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2021 Worlds: Team Russia preview

Could the podium look a little bit different this year? ROC hopes so.

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

After an unprecedented two years, Russia is looking to break up the monotony of international women’s hockey medals this year. While the eyes may be on Finland’s revenge or Canada’s aging roster, the Russian national team bringing back young talent with a hunger for the podium should not be slept on.

There’s plenty of ZhHL talent on the roster that has a lot of experience playing with and against each other that is going to need that familiarity to make it through the toughest group stage there is.

2019 Worlds

What seems like a decade ago now, Team Russia took a fourth place finish at the 2019 World Championships, despite winning just two games against Switzerland. Among their four games against Team Canada and Team USA, they were only able to score one goal in total. Additionally they were shutout by the two teams with margins of 10-0, 8-0, and so on.

It was not the best showing for the Russian team, who on occasion can squeak past Finland to medal, but fourth place behind the three huge women’s hockey powerhouses is at least consistent for them.

Roster

Forwards (14): Alexandra Vafina, Fanuza Kadirova, Kristi Shashkina, Ekaterina Dobrodeeva, Valeriya Pavlova, Sofiya Lifatova, Veronika Korzhakova, Ilona Markova, Elizaveta Rodnova, Olga Sosina, Oksana Bratishcheva, Viktoriya Kulishova, Ekaterina Likhachyova, Landysh Falyakhova.
Defenders (8): Maria Batalova, Anna Shibanova, Angelina Goncharenko, Elena Provorova, Liana Ganeeva, Yuliya Smirnova, Nina Pirogova, Anna Savonina.
Goalkeepers (3): Valeria Merkusheva, Nadezhda Morozova, Anna Prugova.

Story to Watch | Team Chemistry

Unlike a lot of other teams in this tournament, the entire roster of Team Russia plays in the same professional league outside of international tournaments. They understand what it’s like to play with and against each other in a tighter knit circle than most. If they can use that to their advantage here in Calgary, they may just have a leg up on the tough group stage competition that they face and have a shot at medaling.

If they can get in their groove and have the puck long enough to move with it, this team could be very lethal. The key to that will be understanding their teammates better than ever.

Key Player | Olga Sosina

The 29-year-old forward is one of the most experienced members of Team Russia, and creates massive opportunities for the team whenever she is on the ice. Sosina has been Agidel Ufa’s leading scorer in the ZhHL since 2014. At the 2019 World Championship, she led her team in shots, including a massive 12-shot game against Switzerland to open the tournament.

If she can create that type of offense again, and expand on it in those key games against the top three teams, Russia can expect to get on the board against their opponents.

Additionally, Sosina brings a strong veteran presence to a team with an average age under 23. She was a highlight of Team Russia’s 2019 run, and has only developed more since her last international appearance.

Key Youngster | Kristi Shashkina

While there is a handful of 18 and 19 year old talent on this roster, Shashkina brings both SDHL and ZhHL experience, her 5’9 frame, and a fresh face to the senior national team that I think will make a huge difference for Russia.

Averaging over a point per game, playoffs included, in her brief stint with the ZSC Lions, Shashkina has the momentum and brings a newness to the Russian team that can certainly help their production and ability to get hands on the puck where they have lacked before.

She may not have much international team experience, but has found success in her two World Junior Championship appearances, scoring 8 points in 4 games in 2019.