April 9, 2013.
OTTAWA – Anna Shibanova's power-play goal early in the third period broke a scoreless tie and sent Russia to a 2-0 win over Finland to take the bronze medal at the 2013 Women's World Championship.
The Finns were undone by poor shooting and scored only one goal in their final four games of the tournament.
Nadezhda Alexandrova stopped all 32 shots for the victors.
Russia has now won only its second WW medal ever, the last coming in 2001 (bronze). "It's incredible," said 40-year-old Yekaterina Pashkevich, the only member of this year's team who also won bronze 12 years ago. "It's been a long time. And now with Sochi next, we're so excited. We're going to be very competitive there."
The Russians lost only one game all tournament, that in the semi-finals against Canada, and they were inspired by their new general manager, former NHLer Alexei Yashin, who brought in a new head coach and half a dozen fresh faces from last year's team.
"I wouldn't call it pressure, but there were expectations we had, for sure," Pashkevich admitted. "They put a lot of trust in us that we could win a medal."
In the other dressing room, goalie Noora Raty expressed immense disappointment in her team's inability to put the puck in the net. "We scored only five goals in six games," she said. "You can't win like that. It's frustrating watching your team have chance after chance and they can't put the puck in the net. It comes down to will, and I feel like we didn't have that will today. All our shots were easy saves for their goalie."
The first period was calm and tame. Although Finland had a significant advantage in puck possession, Alexandrova wasn’t forced to make many difficult saves. At the other end, Raty faced only four harmless shots.
The best chance of the period came when Olga Sosina made a gorgeous stretch pass to Iya Gavrilova to spring her alone on Raty. Gavrilova, though, blasted a shot high and wide.
Both teams had one power play a piece but nothing much came of either man advantage opportunity.
The second period was also scoreless and not much more dramatic. Neither goalie had to make a great save as defence ruled the day. There were turnovers aplenty between the blue lines and in the offensive end teams shot without much accuracy.
So, for the second time in as many days the Finns headed to the dressing room after two periods in a 0-0 game.
The Russians started the final period of regulation with a power play and couldn't score, but soon enough they had another man advantage, and this time they capitalized. Shibanova's hard slap shot from the top of the circle beat Raty cleanly to the far side at 4:11, and the bronze-medal game had its first goal.
"I didn't see it," Raty said. "Our defenceman was screening me totally. It caught me by surprise."
Four minutes later the Finns had a sensational chance to tie the game. Michelle Karvinen skated in over the Russian blue line, and right in front of her defenceman Pashkevich lost her footing and fell, giving the Finn a clear path to the goal. Karvinen out-deked herself, though, and ran out of room to get a good shot off.
Alexandra Vafina closed out the scoring with an empty netter with 15.8 seconds remaining.
"We've been in training since March 10, and we've worked so hard. We just said to ourselves in the second intermission that we have to leave everything out there," Pashkevich said. "We could not come off the ice after the game knowing we hadn't done everything we could to win."
"Games like these often come down to the power play," Raty noted, "and our power play was absolutely awful. It was frustrating to watch."
ANDREW PODNIEKS (Our thanks to IIHF.com)