International Ice Hockey Federation

Kovalchuk, Kaprizov shine

Kovalchuk, Kaprizov shine

Slovenia succumbs to OAR onslaught, 8-2

Published 16.02.2018 21:57 GMT+10 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Kovalchuk, Kaprizov shine
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 16: Ilya Kabulkov #29 and Ilya Kovalchuk #71 of the Olympic Athletes of Russia celebrate after a second period goal against Slovenia during preliminary round action at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Ilya Kovalchuk would not be denied, not today. The sensational KHLer took control of this game, and Krill Kaprizov followed suit.

The result was a convincing win in which Kovalchuk had two goals and an assist and Kaprizov a hat trick.

But it wasn’t just that Kovalchuk had three points; it’s that he was all over the ice, rushing like Kharlamov, passing like Larionov, and leading like Fetisov. When all was said and done, the Slovenes were helpless.

And, he tied Pavel Bure for the most goals by a Russian player at the Olympics with 11.

"It's a nice feeling," Kovalchuk said. ""Pasha" is one of the greatest forwards our country has ever produced, and he still follows what our team is doing."

"All victories are important," noted captain Pavel Datsyuk, "and the further we go, the more important they get. We felt the pressure easing after we scored a few goals, and then we could start to enjoy our play a bit more."

"It was a tough game," conceded Slovene captain Jan Mursak, who scored his team's only goal. "They outplayed us -- faster, stronger, more skilled. We knew that they would have a very strong team and it would be hard to compete with them. We worked hard, but we were still making some mistakes that they scored on."

Group B has now become wide open. The Americans are in first place with four points, followed by OAR and Slovakia with three, and Slovenia now in last with two points.

"It's always important to get the first goal as soon as possible," Kovalchuk said. "And then it was good to score lots of goals, and see different lines getting among the goals. In the first game we played like we should for five minutes. Today, we did it for the full 60."

Slovenia started the game with a strategy that made it difficult, if not impossible, to beat the superior OAR team. The Slovenes simply tried to relieve the pressure around their goalie, Luka Gracnar, with a chip it out-chip it over strategy, but that can work only for so long and it almost prevented them from scoring as much as their opponents.

Still, for much of the first period it worked, but the Athletes remained patient and were rewarded with two late goals. The first, from Sergei Mozyakin, was a blast from the slot on a power play at 18:23.

Then, just 22 seconds later, Kovalchuk danced his way around the Slovene end before stopping and firing a quick shot. The puck hit Slovene forward Jan Urbas and bounced past Gracnar for a quick 2-0 lead.

The Athletes turned it on in the second, and their opponents had little in the way of response. Alexander Barbanov made it 3-0 on another power play at 6:00, and soon after Ilya Kablukov wired a shot off the post on a penalty shot after being hauled down on a clean break.

Kovalchuk then created the next goal off a great rush, dishing the puck to Kablukov at 8:48. Kirill Kaprizov made it 5-0 just 74 seconds later off a one-timer.

Slovenia finally got on the board on its first power play chance of the night when Miha Verlic made a nice pass around the goal to Mursak, who tucked it behind Vasili Koshechkin.

But Kovalchuk wasn’t yet done. He started a play out of his end with a stretch pass and finished the play with a bullet shot to the short side of Gracnar, an awesome display of firepower that finished a sensational period for him.

Kaprizov got two in the third to complete his hat trick and Ziga Pance finished the scoring with a goal with just 32.9 seconds remaining.

The OAR will finish their round robin tomorrow with a game against the United States. Slovenia plays Slovakia right after.


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