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2021 Worlds: Team Russia recap

A somber finish for a team with some bright spots to hang hope on.

Viktoria Kulishova #73 skates to the bench after scoring a third period goal against Japan during placement round action at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship at WinSports Arena on August 31, 2021 in Calgary, AB Canada. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)

How they finished

  • Record: 3-4 | GF: 11 GA: 21
  • Finish: 5th

For the past few years, Russia has landed somewhere in the top four teams, usually behind USA, Canada, and Finland in some order but with the emergence of teams like Switzerland and Sweden, it’s become increasingly harder to bank on a top four finish. This is the lowest ranking for the Russians since 2012, and matches where they landed in 2017.

They may not be super pleased with the outcome as it is a step back from where they have been the last few years, but there were a few highlights for the team in this tournament that can prove they have actually improved in some categories.

What went right

To put it bluntly, very few things. However, what the Russian team can hold their heads high about is their defensive performances against the powerhouse teams they faced. Their largest goal differential was their 6-0 loss to USA, which sounds bad but considering the same team shut them out 10-0 and then 8-0 during the last tournament, that is a step up for them.

Their goaltender, Valeria Murkusheva was also a bright spot for the team. She took all three wins for ROC in the tournament and touted a 91.58 save percentage. Without her in the crease, it could have gone significantly worse for Russia.

What went wrong

The first obvious issue the Russian team had was penalties. They led the tournament in just one category and it was time in the penalty box. When you’re playing against teams like Canada or Finland in the group stage, you simply can not afford to spend over 16 minutes a game serving penalties. They are tough enough to score on at even strength.

Which brings me to the next thing they struggled with, scoring goals. Much like the 2019 tournament, ROC didn’t necessarily struggle with puck possession or chances, rather they were not able to capitalize on the chances that they had.

What comes next

ROC had quite a lot of young talent on this roster, were playing without some of their best veteran players, and like the rest of the world are surviving a pandemic that is affecting everyone differently.

A lot of these players will return home to play in the ZhHL together, which is a benefit they have compared to some other national teams who end up spread out across a few leagues around the world. While their respective pro league isn’t just a training camp, it can certainly help these players learn how to play with each other better and gain momentum.

If the national team can mesh together a little bit better and afford time for the teenagers to really carve out a place for themselves on the team, they can head into 2022 looking a lot different and hoping for a podium push once again.

MVP(s)

Like I said earlier, Valeria Murkusheva was an absolute highlight of this team for her performance in goal. On top of her stats, she was able to hang in with Switzerland through overtime, and even narrowly beat the Swiss and Germany in the group stage.

Additionally, there was only one defense pairing with a positive goal differential. Liana Ganeyeva and Angelina Goncharenko combined for three points, which is a lot for a team who only scored 11 goals in the tournament.