INNSBRUCK - The Russians roared back from a lethargic first period to score four unanswered goals in the second frame on their way to a 11-1 victory over Austria.
“The first period we were nervous, playing Austria on their home ice,” said team captain Ivan Nikolishin. “But our coach told us to play our game and we scored a goal early in the next period that calmed us down.”
Down 1-0, Russia woke up early in the second, and an early tying goal from Stanislav Kondratyev was followed up by markers by Andrey Svetlakov, Nikolishin, and Alexander Protapovich. After protecting their goalie well in the first, the Austrian defence broke down and could not keep their opponent from swarming around Stroj’s net.
A frustrated Stroj then let in seven more goals in the final frame as Austria’s winless streak stretched to three games. Nikolishin finished with a hat trick, and teammates Laxim Lazarev, Ilia Zonovev, and Alexander Protapovich had three points apiece.
Going up against the winless Austrians, Team Russia appeared slow on their skates in the opening period. After Austrian goaltender Thomas Stroj made a string of great early saves to stop the initial Russian pressure, his team began to impose themselves on their opponent with a few good hits and some quality scoring chances.
Then with Russia’s Ivan Nikolishin in the penalty box on a roughing call, Austria’s Nikolas Kraus made a great hit at centre ice and got the puck up to forward Stefan Gaffal. Gaffal made a great move on Russian defender Dmitry Sergeev, cutting towards the net and dragging the puck past Sergeev and finishing off the play with a shot past goaltender Sergey Korobov, giving Austria an improbable 1-0 lead going into the second period.
But Austria could not keep pace with the Russians in the next two periods, and is now in serious danger of missing the playoffs. Russia will have a day off before their final preliminary round game against the USA on Wednesday. Austria will go up against Canada on Tuesday.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)