Russia stuns Canada to open U18 Worlds

Team Russia defends home ice with upset win, first time in tournament history a North American team has been defeated by a European squad

Since the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championships began in 2008, the United States and Canada had only lost to each other in the event, while Europe struggled to keep pace with women’s hockey’s two superpowers. It’s been a staring contest between two behemoths of the game.

But, for the first time in history, one of those two blinked and took the L to a European side.

In front of a near-capacity 2,281 fans at Dmitrov Ice Palace, tournament hosts Russia used a pair of power play goals to pull their way past Team Canada by a score of 3-2.

Russia sent that capacity crowd into pandemonium fairly quickly, opening the scoring in the first. Yelena Mezentseva sent a beautiful pass from the defensive zone, finding Maria Alexandrova with one defender in front of her. Alexandrova converted on this chance. Using the defender, Margaret MacEachern, as a screen, she fired from the high slot past Canadian netminder Madelyn McArthur to put the Russians ahead 1-0.

The crowd erupted again midway through the second. Claire Dalton tripped up Anastasia Medvedeva behind the play to put Russia on the power play, and the hosts converted quickly. Yelena Provorova took a shot that hit traffic, but Daria Beloglazova found the loose puck, turned, and wired it past McArthur for a 2-0 lead.

Canada wasn’t going to go quietly into the night, however, pouring on the pressure in the third, firing 15 shots at Russian goalie Diana Farkhutdinova, more than the Russians fired on McArthur all game. They finally found an opening early in the third via the power play. Sarah Fillier beat Farkhutdinova from close range to cut the lead in half. It was game on.

Russia restored their two goal lead five minutes later with another power play goal. A centering pass by Maria Lobur missed Beloglazova, but did find Oxana Bratisheva, who pounced and tapped the puck past a helpless McArthur. It was now 3-1, Russia, with less than ten minutes to go, and the crowd erupted once more.

That only lasted a couple minutes. MacEachern wired one from the point past a screened Farkhutdinova to cut the lead to 3-2. The tension in the Dmitrov Ice Palace rose. This was not going to be an easy last few minutes for the hosts.

With 90 seconds to go, Canada pulled McArthur for the extra skater, and peppered Farkhutdinova with shot after shot. But the Russian keeper stood tall, and a late penalty to Dalton for a body check wound up being a fatal shot in the foot.

The crowd counted down as the final seconds ticked away, and the Russian players mobbed Farkhutdinova, celebrating a historic victory for the Russian program and women’s hockey in general.

Farkhutdinova ended the game with 34 saves and the player of the game award, while McArthur stopped 11 in a losing effort.

Russia will battle the other North American superpower, the US, in their second game tomorrow, while Canada looks to bounce back against Sweden.