner on the domestic league’s best team.

Last time around

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 12 Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The 2018 Olympics saw [Olympic Athletes From] Russia secure their best-ever finish at the event, at fourth place. They were clobbered in the group stage, finishing with just one goal for and 15 against versus the USA, Canada, and Finland, but bounced back with a 6–2 smashing of Switzerland in the quarters. They were then blanked 5–0 by Canada in the semis and lost a tight one to Finland in the bronze medal game.

The last IIHF Worlds, back in 2017, on the other hand ... it wasn’t what you wanted if you were Russia. Though the team did beat Finland in the groups, they also got wrecked by the USA and Canada by a combined 15–0 scoreline, then got upset by Germany in the quarters.

Storylines

The main roster storyline is the goaltending situation. Anna Prugova was sensational during the domestic season and has vastly more international experience than the likely alternative (Valeria Merkusheva), but Prugova was in somewhat shaky form in the first round of the playoffs. Does team management look past that and go for the body of work she has, both this season and previously? Or do they roll the dice on the younger, but more in-form option? Merkusheva does have an international pedigree at the U18 level, having won Best Goaltender at the U18 Worlds two years ago, but she hasn’t played for the senior team in a high-stakes tournament like this. Morozova was the only one of the three keepers that was on the PyeongChang squad, but the other two have been better this year.

This is a greatly changed group from PyeongChang, with eight players from that squad not coming to Espoo. That being said, many of the key players from that squad are returning. Will this shuffling of deck chairs affect chemistry? Or will it be business as usual? What about head coach Chistyakov’s future? His Tornado team just missed the league playoffs somehow; is his seat hot internationally?