An unexpected turn of events on Saturday ended the Russian women’s winning streak, leaving them to fight for fifth place, and sending the Swiss team to face Canada in the semifinals. The upset was not only the home team’s first loss, but also Switzerland’s first win in the tournament.
Anna Prugova got the start for Russia, their best goalie and the best goalie in the B group after the round robin. For the first time in the tournament Russia looked evenly matched to start the game, and were not able to dominate the Swiss team the way they had done to the Germans, Japanese and Swedish teams.
Less than one minute into the game Smolenseva got smoked in the head off the shoulder of Laura Benz, who took an interference penalty for Switzerland at 00:56. The Russian’s couldn’t capitalize on the penalty, but drew another from Alaina Muller for body checking at 7:26, and were unsuccessful yet again.
The Russians were able to create scoring opportunities, but their play was generally sloppy and inconsistent. They weren’t communicating with each other and had too many turnovers and giveaways. The Swiss team used it to their advantage, and opened up the scoring at 10:46 in the first period. Stefanie Marty’s slap-shot went right past the Prugova’s stick side. Marty was one of Switzerland’s best players at the Vancouver Olympics, scoring 9 of the team’s 14 goals during that tournament.
The Swiss team got their first power play opportunity at 15:55, sending Kapustina to the penalty box for hooking. There were some close calls, but the Russians managed to kill their first penalty, and ended the first period with a one-goal deficit.
Russia’s biggest opponents in the tournament thus far have been goaltenders. While the Swiss challenged them on all fronts, goaltending was definitely a factor in this game. The Russians took a lot of shots on the glove side of Florence Schelling, but her glove side is not her weak spot and she stopped almost all of them. Dyubanok managed to get a glove shot past Schelling with 14:45 left in the second period, but it hit the crossbar, leaving Russia with no goals to their name.
Alaina Muller took another penalty for the Swiss for hooking at 35:15, and it was the sloppiest power play the Russians played in the game, and the tournament. Again, the team didn’t communicate with each other, and gave Switzerland scoring opportunities that could have been prevented with sharper play.
Both teams only put forward three lines in the third period, but it didn’t help the Russians at all. The Swiss dominated in the third period as well, forcing the home team to pull their goalie with 1:15 to go, in hopes of evening the score and sending the quarterfinal game into overtime. Instead, Switzerland’s Lara Stalder scored an empty-netter to seal the deal, giving them their first win in Sochi, and blanking Russia in their first loss.
Despite their inconsistent play, one player who managed to shine was Olga Sosina. Sosina has been one of Russia’s best players throughout the tournament, scoring two goals in their first game, and constantly creating opportunities for herself and her teammates around the net. She had six shots on goal in this game, and made fast and smart decisions. Sosina scored one of Russia’s six goals in today’s game against Japan.
The final score of their second game against Japan was 6-3, but don’t let that fool you. The Japanese were determined to make up for their unrecognized goal in their last game against Russia, and they made the home team work for every point they got.
Japan answered Russia’s first two goals, allowed a two-goal deficit to make the score 4-2 for Russia after Sosina’s late in the second. They managed to come within one after a goal from Chiho Osawa at 42:23, but couldn’t bury another one, and allowing Galina Skiba to score her second of the game, and Tatyana Burina to score Russia’s sixth and final goal with less than five minutes to go in the game.
The win against Japan will allow Russia to fight for fifth place against Finland, who beat Germany 2-1 in their classification game today. The home team will play their final game in these Olympics on Tuesday, February 18th at 4:30pm Sochi time.