The Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Tournament is set to begin with a highly anticipated match between Russia and Switzerland. However, the lead-up to the tournament has been marked by various challenges and controversies related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these obstacles, both teams are ready to showcase their skills and compete for victory on the ice.
Controversy Surrounding Andrei Kuzmenko
In the days leading up to the tournament, the Russian team faced controversy surrounding the inclusion of Andrei Kuzmenko as a reserve player. Journalists expressed surprise at his presence and questioned the decision. However, Kuzmenko has since been sent home, officially due to an injury, although many doubt the veracity of this explanation. His club, SKA Saint-Petersburg, even released a somewhat ironic statement asserting that he had passed his medical examination and was fit for professional sports .
Swiss Players in Isolation
The Swiss team, on the other hand, has been dealt a blow with the absence of two players, Dario Simion and Denis Malgin. Upon their arrival in China, they tested positive for COVID-19 and were immediately placed in isolation. This has disrupted the team's plans, as Simion was expected to play on the first line and Malgin in the center of the second line. Despite this setback, the Swiss team remains determined to perform well in the tournament.
The Game Begins: First Period
The Swiss team started the game on a positive note, displaying good control and dominance. However, they struggled to maintain possession in the offensive zone due to their inability to win face-offs and retrieve rebounds. In contrast, the Russian team demonstrated their ability to establish themselves even at full strength. A skillful exchange between Shipachyov and Grigorenko resulted in a scoring opportunity, but Swiss goalie Reto Berra made a timely poke-check to deny the Russian winger. Berra continued to impress, making another crucial save against Anton Slepyshev in a one-on-one situation .
Despite the Swiss team's advantage in shots on goal, they conceded more scoring opportunities, particularly after defensive lapses by Loeffel and Alatalo. In the final seconds of the period, the Swiss team suffered an unfortunate own goal. A shot from behind the goal line by Slepyshev deflected off Enzo Corvi's leg and into the net. This stroke of bad luck gave Russia a 1-0 lead going into the second period.
Second Period: A Shift in Momentum
The second period began with five minutes of complete Russian domination. The line of Corvi and the defensive pair Alatalo-Untersander struggled to break out of their own zone. However, a high stick by Stanislav Galiev on Bertschy changed the course of the game. Sven Andrighetto's powerful slap shot from the left circle struck the crossbar, coming within millimeters of equalizing the score. Russian goalie Ivan Fedotov then made two key saves, denying Ambühl on a breakaway and Vermin on the rebound. The Swiss team continued to apply pressure at even strength, with Enzo Corvi making an impressive entry into the offensive zone and setting up Hofmann for a scoring chance.
As the period progressed, Russia regained control and established their presence in the Swiss zone. Yanick Weber was penalized for slashing Shipachyov, but the Russian power play failed to convert. With two minutes remaining in the period, Slepyshev engaged in a minor altercation with Weber, resulting in a video review by the referees. Ultimately, Slepyshev received a 2+2 penalty. The Swiss team mounted a strong power play, with Alatalo or Untersander positioned at the point and two shooters on the wings. However, Fedotov stood tall in net, and the period ended with Russia still leading 1-0.
Third Period: A Battle for Victory
The Swiss team began the third period with a minor penalty as Loeffel made an unnecessary hit on the Russian goalie. This penalty reversed the advantage, and the Russian team posed a greater threat during their power play. The Swiss team struggled to find openings, while the Russians, led by Nikita Gusev, had two clear scoring opportunities. However, Reto Berra proved to be a formidable opponent, making crucial saves and benefiting from a fortunate post hit on a shot from Nikishin.
In the final minutes of the game, the Swiss team made a final push. Fabrice Herzog intercepted a puck in the neutral zone and initiated an offensive sequence. Bertschy's strong forecheck prevented the Russian team from clearing the zone. Ramon Untersander then redirected the puck to Herzog, who found himself alone in front of the net. With the goalie beaten, Herzog hit the post, narrowly missing the equalizer. Despite this missed opportunity, the game remained intense and provided numerous scoring chances, despite the low score.
Anton Slepyshev, forward for the Russian team, commented on his goal and his penalty, acknowledging the importance of maintaining self-control and expressing gratitude to his teammates who played well during the penalty kill.
Aleksei Zhamnov, the Russian coach, emphasized the need for self-control and cohesion within the team. He acknowledged the excitement of the young players and stressed the importance of discipline in determining the outcome of the tournament. Zhamnov also expressed confidence in the team's ability to improve and bring joy to their supporters in the future .
Patrick Fischer, the Swiss coach, acknowledged that it was the first game of the tournament and that both teams had not played for a long time. He expressed satisfaction with his team's performance and highlighted the need to address minor errors moving forward.
Raphael Diaz, captain of the Swiss team, praised the team's effort and highlighted the scoring opportunities they created, including hitting the post twice. He commended goalie Reto Berra for his excellent performance and looked forward to the next game.
Final Score: Russia 1 - Switzerland 0
The game between Russia and Switzerland ended with a 1-0 victory for Russia. Despite the low score, the match provided ample opportunities for both teams to showcase their skills and determination. The tournament promises to be highly competitive, with teams vying for victory and national pride on the line.