NIAGARA – Russia needed five third period goals to overcome a persistent Team Norway in Group B, winning 8-2 in a game that was tied 2-2 at one point. Danil Sobchenko scored twice while Dmitri Orlov and Nikita Dvurechenski had three points each for Russia, who finally managed to get their first points of the tournament. It will now need to secure a playoff round spot against the Czech Republic tomorrow while Norway prepares for the Relegation Round.
"It was a rather difficult game for us as things didn't work out in the beginning. In the third period things finally clicked," Sobchenko said. "We showed we are capable of scoring, but we need to be more patient."
Before tonight’s game both Russia and Norway were equal on points – that is, neither team had registered any points so far in Group B. Nevertheless Russia had everything to lose and Norway all to gain.
The game didn’t show so much in the first period. Sloppy defending saw Russia spoil its lead twice. Andrei Sergeyev gave Nicholas Weberg the puck from behind his own goal line. The Norwegian made no mistake alone in front of net and erased Russia’s opening goal by Nikita Dvurechenski.
Although Danil Sobchenko’s rebound tip-in less than a minute later restored Russia’s lead, Norway was not done unwrapping gifts yet.
Playing a man short, Vladimir Tarasenko once again handed over the puck in his own zone easily. During the flurry of chances that followed, Jonas Oppøyen wristed the puck behind goaltender Dmitri Shikin to tie the game 2-2 at 15:59.
Tarasenko made up for his mistake early in the second period when he gave back the Russians the lead on the power play with a low hard shot from the left point. It was one of the 30 shots at Norwegian netminder Lars Volden, who came up huge for his team.
A one-goal lead is a tricky one to defend, even when Russia is facing Norway.
Russia took the safe approach and stormed out the gates for the third period. Just 18 seconds after the faceoff, Sobchenko scored his second of the game. He skated by the Norwegian defence on speed and then patiently rounded Volden to make it 4-2.
It went all downhill from there as Russia scored four more goals in almost seven minutes to run up the score to 8-2. In total, seven different players scored for Russia, who outshot Norway 45-15 in the last two periods and 55-24 in total.
Norway will head into the Relegation Round with a point disadvantage on the other teams. In order to stand a chance to stay up they must at least post their first victory of the tournament against either Germany or Slovakia. The first round is played on January 2 at the Dwyer Arena.
"We were lucky to score two goals in the first period. Russia was clearly better in the rest of the game," Volden admits. "We know we now have to win both our remaining games to avoid relegation. That's our aim this tournament."
Russia will meet the Czech Republic on New Year’s Eve in a direct match-up with qualification to the playoff round or a drop to the relegation series on the line. This winner-takes-it-all game will add new life into the traditional rivalry that has lost some of its importance over the past few years.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)