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Russia wins in last preparation match

Bykov's team downs Hungary 5-1

After the two friendly matches that Russian national team played in Austria, the preparation for the next WC moved from Czech Republic, where Bykov's team won the Czech Hockey Games, to Swiss little city of Sierre, located in the French part of Swiss not far from the Italian border. From Innsbruck to Sierre is indeed a huge difference. Not only because of the language, from German to French, but also the rosters changed a lot, we've seen Bryzgalov in goal, Kovalchuk and Frolov in one troika. And instead of the beautiful Austrian arena, this match was played in an old palace with not good ice and wooden seats. But a thing didn't change – Russia won. And with a good margin.

Frankly speaking Russian sparring partner was a mediocre team. Kazakhstan, who this year played (and won) the Division 1 tournament could have easily iced a team better than the one who faced Russia today, a crop of players which no one could play in the KHL. The starting goalkeeper Levente Szuper was property of the Calgary Flames, but then he ended up playing in Italy and Germany.

Vyacheslav Bykov iced the following lines:

1. Morozov – Tereschenko – Zaripov – Nikulin – Proshkin
2. Kovalchuk – Zinoviev – Frolov – Vishnevsky – Tverdovsky
3. Saprykin – Gorovikov – Radulov – Atyushov – Kalinin
4. Perezhogin – Kuryanov – Mozyakin – Volchenkov – Grebeshkov

Just after a hundred seconds Kovalchuk made himself noted with a couple of nice combinations with Frolov and Zinoviev, but they couldn't arrive at the shot as the defenders managed to clear the zone. A couple of minutes later the third line was more concrete as Radulov cycled behind the net and served Saprykin, free to put the puck in the 9 glove side. “Our third line was definitely the best one tonight. They are all good players and play together for a lot of time” - these the words by Ilya Kovalchuk after the match. A further minute later Kovalchuk himself had his first chance after a nice pass by Zinoviev from the Gretzky's field, but his one timer crashed against the goalie pads. It was noticeable the difference from a team who always aimed at the goal and a team who could not shot in the crease like Hungary, whose attempts were always wide.

At the fifth minute the refs whistled the first penalty of the match, against Ladanyi, and the sbornaya could go with the man advantage. Nothing worth to tell happened, though. With the teams back at even strength Kovalchuk resumed his goal hunt, sometimes playing too much the puck without searching for a pass.

At the ninth minute the sbornaya returned on a powerplay as Horvath blatantly tripped Perezhogin launched towards the net. This time the play with the man advantage worked better for Russia as a wonderful, diagonal pass by Morozov served Nikulin on the right. The consequent one timer was though reflected by Szuper's pads. One minute later, with the team playing with five players again, Russian third line had another great shift, getting three scoring chances (two with Radulov, one with Govorikov) all saved by the Hungarian goalkeeper. After the “triple” chance the game raised its tempo and the Hungarians seen the puck even less than before – if possible.

Referees took it easy with them though, if not, our sparring partners would have play two entire periods short by one man, not because they were particularly dirty, but they were a lot slow and it resulted in a lot of hooking and grabbing by them.

At the seventeenth minute a great break out pass by Tverdovsky launched Zinoviev at full speed, but his shot didn't get past the keeper. Sixty seconds later finally team Russia managed to double the score. They prepared the table making the puck run like on a powerplay, then at the end Govorikov from the right circle served Radulov right in front of the goalie. Salavat player could not miss the easy shot and from one meter he made it a 2-0 game. The second period thus ended with the Russians up by two goal, deservedly.

Ilya required just one minute in the second period to spark the crowd and the team with another chance: first he dribbled through the zone, then, when a defender poke checked him he tried a fancy deflection with the stick, but Szuper somewhat managed to save and rob him of the goal.

The following goal chance came from the fourth line this time, thanks to Perezhogin's speed, but the goalie had easy life against his weak shot after a good rush down the right flank.

Midway through the match, the author of the double in the last WC tried once again to score with a big slapshot from the blue line, but without any luck as the puck hit the goalie in the shoulder. Right after this chance, our opponents changed the netminder, subbing Szuper with 21-years old Zoltan Hetenyi, who already protected colors of his national team in last year's WC Division one.

Russian national team in this second period twice wasted a double powerplay, and it didn't look good because we built not many chances eithter. But as partial excuse most of the time with the man advantage has been played by the third and fourth line, and this won't happen in the world Championships.

When the scoreboard signed that only two minutes remained in the central period, after the first hungarian chance, Russians scored the third goal: Ilya Kovalchuk served Vishnevsky on the blue line and the shot by the defender got in, also thanks to a good screen by Frolov. The second period thus ended with Bykov's team up by three.

The third period, just like in most of friendly matches, was slower. After a good save by Hetenyi on an attempt by Zaripov, our defense gifted a goal to the opponents when Vishnevsky lost the control of the puck on the blue line, and Benk thanked for the favor deflecting the puck between Bryzgalov's pads.

Russian reaction wasn't late: first Kalinin with a great breakout pass put Radulov all alone in front of the goalie, but his shot hit the crossbar, then the sbornaya got a quick two-on-zero counterattack a few seconds later, and the tic-tac-toe trick by Saprykin and Radulov worked as the latter put the biscuit in the empty net, restoring the three-goal lead. “Kalinin played a good game, he played well with the Phoenix Coyotes and I think he's good for our team” - again by Kovalchuk's words.

The game gifted other two emotions. The first was the fifth Russian goal. With the Hungarians down by two men because of a couple of fouls in the slot, their young keeper played adventurously behind the crease, mishandling the puck and freeing up Mozyakin. The Atlant player's shot hit a defenseman, but Kuryanov was in ambush, picked up the rebound and scored.

In the last minute of play Hungary, who had the favor of the crowd as the weaker team, had a great chance to score again. Janos Vas served the rushing Palkovics on the right, but a fantastic slide save with the pads by Bryzgalov denied them the second goal. This save by the Phoenix goalie was worth the price of the ticket for the home spectators.

And thus the match ended with Russia taking it 5-1, in what looked not like a real test for Russia as the opponents were simply too modest to represent a good test in sight of the WC.

“I don't envy Ovechkin – continued Kovalchuk – even if he plays in a good team now. They have a good shot at the cup even if they are down by one game. But maybe in two years my team will be as good as his and i'll make the playoffs too. Yes, no NHL goal I scored is worth the two ones I scored against Canada last year, but now it's a different tournament and we have to restart from scratch”.

Hopefully, tonight it was really a good new start.

Story added on 23rd April 2009 at 13:17 GMT
Story submitted by: Alessandro Seren Rosso.

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